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Friday, September 28, 2012

Hop Varieties Reference Guide

As has become the tradition around fresh hop season, I'm printing out a guide to the hop varieties you're likely to encounter in your travels.  There are a few things you should be aware of:
  • Fresh hops behave differently than dried hops.  The flavors and aromas described here refer to the dried hop standard--what you get with a wet hop only your nose and mouth can tell you.
  • Hop strains don't all taste the same.  Saaz grown in Yakima do not taste like Saaz grown in the Czech Republic.  Even strains grown in Yakima and the Willamette Valley taste different--never mind newer plantings that are springing up across the country.  The flavors and aromas listed below are general characteristics, not gospel.
  • Some hops were developed by hop companies and are therefore proprietary strains.  This doesn't affect their quality at all, but it's an interesting feature in the hop-growing landscape.  As hop fever becomes the norm in the US, companies are racing to produce ever more exotic and tasty varieties (many of which find their way into test batches at places like Widmer and Russian River).  I've marked the proprietary strains in blue.
  • If you read carefully, you'll notice that sometimes hops are described as being crossed with "unnamed" hops, which is just what it sounds like.  They have designations like USDA 65009-64034M (that's one of Crystal's parents).  It's different from "unknown" hop, which is more like it sounds--there is a lot of unknown parentage out there.
  • In December, Stan Hieronymus's treatise For the Love of Hops will be out and no doubt demonstrate how crude my guides have been.  But since it's not December yet, enjoy!
Ezra has a full list of the beers/hops you'll find tomorrow in Hood River.

  • History. A high-alpha hop sometimes called the "super Styrian," though it is actually a cross between Northern Brewer and an unknown Slovenian hop.  Developed in the 1970s.
  • Flavor/Aroma. Descriptions vary widely from spicy and earthy to tropical/pineapple. (alpha acid: 10-12% / beta acid: 4-5%. Total oils 1.1 - 1.8 ml.)

  • History. Amarillo was discovered growing on Virgil Gamache Farms as a wild hop cross and is a proprietary strain owned by Yakima Chief.
  • Flavor/Aroma. Described as a “super Cascade” with pronounced citrus (orange) and tropical fruit character (it can get seriously juicy). 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. A pungent high-alpha hop that tends toward the earthy/spicy side of things (sometimes even minty)--similar to Chinook, but smoother. (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 which some folks find objectionable. (alpha acid: 8-10% / beta acid: 3.5-4.5%. Total oils 1.6-1.9 ml.)

  • History. There are actually two lineages of Bullion.  The first was an English hop developed in 1919 where an unknown English hop was crossed with a wild hop gathered in Manitoba.  The second was a revival of the original in WA in the 1970s through heat treatment and meristem tip culture.
  • Flavor/Aroma. A pungent and earthy/spicy hop with black currant notes.  (alpha acid: 7-13% / beta acid: 4-9%. Total oils 1.1 - 2.7 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 bright 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 and more "dank."  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 mango and guava. (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 1970s in Washington state by the USDA; a cross of Petham Golding and Brewer's Gold.
  • Flavor/Aroma. An herbal, smoky/earthy character that can overwhelm beers with a grating quality.  In late additions, is far cleaner and greener. (alpha acid: 12-14% / beta acid: 3-4%. Total oils 0.7-1.2 ml.) 

  • History. A sister to Willamette developed at OSU in the 1970s, it is, like Willamette, a Fuggle descendent.  It missed stardom when A-B chose Willamette instead.  Now enjoying a revival.
  • Flavor/Aroma. Very much in the Willamette/Fuggle lineage--woody and earthy, with a lemon twist.  (alpha acid: 7-11% / beta acid: 3-5.5%. Total oils .5 - 1.6 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, a cross of Hallertauer Mittelfrüh, Cascade, and an unnamed hop.
  • Flavor/Aroma. A spicy, sharp, clean flavor, citric in high concentration. 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, but "wilder."  (alpha acid: 3.5-5.5% / beta acid: 3.5-5.5%. Total oils 1.5-2.0 ml.)

  • History. A cross of the Hallertauer Mittelfrüh, with characteristics similar to those of Mt. Hood, released in the mid-80s around the time of Mt. Hood's 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.)

  • History. Bred in 1980 at the German Hop Research Institute, Magnum is a cross between American Galena and an unidentified German hop.
  • Flavor/Aroma. Mild and spicy, closely akin to Mt. Hood and Hallertauer. (alpha acid: 10-13% / beta acid: 5-7%. Total oils 2.0-3.0 ml.) 

  • History. A newly discovered hop originally mistaken for Columbia.  (Great story here.) 
  • Flavor/Aroma. Highly aromatic, fruity and lemony.   (no stats yet available on this new strain.)

Mt. Hood
  • History. An Oregon State University product, Mt Hood was developed in 1985, a yet another cross with Hallertauer Mittelfrüh, Early Green, and an unknown hop.
  • Flavor/Aroma. Mt. Hood is an aromatic variety with marked similarities to the German Hallertauer and Hersbrucker varieties. 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 Landhopfen (Polish). 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 a majority (5/8) Brewers Gold, with Early Green, Canterbury Golding, Bavarian and an unknow hopn.
  • 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 and an unnamed German hop.
  • 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 zest and wildness. (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 occupies that space between pine and grapefruit, and can swing either direction.  (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 half Saaz and a quarter Cascade parentage with an unknown German aroma hop, Brewers Gold, and Early Green.
  • Flavor/Aroma. Similar to Saaz in aroma and flavor. Aromas are zesty, earthy, and spicy.  (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 that can be grown on a low- or regular-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, though it can taste oniony to some palates. (alpha acid: 17-19% / beta acid: 4% - 6%. Total oils 1.5 - 2.5 ml.)

Tardif De Bourgogne
  • History.  Unknown Alsatian French lineage--possibly a landrace species dating back to at least the 1970s.
  • Flavor/Aroma. No information. (alpha acid: 3-5.5% / beta acid: 3-5.5%. Total oils .5 - .7 ml.)

  • History.  One of the classic noble variety of hops, originally a landrace species from the Tettnang hop-growing region in Germany.  The parent hop of a family of related species as well as numerous more recent crosses.  
  • Flavor/Aroma. Classically smooth hop with delicate floral and spice notes.  (alpha acid: 3-6% / beta acid: 3-5%. Total oils .4 - 1.1 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:  SS Steiner Yakima Chief, Freshops,  Global Hops, USA Hops, IndieHops


  1. How about El Dorado? They have their own facebook page, though probably not friends with their parentage.

  2. I should have noted that the styles selected are hinged to the fresh hops fest--the listing for which you can find at the New School. Thus Tardif de Borgnogne but no Saaz.

  3. @Jeff -- thanks for the clarification. I was wondering how there could be several references to Saaz, and yet... no Saaz! Makes perfect sense now that I understand the context. :-)