Top of the Hops!
Posted on September 22 2020
If you engage with the wafts of aroma from the beer in your glass, you’ll have noticed what a difference the choice of hops has on a beer's aroma and flavour.
The current trend is very much for the New World stars with their big aromatic swagger, rather than the more restrained ones of more traditional beers. But there are always new styles emerging and new hops being discovered or engineered.
Even now, brewers and beer drinkers are contemplating a shift … perhaps lower alcohol beers, along with more subtle European style hops. A beer world constantly in flux … and so exciting!
You’ll find below a short list of today’s top hop stars and a preview of the some of the New Kids on the Block!
orange - lemon - lime
Many call this a super-charged version of Cascade. It came about as a chance crossing in a hop field in the States. The farm noticed the plant looked different and the hop cones were smaller. It also had a very strong citrus aroma. They propagated it and now it is one of the most popular in the world. It’s loved for its very high myrocene oil content, which produces the citrus flavours. Ideal for modern craft brews. Its name, Amarillo, means ‘yellow’ in Spanish.
tropical fruit - citrus - pine
A Washington-State-born hop, first released commercially in 2013 and now one of the most used. Azacca is named after the Haitian god of agriculture. It is particularly useful to a brewer for late or dry hopping.
citrus - grapefruit - pine - floral
Cascade gets its name from the mountain range in Oregon. A top hop in the US and loved for its big, hoppy aromatic profile. It was the original one, first used in the 1970s by Sierra Nevada’s Ken Grossmann to kick-start the beginning of craft brewing in the US. He wanted to make a British-style pale ale with US hops. Cascade did the trick.
lemon - pine - floral
Washington State’s Centennial is almost as popular as Cascade. It’s a crossing of Fuggles, East Kent Golding, Brewers Gold and Bavarian varietals. Very big on alpha acid, which contributes bitterness in a brew, it’s like Cascade on steroids. It’s disease resistant too, so popular with growers.
spice - pine - citrus
Another Washington-State-grown hop,Chinook leads with spice and pine notes, only then offering up citrus and grapefruit with bitter notes.
citrus - tropical fruit - aromatic
the king of hops in modern craft brewing. A crossing created in Washington State (again). It crosses Hallertau, Mittelfruh, Tettnang, Brewers Gold, East Kent Golding and a wild hop, and it’s super aromatic. Very popular in UK craft beers.
traditional - low bitterness
From the 1800s, through to mid 20th century, Fuggle accounted for 80% of English hop production. Low on bitterness, it's used in traditional ales, especially in mild ales, bitters and porters.
fruity - smooth
an Australian hop, used largely at the end of the brewing process or for dry hopping. Fruity in quality with more of a smooth hoppiness.
herbal - earthy - tropical fruit
Another Washington-born hop, this one is super-popular and has good intensity.
earthy - herbal - pine - grapefruit
One of the US’s top hops, first introduced in 2002, it’s known for a pleasing high alpha acid content, so adds bitterness and a slightly earthy and herbal, funky pine and grapefruit character. Refreshing stuff in a beer.
citrus - pepper - gooseberry
Introduced to the market in 2003, this semi-dwarf variety boasts tangerine, orange and lemon notes with a good dose of bitterness and sometimes notes of aniseed, pepper and gooseberry. A ‘super-alpha’ hop, it’s good for adding bitterness to a beer but also can bring some strong aromatics, particularly in IPAs, DIPAs and pale ales.
floral - fruity - herbal
Named after the river of the same name, this has been the No.1 hop in the US for a long time but has been knocked off the top spot by Citra, for one, and most probably been overtaken by Amarillo and Azacca too!
AND THE NEW HOPS ON THE BLOCK ...
strawberry - raspberry - kumquat
Let’s start with something different from the norm. Barbe Rouge is a French hop, and one that brings strawberry, raspberry, kumquat and candy notes and none of the usual citrus. Sweet and fruity. Best so far as a blend.
citrus - peach - melon
Released in 2013, it’s a cross between Cascade and one called Northern Brewer. It’s been slow to take off, but is now gaining a fan club. Bright and fruity with herbal notes and good bittering properties.
citrus - grassy - earthy
Too far ahead of its time, it was launched in 1974 and dive bombed … far too bright and citrusy. Now it’s just the ticket with those citrusy tones, along with grassy hints and an earthy bitterness. It’s a crossing of an English hop and a wild American one.
apricot - guava - melon
Grown in Colorado and New Mexico, Medusa is unique as it produces a multi-headed hop. In trial stage, it brings to the brew intense flavours of apricot, guava, melon and citrus, with low alpha acid it’s ideal for flavour and aroma additions.
Sabro / Sabroso
fruity - cedar - tropical
Sabro (or Sabroso, its proper name), is one of the most-in-demand newbies in the States and catching on here fast. Its name is Spanish and means 'tasty'. New to the market in 2018, it is fruit-forward, with a touch sometimes of mint and cedar and a tropical, coconut edge.
citrus - passion fruit - mango
Known widely as ‘tropical fruit meets pot’, Strata started life at an Oregon-based institution in 2009 and was released commercially in 2018. So a real newbie! Bursting with citrus, passion fruit, mango and melon, with just a hint of dankness.
pineapple - citrus - pine
A hop plant with very big cones, that produces hefty oils and huge aromas. This is a hop to grapple with! It contributes ripe pineapple, juicy citrus and pine notes on loud speaker. For the more in-yer-face beers. Tasty.
tropical - pine - citrus - spice
Named after the musician Frank, it tastes, so one US brewer said, like ‘the colour purple … if you could eat it!’ It’s certainly strong on tropical fruit with a strong punch of citrus, spice and pine.
And, don’t forget, just like growing grapes, a hop’s environment (wine word is ‘terroir’) makes a big difference to taste too. Time to reach for a glass of beer!