Hop Variety Guide

Posted on February 18th, 2010

Hops are a key ingredient in beer and as we’ve discussed before, provide much of the spice and flavor that defines many different styles of beer. In our previous article we mentioned that there were a number of varieties of hops grown throughout the world, each having a unique bitterness, flavor and aroma. The bitterness of hops is measured by calculating its alpha acid percentage, a measure of how much bittering chemicals the plant typical carries. The average range is from 2% Alpha Acid (AA) for aroma hops to 15% AA for bittering hops. Here’s a look at some of the most popular varieties of hops.

Cascade – This is by far the most popular variety of hops in America. It’s used in the majority of American made pale ales and IPAs, especially those from the West Coast. It’s noted for its strong aroma of citrus and grapefruit as well as subtle floral elements. One of the reasons for their popularity is the versatility, as it can be used as a bittering, flavoring or aroma hop. Lagunitas IPASierra Nevada and Hop Devil are some popular brews which use Cascade in their brews. 6% AA

Chinook – Another popular American variety. Primarily used as a bittering agent, due to its high alpha acid rating, usually around 12-14% AA. It is similar to Cascade, but not as citrusy. Redhook Copper Hook Spring Ale makes great use of this type.

Fuggles –  Originally British, but has since been grown by American brewers as well. It has a grassy and somewhat cheesy flavor to it. 5% AA.

Hallertau – A earthy, spicy hop from Germany. Mostly used as an aroma hop due to its relativity low AA rating of 4%. Used in a number of Pilsners and other German inspired lagers. Sam Adams Imperial Pilsners uses this extensively

Mt. Hood – This American hop is very floral in both flavor and aroma, and used accordingly as a flavor and aroma hop. 6% AA.

Spalt – German, fresh smelling and a bit grassy, used as a aroma and flavoring hop 5% AA.

Target – From the UK, strongly herbal and floral. Used as a bittering hop in many lagers and lighter ales. 11% AA.

Tettnang – German, floral and spicy. Used mostly as flavoring and aroma. Anderson Valley ESB, Red Hook ESB and Sam Adams Oktoberfest. 4.5% AA

Kent Goldings – Classic British hop. Mild, but very Earthy, or grassy, with notes of blue cheese. It’s used in many English ales including Fuller’s ESB, Samuel Smith Pale Ale and Young’s London Ale. 5% AA

Norther Brewer – From UK, but adapted grown elsewhere now. It has a clean, grassy flavor. Used as a bittering hop in Anchor Steam. 8% AA

Magnum – As the name might suggest, Magnum is extremely strong bittering hop. Like most bittering hops it’s not very well known for its taste, but it does have a lighter, piney quality. 12% AA

Saaz – Fom the Czech Republic. Like many European hops it tends to be clean and spicy rather than the floral and citrusy American hops. It’s primarily used as an aroma hop and can be found in Czech beers such as Pilsner Urquell. 3% AA

Amarillo – Popular flavoring hop from US. Similar to Cascade, but Earthier, and not as citrusy. Used primarily as a bittering and flavoring hop. 9% AA

Centennial – Moderately popular bittering hop. Similar to Cascade, but stronger. Sometimes known as “Super Cascade” . Used in Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine, and Sierra Nevada Celebration. 10% AA

Simcoe – Popular US bittering hop. Has a spicy, piney aroma. 13%AA.