Get To Know Your Hops: Amarillo

The story of Amarillo hops starts with serendipity. One day, the farmers at Washington's Virgil Gamache Farms discovered a wild hop variety growing on the land.

"We thought, that's a different looking hop plant," Darren Gamache told Edible Seattle. "And so, we smelled the cones and we thought a beer should taste like this. The rest is history."

The strange hop variety possessed a spicy, semi-sweet character, with a super-citrusy aroma verging on oranges. It recalled the quintessential American hop, Cascade (the reason you love Sierra Nevada Pale Ale), but only more so. Cascades on steroids, if you may. Sensing a winner, Gamache helped the family business patent this proprietary strain, which was dubbed Amarillo and is exclusively grown at Virgil Gamache Farms.

Amarillo's aromatic star shines brightest in wheat-driven ales, pale ales and IPAs. Any questions? Good—class dismissed. Now try Amarillo in one of these five excellent American beers.

1. Three Floyds: Gumballhead

My favorite release from this cultishly revered Munster, Indiana, craft brewery is this crisp, refreshing brew made with heaps of red wheat and plenty of Amarillo hops. Their fragrant, citrusy notes make this cloudy, lightly bittered brew an intoxicating treat.

2. Green Flash: Hop Head Red India Pale Ale

By now you've heard of black IPAs, right? Now train your taste buds on the red rendition, courtesy of this hop-mad San Diego brewery. A rich, luscious caramel base is complemented by a pungent citrus bouquet that's as resinous as anything you've ever crammed into a one-hitter.

3. Rogue: Yellow Snow IPA

Originally brewed to commemorate the 2000 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, this cold-weather seasonal pours a vibrant golden—given the name, did you expect another color?—with a hoppy, gently sweet scent of lemons and grapefruit. It drinks creamy and medium-bodied, with enough bitter hops to keep you on your toes.

4. Kern River: Just Outstanding IPA

The year-round IPA from this Southern California standout makes good on its immodest name. A strong malt backbone serves as the framework for this no-hops-spared winner bursting with a floral perfume and lip-smacking flavors of citrus.

5. New Belgium: Mighty Arrow

Cool your jets till February to get a taste of this late-winter pale ale with a touch of toasted malt, grass and mellow grapefruit on the nose. Taste-wise, expect a well-rounded brew with hints of honey and a nice herbal bitterness. You could drink three and happily request a fourth.

Get to know your hops!