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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hop Varieties Cheat Sheet

Fresh hop season is upon us again, and sadly, the good folks in Hood River have scheduled the premier festival this Sunday--when I'll be returning from the GABF. But in the very likely case you won't be in Denver, you should shoot down the Gorge. (Full details here.)

As a public service, I'm reprinting my hops varieties chart for you to consult during the Fest. No real research has been done into the flavor and aroma these hops contribute when wet, or how their constituents (oils and acids) vary when wet ... or really much of anything. But we can at least compare the wet versions to the dry versions, and so here are the details on standard hops.

  • History. Amarillo was discovered growing on Virgil Gamache Farms as a wild hop cross.
  • Flavor/Aroma. Described as a “Super Cascade” with pronounced citrus (orange) and tropical fruit character. High in beta acids and a good aroma hop. (alpha acid: 8-11% / beta acid: 6-7%. Total oils 1.5-1.9 ml.)
  • History. A super-high alpha hop with principally Zeus and Nugget parentage released by SS Steiner in 2006.
  • Flavor/Aroma. Not much available on this new hop, which is described in generic terms as "fruity" and "floral." (alpha acid: 14-17%% / beta acid: 3-5%. Total oils 1.6 - 2.4 ml.)

Brewer’s Gold
  • History. A British bittering hop developed in 1919. Both Brewer's Gold and Bullion are seedlings found wild in Manitoba. It's an English/wild Canadian cross. Many modern high alpha hops were developed from Brewer's Gold.
  • Flavor/Aroma. It has a resiny, spicy aroma/flavor with hints of black currant and a pungent English character. (alpha acid: 8-10% / beta acid: 3.5-4.5%. Total oils 1.6-1.9 ml.)

  • History. The first commercial hop from the USDA-ARS breeding program, it was bred in 1956 but not released for cultivation until 1972. It was obtained by crossing an English Fuggle with a male plant, which originated from the Russian variety Serebrianka with a Fuggle male plant.
  • Flavor/Aroma. The most-used Northwest hop, with a lovely mild citrus and floral quality. (alpha acid: 4.5-7% / beta acid: 4.5-7%. Total oils 0.6-0.9 ml.)

  • History. Centennial is an aroma-type cultivar, bred in 1974 and released in 1990. The genetic composition is 3/4 Brewers Gold, 3/32 Fuggle, 1/16 East Kent Golding, 1/32 Bavarian and 1/16 unknown. Akin to a high-alpha Cascade.
  • Flavor/Aroma. One of the classic "C" hops, along with Cascade, Chinook, and Columbus. Character is not as citrusy and fruity as Cascade; considered to have medium intensity. Some even use it for aroma as well as bittering. Clean Bitterness with floral notes. (alpha acid: 9.5-11.5% / beta acid: 3.5-4.5%. Total oils 1.5-2.5 ml.)

  • History. Another of the recent proprietary strains, Citra is a relatively high-alpha dual-use hop that can be used either for bittering or aroma. Purported parentage includes Hallertauer, American Tettnanger, and East Kent Goldings.
  • Flavor/Aroma. Lots of American citrus character, but tending toward tropical fruit. (alpha acid: 11 - 13% / beta acid: 3.5 - 4.5%. Total oils 2.2-2.8 ml.)

  • History. Chinook hops were developed in the early 1980s in Washington state by the USDA as a variant of the Goldings Hop.
  • Flavor/Aroma. An herbal, smoky/earthy character. (alpha acid: 12-14% / beta acid: 3-4%. Total oils 0.7-1.2 ml.)

Columbus/Tomahawk/Zeus ("CTZ")
  • History. The breeding nursery from which these varieties were bred contained 20-30 female plants from which seeds were gathered. Exact parentage is unknown.
  • Flavor/Aroma. Hops have a very distinctive skunky/marijuana flavor and a sticky, resinous flavor. (alpha acid: 14.5 - 16.5% / beta acid: 4-5%. Total oils 2-3 ml.)

  • History. Crystal was released 1993, developed in Corvallis a decade earlier. Crystal is a half-sister of Mt. Hood and Liberty.
  • Flavor/Aroma. A spicy, sharp, clean flavor. It is not complex like Cascade but offers a clear note when used with other hops. (alpha acid: 4-6% / beta acid: 5-6.7%. Total oils 0.8-2.1 ml.)

First Gold
  • History. A dwarf hop developed in England derived from a dwarf male and a Whitbread Golding variety.
  • Flavor/Aroma. Similar to Goldings--spicy and earthy. (alpha acid: 6.5-8.5% / beta acid: 3-4%. Total oils, 0.7-1.5 ml)

  • History. Traditional German hop from Hallertau region. One of the classic “noble hops” originating in Germany’s most famous hop-growing region. Many cultivars.
  • Flavor/Aroma. Pleasant herbal character with an excellent bittering and flavoring profile. US Hallertau exhibits a mild, slightly flowery and somewhat spicy traditional German hop aroma. (alpha acid: 3.5-5.5% / beta acid: 3.5-5.5%. Total oils 1.5-2.0 ml.)

  • History. Another cross of the Hallertauer Mittelfrüher, with characteristics similar to those of Mt. Hood, released in the mid-80s around the time of Mt. Hoods' release.
  • Flavor/Aroma. Mild and spicy, closely akin to Mt. Hood and Hallertauer. (alpha acid: 3.5-4.5% / beta acid: 3-3.5%. Total oils 1.0-1.8 ml.)

Mt. Hood
  • History. An Oregon State University product, Mt Hood was developed in 1985. It is a half-sister to Ultra, Liberty and Crystal. Mt. Hood is an aromatic variety with marked similarities to the German Hallertauer and Hersbrucker varieties.
  • Flavor/Aroma. It has a refined, mild, pleasant and clean, somewhat pungent resiny/spicy aroma and provides clean bittering. A good choice for lagers. (alpha acid: 4-6% / beta acid: 5-7.5%. Total oils 1.0-1.3 ml.)

Mt. Rainier
  • History. Also an Oregon State University product, Mt Rainiers were bred from a variety of plants, including Galena, Hallertauer, Golden Cluster, Fuggles, and Landhopen (?). It was released commercially in 2008 or '09.
  • Flavor/Aroma. An interesting hop that contributes a minty or anise note. (alpha acid: 7 -9.5% / beta acid: around 7%. Total oils- NA.)

  • History. Nugget is a bittering-type cultivar, bred in 1970 from the USDA 65009 female plant and USDA 63015M. The lineage of Nugget is 5/8 Brewers Gold, 1/8 Early Green, 1/16 Canterbury Golding, 1/32 Bavarian and 5/32 unknown.
  • Flavor/Aroma. A sharply bitter hop with a pungent, heavy herbal aroma.. (alpha acid: 12-14% / beta acid: 4-6%. Total oils 1.7-2.3 ml.)

  • History. Bred in Germany in 1978 from English Northern Brewer stock.
  • Flavor/Aroma. Combines qualities of spicy English hops and rich, floral German hops. Excellent, clean bittering and aroma. (alpha acid: 6-8% / beta acid: 3 - 4%. Total oils 1 - 1.5 ml.)

  • History. A triploid hop resulting from a cross between 1/3 German Tettnanger, 1/3 Hallertauer Mittelfrüh, and an American hop (possibly Cascade). The first seedless Tettnang-type hop. An OSU hop released in 1998.
  • Flavor/Aroma. Noble hop character, herbal, floral, but with a little American character. (alpha acid: 5.5-7% / beta acid: 7-8.5%. Total oils 1.3 - 1.7 ml.)

  • History. A propriety strain bred by Yakima Chief.
  • Flavor/Aroma. Simcoe is best characterized as having a pronounced pine or woody aroma. The cultivar was bred by Yakima Chief in the USA. It is sometimes described as being “like Cascade, but more bitter - and with pine.” (alpha acid: 12-14% / beta acid: 4-5%. To2.0-2.5tal oils ml.)

  • History. Sterling is an aroma cultivar, made in 1990 with parentage of 1/2 Saaz, 1/4 Cascade, 1/8 unknown German aroma hop, 1/16 Brewers Gold, 1/32 Early Green, and 1/32 unknown.
  • Flavor/Aroma. Similar to Saaz in aroma and flavor. Aromas are fine, rustic, earthy, and spicy. Used in this year’s Full Sail LTD 03. (alpha acid: 4.5-5% / beta acid: 5-6%. Total oils 0.6-1.0 ml.)

  • History. Summit is a recently-released super-high-alpha hop variety. It is a dwarf variety grown on a low trellis system. Because the low trellis is not machine harvestable, these hops are picked by hand in the field.
  • Flavor/Aroma. Strongly pronounced orange/ tangerine aroma and flavor. A favorite hop of Rob Widmer and used in recent releases (W ’07, Drifter). (alpha acid: 17-19% / beta acid: 4% - 6%. Total oils 1.5 - 2.5 ml.)
  • History. An older US-bred hop with Fuggles parentage.
  • Flavor/Aroma. A classic earthy/spicy hop with great versatility. (alpha acid: 4-6% / beta acid: 3.5% - 4.5%. Total oils 1 - 1.5 ml.)

Information assembled from the following sources: Beer Advocate, Brew 365, Hopsteiner, Yakima Chief, Winning Homebrew , Global Hops


  1. To clarify, Amarillo® is not, nor has ever been owned by Yakima Chief. Virgil Gamache Farms holds the patent and trademark on the variety.

  2. Nice list, thanks! I'm going to bookmark this to refer to it at the Hops Fest.

  3. I would appreciate an informed estimate of the amount of fresh hops required to produce an American Pale Ale IBU 35-40; ie, ounces per gallon; pounds per beer barrel.

    The context is 19th century Colorado Territory breweries. Thanks.

  4. Jack, my understanding is that it's 5 times the amount you'd use in pellet hops.

  5. Jack, if I'm understanding your "The context is 19th century Colorado Territory breweries" comment correctly—it probably would have been more common for 19th and, honestly, early to mid-20th century brewers to use older hops. Dried yearling, two-year old and three-year old hops would not have been unusual in brewing from that time period—especially before refrigeration was developed in the 1880s.

  6. Standard how Jeff? Maybe I am just being nit-picky, but I had a large number of varieties jump out at me. Where is this list from?

  7. timdogg & Craig, Thanks.

    Btw, many of the early Colorado brewery owners were German immigrants; seemingly, most beers were lagers.

    An 1870-1874 Black Hawk brewery was pointedly named 'English Ale Brewery'. I take that to be an exception and aimed to please immigrant Cornish hard-rock miners.

  8. Not to sound like a dick, but...if it really takes five or more times the mass of hops to produce a fresh hopped ale, does it really make sense to promote fresh hopped beers fot the masses when the US has been in hop shortage conditions for the last several seasons? If we don't significantly increase supply, I expect we're going to see the creation of hops futures soon, or at the very least, we'll see most US varieties absent from the market before the summer.

  9. Anon 10am, thanks; I've made the change (no idea where I got that info).

    Anon 4:42pm, I'm not sure what your comment means. This list was compiled last year, based on the hops used in fresh-hop beers in Oregon. I would guess it doesn't line up exactly with the hops this year.

    Anon 8:22, we're no longer in a hop shortage, and it's actually a cool thing. Breweries work with hop growers, identifying hops in advance they want to use in their beers. Because the big breweries have been reducing their orders, the coordination between brewers and growers has been a great thing for the growers.

  10. @Anonymous,
    I think the additional 4X weigh of fresh/wet hops is merely unproductive water content.

    Seemingly, fresh hop beer is just 'mad chef' brewmeisters taking advantage of his/her proximity to hops bines. An effect of this 'new' style is motivation to grow hops in new place. Eg,
    - Colorado State University has successful promoted commercial hopyards in western Colorado
    - Oskar Blues grew hops on their Boulder County farm this year.

    Information suggest Colorado Territory brewers contracted nearby residents to grow hop in their kitchen gardens; thus, fresh hopped beer is new 'only' as a GABF category.

  11. @Jack R.

    Hops had traditionally been dried on a daily basis - air-dried in the fields, kilned on the farm or taken to kilns in the immediate area during hop harvest. (Drying after harvest was common for most other agricultural products, of course, in an era before modern methods of preservation.)

    What today are called "wet hops" - or sometimes somewhat confusingly "fresh hops" - and would have been called "green" or "raw" hops back then, would never have been shipped to the brewery - indeed, they'd have begun to rot (or worse - spontaneously combust) before reaching most breweries given the refrigeration and transportation available at the time.

    The mentioned excess "water" weight from not drying also would have discouraged shipping.

    "Fresh hops" before the recent (only within the last two decades?) craft-era created beer "style" would have meant that season's freshly picked and dried hops.

    The only pre-craft era example of a "wet hop" beer I've ever come across is a short-lived beer from Blatz called "Tempo" in the late 1950's.

    I've never read of any US pre-Prohibition brewery or 19th century example elsewhere of "wet hops" being used commercially. And even if they were, it would have only be for the very short harvest period.

    Can't state that it may not have been done, but all the historical literature suggests it would have been very rare, that even locally grown hops would have been dried before use by the brewer.

  12. Jack,

    "An 1870-1874 Black Hawk brewery was pointedly named 'English Ale Brewery'"

    That period—the early 1870s—would have been just at the begining of the true rise of lager. Lager in the U.S. has been around since the 1840s, but it really took off at the end of the 19th century. At that point, however, there still would have still been a good number of ale breweries.

  13. @JessKidden and Craig

    Thanks for the information.

    I accept my logic maybe naive and, hence, flawed, particularly on the wet hop topic.

    And, I will look more closely at the dates when the German immigrants established breweries in Colorado.

  14. Anon 8:24pm, it is 5 times the amount by weight. Fresh hops weigh more than the dried hops because they still contain a lot of water.

    So you are not 5 times as much hops by using fresh hops. You are using essentially the same amount of hops cones, but those cones weigh more.

  15. Thanks for the hop info. There's still a lot of these I need to try, and several that I don't regularly see at my LHBS.