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Hops Guide

In this article, we are going to delve deep into the world of hops, one of the essential ingredients in beer. Hops come from the Humulus Lupulus plant which is in the Cannabidaceae family. A well-known "weed" is in this same family. The hop plant is a vine that grows rapidly to over 20 feet in length. Hops are the scaly, cone-shaped, female flowers known as strobiles that are used to add flavor, aroma and bitterness to beer.

The growing of hops has been documented as far back as the 8th century A.D. in the Hallertau region of Germany, however, they were not used in beer until the 11th century. Previous to this, bitter plants such as gruit, heather, and dandelion were used for bittering until it was discovered that hops prevented spoilage. After being banned in England as an invasive weed, hops were finally grown there in the 16th century. They finally made their way to the USA in the 17th century.

The most significant growing regions today are as follows:
  • UK: Kent and Worcestershire
  • USA: Yakima, Washington and the Willamette Valley in Oregon.
  • Germany: The Hallertau region in Bavaria.
Hops contain two types of acid known as alpha and beta, which both act as preserving agents by killing or hindering the growth of various bacteria. Alpha acids provide the bitterness in a beer while beta acids contribute to the aroma and are often referred to as "finishing hops". Some hops have dual use abilities. The qualities of the hops are imparted to the beer by adding them during the boil stage of brewing. Adding hops to the beer after the boil is referred to as "dry-hopping" and is used to increase hop aroma and flavor.

The bittering effect of hops is measured in IBUs (International Bittering Units). To date, the highest IBUs we know of in a beer is 2007, but the human tongue can only taste up to about 100 IBUs.

New varieties of hops have been and continue to be bred. Cross-breeding has allowed for the creation of crops that have higher alpha acids, or better resistance to pests and disease such as downy mildew and Verticillium Wilt.

The table below highlights over 60 common hop varieties.

Hop Origin Description Storage Alpha Acids Beta Acids Common Uses
Admiral UK Bred from Challenger hops and Northdown hops at Wye College and released in 1998. Developed to expand the number of bittering hops available in the UK. N/A 13.5–16.2% 5-6% English Ales
Ahtanum USA Ahtanum is grown by Yakima Chief Ranches in Yakima, Washington. Ahtanum is a good alternative to Cascade or Amarillo hops, but has more citrus grapefruit notes and less bitterness than Cascade. Fair 5.7-6.3% 5-6.5% American Ales, Lagers
Amarillo USA A newer variety, Amarillo Hops are privately grown only by Virgil Gamache Farms in Toppenish, Washington. Has a lemon to grapefruit citrus quality and are good for bittering. Similar to Cascade, but qualities are more pronounced. Good 8-11% 6-7% IPA and Pale Ale
Brewers Gold UK Developed by professor Salmon in 1934 at Wye College. Mainly used for bittering and has a sharp or pungent quality. Blackcurrant, fruity, spicy aroma. Poor 8-11% 3.5-4.5% English Ales, German Lagers
Bullion UK Bred in 1919 in England from a wild Manitoban female crossed with an English male hop. Mainly used for bittering and has strong black currant characteristics. Limited growing in the USA. Poor 6.5-9% 5-6% IPA, ESB, Stout
Cascade USA Developed in Oregon, Cascade hops are the first American hop variety accepted for commercial use in 1972, and now the most widely used hop by craft brewers in the USA. It is a cross-breed of Fuggles and Serebrianker from Russia. Good for flavor and aroma with a grapefruit citrus character. Good for dry-hopping. Poor 4.5-7% 4.5-7% Pale Ale, IPA, Barley Wine, Porter
Centennial USA Centennial was first bred in Washington in 1974 by crossing Brewers Gold hops with Fuggle, East Kent Golding, Bavarian and an N/A variety (USDA). Good for aroma and bittering. Floral and citrus character. Poor 9.5–11.5% 3.5–4.5% American Ales, Wheat Beers
Challenger UK Introduced in 1972 at Wye College in England, this variety was developed from German Northern Brewer hops. Mild to moderate intensity and excellent for bittering. Also used for flavor and aroma. Spicy aroma. Blends well with other hops. Good 6.5-8.5% 4–4.5% English Ales, Porter, Stout, ESB, Bitter, Barley Wine, Brown Ales
Chinook USA Released in 1985, this breed was developed by combining Petham Golding with the USDA 63012 male. Primarily grown in the Yakima, Washington area. Mainly used for bittering, sometimes for aroma. Mild to medium-heavy, spicy, piney, and grapefruity character. Fair 12-14% 3-4% Pale Ale, IPA, Stout, Porter, Barley Wine, Lagers
Citra USA A very new cross-breed of Hallertau MF, U.S. Tettnanger, East Kent Golding, Bavarian, and Brewers Gold released in 2008. Has a very fruity (passionfruit) character and is good for dry-hopping. N/A 11-13% 3.5-4.5% IPA, Pale Ale
Cluster USA Cluster is the original American hop likely developed as a cross-breed of wild American hops and strains brought over by the Dutch and English in the 1600's. Used as a general purpose hop with medium bittering potential. Spicy character. Limited acreage grown today. Good 5.5-8.5% 4.5-5.5% Ales, Lagers, Stouts
Columbus USA Also known as Tomahawk, this hop was developed by the HopUnion breeding program. Earthy, spicy, pungent, with a light citrus character. Excellent for dry-hopping. Poor 14-16% 4.5-5.5% Pale Ale, IPA, Stouts, Lagers
Crystal USA Developed in Corvallis, Oregon, Crystal is a triploid (3 chromosomes and seedless) aroma-type breed, released for commercial production in 1993. It originates from a seedling selection of Hallertau and USDA 21381M. Mild floral and spicy aroma. Fair 3.5-5.5% 4.5–6.5% Kölsch, ESB, Alt, Belgian Ales, Lagers
Delta USA Developed by Hopsteiner, this hop is a aroma-type hop, originated from a cross between Fuggle and a male derived from Cascade. It is slightly spicy with a hint of citrus. Very Good 5.5-7% 5.5-7% N/A
First Gold UK This newer variety was bred at Wye College in 1995, and is a cross-pollination of Whitbread Golding and a dwarf male. Rich citrus character with flavors described as orange peel and dried apricot. Good for dry-hopping. Limited production. Very Good 6.5–8.5% 3–4% Ales, ESB, Bitter, Fruit Beers
Fuggle UK First grown by Richard Fuggle in England in 1861 and released commercially in 1875, Fuggle hops were once the most dominant variety in the UK. Also grown in Washington and Oregon, but the USA version is milder than the UK version. Mostly used for aroma and flavor. Styrian Goldings are Fuggle hops grown in Slovenia. Good 4–5.5% 1.5–3% English Bitter, ESB, Mild Ale, Porter, Lagers
Galaxy Australia This is a triploid hop bred by Hop Products Australia at their Rostrevor Breeding Garden Victoria in 1994. It was bred by crossing a female tetraploid (J78) with a male derived from Perle. A dual purpose hop with citrus and passionfruit characteristics. N/A 13-13.5% 5.8-6% N/A
Galena USA Galena is a bittering hop bred in 1968 from Brewers Gold and an open pollination in Idaho. It was released commercially in 1978. Mainly used for bittering and works well with other hops. Good 12–14% 7.5-9% American Ales, English Ales
Glacier USA Released as a public variety in 2000 by Dr. Stephen Kenny at Washington State University. It was chosen for its low cohumulone and good yield potential. Mainly used for its pleasant aroma. Good 5.5% 8.2% Pale Ale, ESB, Bitter, English Pale Ale, Porter, Stout
Goldings UK Golding is a group of hops originally from England. English Goldings grown in East Kent are a premium hop, called East Kent Golding. Kent Goldings are from Kent, and those from everywhere else are simply referred to as Goldings. A variety is also grown Oregon and Washington. They are mostly used for aroma and have a floral and sweet character. Fair 4-6% 2-3% English Ales, Belgian Ales
Hallertau Germany Hallertau hops are grown in the region of Bavaria by the same name. Hallertauer Mittelfrüh is a noble hop, however, other varieties such as Gold, Merkur, Tradition, Magnum, and Taurus exist and can be used as a replacement. Used for flavor and aroma, these hops have a floral and earthy character. Fair 3.5-5.5% 3-4% German Lagers, Wheat Beers, Belgian Ales, Altbier, Kolsch
Hersbrucker Germany This hop originated in the Hersbrucker region of Germany and was selected to replace Hallertau MF when its crops were overcome by verticillium (fungi) in the 1970's and 1980's. For this reason, this hop is sometimes called Hallertau Hersbrucker. Hersbrucker is mainly used for aroma and has a grassy/earthy aroma. Mt.Hood hops are a good replacement. Fair 3-5.5% 4-5.5% Kölsch, Munich Helles, Pilsner, Bock, Weizen Bock, Wheat Beers, Belgian Ales
Horizon USA Originally bred in Oregon in 1970, this sister of Nugget hops was released commercially in 1998. Used for aroma and bittering. Limited supply - use Magnum as a replacement. Good 11-13% 6.5-8.5% American ales and lagers
Liberty USA Developed in 1983 and released in 1991, Liberty is a cross-breed of Hallertau mf and a downy mildew resistant male (USDA 64035M). Similar, and sometimes used as a replacement to Hallertau MF. Character is mild with light spiciness. Fair 3-5% 3-4% Pilsner, American Wheat, Bock, Kolsch
Lublin Poland Also known as Lubelski, this hop was derived from Saaz hops. Some consider it a noble hop and it has noble qualities. Used for aroma with a mild, herbal and spicy character. N/A 3-4.5% N/A Pilsner, European Lagers, Baltic Porter
Magnum Germany Magnum was bred in 1980 at Hüll, the German Hop Research Institute, from the American variety Galena and the German male 75/5/3. Magnum hops are also now grown in the USA and are very similar to their German counterparts. Mainly used for bittering, and has a spicy, citrusy character. Good 12-14% 4.5-5% American and German Ales, Pilsner, Stout
Millennium USA Developed as a cross-breed of Nugget and Columbus hops in 1989 in the Pacific Northwest, and released commercially in 2000. Bred for higher tolerance to mildew. Similar in character to Nugget with floral and herbal qualities and a light spiciness. Mainly used for bittering due to high Alpha content. Poor 14.5-16.5% 4.8% American Ales
Mt. Hood USA Released in 1989, this is a triploid hop derived from Hallertau MF that is mainly used for aroma. Mt. Hood has a mild, spicy character. Named for Oregon's tallest mountain. Poor 4-6% 5-7.5% Lagers, Pilsner, Bock, American Wheat, Altbier, Helles
Mt. Ranier USA Bred at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, this very new hop is likely a cross of Hallertau, Galena, and Fuggles. The aroma and flavor are similar to Hallertau and it is used for aroma and bittering. Its character is licorice with a hint of citrus. N/A 6-8% N/A American Ales, Lagers
Newport USA Developed at the Agricultural Research Service in Corvallis, Oregon, Newport hops were released in 2002. Mainly used for bittering. Fair 13.5–17% 7.2–9.1% American Ales, Stout, Barley Wine
Northdown UK Developed in the 1970's, this resinous hop was used for bittering due to its high Alpha content at the time. Since then, much higher alpha hops have been developed, but Northdown lives on due to its excellent flavor qualities. It is Northern Brewer crossed with a German male resistant to downy mildew. Limited availability. Fair 7.5–9.5% 5–5.5% Ales, Porter
Northern Brewer UK Bred in England in 1934, this hop is a blend of an English Canterbury Golding female plant and the American male plant OB21. Now grown in Belgium, Spain, USA, and is one of the main hops grown in Germany. Mainly used for bittering due to high Alpha content. Chinook is a possible substitute. Good 8-10% 3-5% ESB, Bitter, English Pale, Porter, California Common, Helles
Nugget USA Selected from a cross between Brewer’s Gold, Early Green, Caterbury Golding, Bavarian and an N/A variety in 1970. Released in 1983, this is a popular bittering hop in the USA. It is grown in Yakima, Washington and Germany. Its character is described as heavy and herbal. Good 12-14% 4-6% Ales, Stout, Barley Wine
Pacific Gem New Zealand This is a triploid, high alpha hop that was released in 1987. This organic hop is mainly used for bittering. Has a woody and fruity character. Very Good 14-16% 8-8.4% Organic beers
Palisade USA Grown by Yakima Chief Ranches, this hop is used for aroma. This new hop is bred from Swiss Tettnanger. They have a clean floral character. Good 5.5-9.5% 6-8% English Ales, American Ales
Perle Germany Bred in Germany at the Hüll Hop Research Institute in 1978 from Northern Brewer, this hop is grown in Germany, Belgium, and the USA (Washington and Oregon). The USA version has higher alpha acids ranging from 7% to 9.5%. It is used for bittering and flavoring/aroma. Its character is described as moderately intense, minty, and spicy. Good 5-7.5% 3.5-5.5% Lagers, Pilsners, Pale Ale, Porter, Stout, Weizen, Altbier, Kölsch, Helles
Phoenix UK Developed at Wye College as a replacement for Challenger hops. Dual-purpose hop, mild aroma and slightly spicy flavor. N/A 8-12% 4.2-5.5% English Ales
Pilot UK Very new hop variety used for bittering and developed by Charles Faram & Co.. Character is mild, herbal, grassy, with lemon hints. N/A 8-12% N/A American and English Ales
Pioneer UK Bred at Wye College, this dwarf variety is used for bittering and aroma. It has moderate bitterness and citrus characteristics. Good 8-10% N/A English Ales
Pride of Ringwood Australia Bred in Australia, this hop is a cross between the English Pride of Kent hop and a wild Tasmanian variety. At time of its release in 1965, it had the highest alpha acid percentage in the world. It is mainly used for bittering and has a strong citrus character. acid hop in the world Fair 7-10% 4-6% Australian Lagers (i.e. Fosters)
Progress UK Bred in 1951 at Wye College as a cross between a Whitbread Golding female and a wild American male. Mainly used for aroma with moderate bittering. Described as robust and fruity. Good 5-7% 2-2.5% Ales, Bitter, ESB, Porter
Satus USA Grown by Yakima Chief Ranches in Washington, this newer hop is mainly used for bittering and is similar to Galena. Citrusy. Limited availability. Good 12.5-14% 8.5-9% Ales, Porter, ESB
Saaz Czech This famous Czech hop has been grown for over 700 years. Mainly used for aroma and flavor, the character is mild earthy, herbal, and spicy. There is a variety grown in the USA. Fair 3-4.5% 3-4.5% Czech Pilsner, Lagers, Belgian Ales
Santiam USA Released in 1997 by the Agricultural Research Service in Corvallis, Oregon, this is the first naturally seedless hop and was derived from Tettnanger, Hallertauer Mittelfrüh, and an American hop. Has noble characteristics and is mainly used for aroma. Character is floral and herbal. Fair 5-7% 6-8% Lagers, American Ales, Pilsner, Belgian Ales, Belgian Tripel, Kölsch, Bock, Helles
Saphir Germany Some consider this newer hop a member of the noble hop family with a refined aroma & a mild flavor. Bred as an alternative to Hallertau's susceptibility to pests and disease. Used for aroma. Sweet & clean citrus aroma that has a hint of tangerine. Fair 2-4.5% 4-7% European Lagers, Pilsner, German Lagers, Witbier
Select Germany Bred at the Hüll Research Institution from Hallertauer Mittlefrüh and Spalt to be disease resistant. Released in 1991, this hop is mainly used for aroma. Also known as Spalt Select or Spalter Select. Good 4-6% 3.5-4.5% Lagers, German Lagers
Simcoe USA Released in 2000 by Yakima Chief Ranches in Washington. Used for aroma and bittering. Has a pine or wood character with notes of passionfruit or apricot. Good 12-14% 4-5% American Ales
Sorachi Ace Japan Developed for Sapporo and used in their beers. It is a cross-breed of Brewers Gold and Saaz. Used for bittering and has a lemon character. N/A 10.7-12.2% N/A Lagers
Spalt Germany Grown around the town of Spalt in Bavaria. Used for aroma. Character is mild and slightly spicy. Limited availability. Fair 4-5% 4-5% German Lagers, Pilsner, Bock, Altbier, Kölsch, Helles
Sterling USA Released in 1998, Sterling is a cross-breed of Saaz, Cascade, Brewers Gold, Early Green, and an N/A variety. Used for aroma and is a good substitute for Saaz. Character is mild, earthy and spicy with floral and citrus hints. Good 6-9% 4-6% Lagers, Pilsner, Belgian Ales
Strisselspalt France Similar to Hersbrucker, this hop originates in the Alsace region of France. This hop has a moderate intensity and pleasant aroma. Good 3-5% 3-5.5% Lagers, Pilsner, Wheat Beers, Belgian Ales
Styrian Golding Slovenia Fuggle hops grown in Slovenia. See Fuggle above for more information. Good 4.5-6% 2-3% English Bitter, ESB, Mild Ale, Porter, Lagers
Summit USA This dwarf hop is bred in Yakima, Washington, and is at the top of the alpha acid list making it great for bittering and dry-hopping. Released in 2003. It has a citrus and grapefruit flavor. N/A 17.5-19.5 4.7 IPA
Target UK This popular UK hop was bred at Wye College and released in 1972. Mainly used for bittering, but has a decent aroma. It has herbal, grassy, and earthy characteristics and is fairly intense. Fuggles and Willamette can be used as replacements. Fair 9.5-12.5% 5-5.5% English Ales, Porters, Stouts
Tettnang Germany This old noble hop hails from the town of Tettnang, Germany. Mainly used for aroma and flavor. Character is mild, herbal and slightly spicy. Also grown in the USA (Oregon and Washington). Spalt and Saaz are possible replacements. Fair 3.5-5.5% 3.5-5% Lagers, German Ales, Pilsner, German Wheat Ales, Lambic, Altbier, Kölsch, Helles
Tradition Germany Bred for disease resistance at the Hüll Hop Research Institute, this hop was released in 1991 and is very similar to Hallertau Mittlefrüh. It is used for both bittering and aroma. Good 5-7% 4-5% Lagers, Pilsner, Bock, German Wheat Ales
Tomahawk USA See Columbus Poor 14-18% 4.5-5.8% Pale Ale, IPA, Stouts, Lagers
Ultra USA Originally bred in 1983 and released in 1995, this triploid hop is a cross of Hallertauer Mittelfrüh, Saaz, and an N/A variety. Mainly used for aroma, they are spicy and floral. Fair 4-5% 3.6-4.7% Lagers, Pilsner, Wheat Ales
Vanguard USA Originally bred in 1982 and released in 1997, this hop was made from a descendant Hallertauer Mittelfrüh. Used for its aromatic qualities and has characteristics similar to Hallertau MF. Good 5-6% 5-7% Lagers, Pilsner, Bock, Kölsch, Wheat Beers, Helles, Belgian Ales
Warrior USA Bred at Yakima Chief Ranches in Washington in 2001(?), this newer hop is used for bittering and aroma. It has a grapefruit/lemon character with smooth bitterness. A good replacement for Nugget or Columbus. Good 15-17% 4.5-5.5% Pale Ale, IPA
Willamette USA Released in Oregon in 1976, this is a triploid variety derived from Fuggle hops. They are named after the Willamette River in Oregon. Used for aroma, they have woody, earthy and herbal characteristics. Fair 4-6% 3.5-4.5% English Ales, Pale Ale, Brown Ale

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