Beer 101
Hop Varietals 101 Guide

Hop Varietals 101

The rising popularity of craft beer is in part due to the ethos of the small, independent craft brewer, but there’s more to it than the independent image: craft beer straight up tastes better than big beer. Brewers pay attention to their recipes and craft them over time to create complex brews that satisfy, intrigue and delight drinkers. Craft brewers also use higher quality ingredients. One of the most significant ingredients contributing flavor to beer is hop varietals.

Hops play a huge role in the overall quality and taste of the beer you drink. With the growing popularity of IPAs and other pale ales, hops of all varieties are in demand. The better the hop is in terms of taste and stability, the higher the demand for the particular bud is.

On the other hand, you cannot just combine the most popular hops into one craft beer and expect it to taste good. Brewers need to consider how each hop will affect their finished product and create recipes that blend well together. Use this quick guide to learn more about different hop varietals and the role they play in your favorite beers.

Northern Brewer

This is one of the most common hops in California beers. It is known for its distinct pine scent and slight mint flavor. It isn’t like other American hops, which have more of an intense citrus taste. Northern Brewer is more woodsy, even though they both have a very bold taste.

Cascade and Centennial

Both Cascade and Centennial hops have similar tastes, with centennial having slightly more floral undertones. The hops are both known for their grapefruit-like scent and balanced taste. They are both found in very potent American beers.

CTZ hops (Columbus, Tomahawk, and Zeus)

CTZ consists of three different hops that have similar tastes and aromas: Columbus, Tomahawk, and Zeus. Each hop has a strong herb taste, which can be quite bitter. While Zeus is the most bitter of the three varieties, they are often considered interchangeable by brewers. While these bitter hops are commonly found in IPAs, their earthy character makes them ideal for Imperial beers and stouts of all kinds.

Galaxy

Australian hops are well-known for their fruity taste and Galaxy is no exception. Galaxy is experiencing a recent rise to “hop celebrity” status in the craft beer world and is featured as a special hop in many IPAs and farmhouse beers. It has a distinct passion fruit  taste, making them a favorite in summertime ales.

Fuggle

English hops tend to lend an earthy taste with a lemon or mint aftertaste. They are bitter but balanced. Fuggle is a popular variety because it has a stronger mint and cedar flavor. While Fuggle hops are popular, Challenger hops are one of the most common hops found in English pale ales.

Keep in mind that most modern hops are chosen for their extremely bold taste. While new breeds of hops are being created, the majority of them have a very distinct aroma or taste. Traditional brews will select hops known for their consistent bitterness or scent.

The hop varietals used in beers brewed today are chosen years in advance. For example, it isn’t uncommon for craft breweries to order their supply of Galaxy five years in advance due to high demand. This means they don’t have a lot of room for error when crafting new beer recipes. The increasing hop demand hasn’t slowed the beer drinker’s taste for hoppy beers, however. IPAs continue to dominate as the most popular and best-selling beer style for craft breweries across the country, and that doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon.

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