Believe it or not, beer hops play a vital role in the brewing process and largely affect the finished beer. A number of you may already know this about hops, but lets take a closer look at a few of the major players and what that means for your brew! Plus, with many of your Craft Beer Club monthly shipments, you’ll get to see, smell and taste the differences first hand.
Let’s start with a few of the basics. Brewing beer without hops would leave you with a dull, silky, and slightly sweet beer. Now, since that’s not very exciting, hops are added to give it, well a bit of a hop, or at least a pep in its step! The hop plant, scientifically known as humulus lupulus, is a rapid growing vine that is responsible for the signature bitterness, as well as grassy, floral, or citrusy flavors and aromas in your favorite hopped beers. The thermally induced iso alpha acids produced from hops are the source of the bitterness in the beer. The bittering hop effect of these beers can be measured in IBUs (International Bitterness Units). Although mostly associated with IPAs (India pale ales), hops are used in a wide variety of beer styles created all over the world.
While these characteristics are fairly universal for all hop varieties, certain qualities will stand out depending on which one or which combination a brewmaster decides to use for each beer style. There are a large number of hop varieties in existence and even more being created each year. But we’ll go over just a few of the most popular beer hops used in the US and are frequently used in your monthly Craft Beer Club shipments
Related: Do the Types of Hops really matter?
The Cascade hop gets its name from the Cascade Mountain Range in Oregon and has been the ‘top hop’ in the US for the last few years. Its popularity is largely due to its versatility and signature ‘hoppy’ flavor profile. Typically used as an aroma-hop, it gives the beers citrusy grapefruit notes, pine, and floral scents balanced out by a medium-strength flavor.
Often used for: Pale Ales, IPA’s and Porter
Created in Washington state, the Centennial hop variety is slowly creeping up on Cascade for first place. It is often nicknamed “Super-Cascade” because of its alpha acid content is nearly double that of Cascade. The alpha acids in hops attribute to the bitterness levels. Aromas and flavors of lemon and floral make this American hop varietal a popular dual purpose hop!
Often used for: American Pale Ales, Stouts, Blonde Ales and Wheat Ales
Another Washington-grown hop, Chinook is very flavor-packed and complex in comparison to the others on this list. Its pine-heavy and light spiciness give way to some hints of citrusy grapefruit. The Chinook hop is another popular one with mellow bitterness which allows for a smooth, easy-drinking beer.
Often used for: American-style Pale Ales, English-style Ales and IPA’s
Citra has a very different flavor complex than most highly-bittering beer hops, producing a very fresh-tasting beer. It was designed in Washington state by crossing two older hop varietals and has come out on top! A very popular hop for brewers across the country because of its lemony, grass and lightly sweet aromas and flavors. The aroma can be more hoppy than others but leans towards a tropical fruit (passion fruit, lychee, lime) essence.
Often used for: American Pale Ales, Amber Ales and American IPAs
The Galaxy hop is a bit more exotic than some of the others because it originates from Australia! Its another duel purpose hop that is usually added towards the end of the brewing process or used for dry hopping. It gives the beer a bump in flavor and aroma with smooth hop bitterness. Typically you’ll find notes of passion fruit, citrus and other light, fruity qualities.
Often used for: IPA’s, Saisons, Wheat Beers and Pale Ales
Mosaic is a relatively new hop but is fun one to work with and has recently been growing in popularity. Grown in Washington, it has a very special place in most IPA brewers’ hearts. Packed full of intense, yet fruity flavor, Mosaic hops are herbal, earthy and tropical. What more can you want out of a hop!
Often used for: Rye beers, Brown Ales, IPA’s and Pale Ales
The last, but certainly not the least hop on our list is the Willamette hops. Its name comes from the Willamette River, which runs through the state’s prime hop-growing region. While it no longer holds the titles of ‘most widely planted hop in the US’, it is hanging in there - and with good reason. Its the king of aroma out of the hops grown in the US and a very versatile hop at that. The unique flavors and aromas of incense and elderberry along with the typical floral, fruity and herbal tones make it a good go-to hop.
Often used for: Porters, Stouts, Brown Ales, Pale Ales, and Specialty Ales
These are only a handful of the hop varieties available for brewing beer. Not only that, but brewers are known to mix different hops together and experiment with when to add them to the brewing beer. Each step is vital and should be carefully planned out to create the final craft brew but with so many different flavors, aromas and bittering characteristics, the options are endless!
Now when your monthly craft beer is delivered, you can read the beer descriptions and know which flavors and aromas to look for in your beers!