Why the Equinox, Denali and Stella Hops Changed Their Names
You can still see some references of these names around. Untapped and BeerAdvocate profiles, old articles or databases online and even the breweries themselves often misuse the old names of some of the most common hops used.
They are the “formerly known as” list of IPA hops: Equinox, Denali and Stella.
In May 2016, the Hop Breeding Company (HBC) announced that they were moving forward with the rebranding their popular Equinox hop to the new name Ekuanot. Equinox was originally developed under the name HBC 366, but was now getting its second name change in the less than two years since it was released to the public commercially.
The reason for the name change is reportedly because the Equinox Brewing company in Fort Collins, Colorado sent a cease and desist letter to Yakima Chief/Hopunion. In the suit, Equinox Brewing alleged that they held the trademark for ‘Equinox’ since 2014, beating YCH to the punch by mere months.
So in conjunction with the name change, in 2016, YCH applied for the name Ekuanot, which got approved by the USPTO almost two years later.
There was originally some misinformation being passed around that Lagunitas forced the name change because of their Equinox beer, which it has brewed since 1995. While the timeline does force some questions seeing that the patent for the hop was applied for in 2011, this claim appears to be false. In this beer’s description they say “hopped-up with a huge charge of Ekuanot (FKA Equinox)“, which implies that they named the beer after the hop, and not the other way around.
The name change from Stella to Ella by Hop Products Australia (HPA) was also in response to a trademark challenge. In July 2012 the famed Belgian lager Stella Artois owners Anheuser-Busch InBev forced the HPA to change the name of their new hop because it was too similar to their name. In fact, the Stella Artois logo has its first use traced all the way back to 1366 and is considered the world’s oldest logo.
Stella – now known as Ella – is an Australian aroma hop variety that was developed in the state of Victoria, Australia in 2001. By 2007, the hop was released to the public for brewing trials. It became an immediate hit, so the variety was fast-tracked into commercial production shortly thereafter.
In August 2019, Hopsteiner – one of the most popular and largest hop producers in the world – announced that its most popular experimental hop #06277 was being rebranded as Sultana. Hop #06277 was first created back in 2006 and had a heritage of 50% Nugget, 25% Zeus, and 25% USDA male. Sultana means “the woman” and was named by Hopsteiner after one of the largest peaks in the Alaskan mountain range.
When Sultana was released to brewers, some careful observers noticed that the details of this new hop was strikingly similar to the older Denali variety.
Sure enough, two years earlier in 2017, Hopsteiner announced that after ten years of evaluation, the experimental hop variety #06277 was to be released commercially under the name Denali.
So why the name change? The hop informally known by some as “Nuggetzilla“, got its second name change most likely due to a challenge by the Denali Brewing Company. This is just speculation on my part, but the timeline fits together well.
Hopsteiner never officially revealed why the name change occurred. However, a quick search through the USPTO trademark database reveals that in 2017, the Denali Brewing company applied for their first trademark, which was ultimately awarded to the Talkeetna, Alaska brewery.