Hops: beer drinkers can’t live without them. And for our Pacific Northwest readers, chances are you might even live near them. Washington, Oregon and Idaho lead the continent in hop growth and production — and these states have maintained their reputation as a global force, surpassing Germany’s production in 2015. Washington’s Yakima Valley alone accounts for over three-quarters of all hops grown in the U.S. Our hop production here in the Northwest contributes to the local appeal of our eclectic beer scene.
For all you current or future hopheads, here are seven PNW hop varieties you should have cemented in your drinking palate.
Cascade | Originally released in the 1972, this hop has become a mainstay in brewing for years with one of the most recognizable tastes in the industry. It is arguably the most popular of the three C’s — with Centennial and Columbus tagging along. The Cascade hop is showcased in various beer styles, accompanying others like Amarillo or any hop in the “C” tribe. With its lower alpha acid content (the source of hop bitterness), it is commonly used more for aroma than bittering. Expect a burst of pleasantly floral, spicy grapefruit on the nose before your next sip.
Beer Examples: Deschutes Brewing Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale
Simcoe | Simcoe is a versatile dual-purpose hop, distinctive in bittering taste and aromatics. This hop was bred by the Select Botanicals Group out of the Yakima Valley and released in 2000. For your next Simcoe brew, anticipate earthy pine with delicate notes of citrus from this showstopper.
Beer Examples: Double Mountain Brewery India Red Ale; Bale Breaker Field 41 Pale Ale
Citra | Released in 2007, Citra is a go-to hop for American ale styles. Its juicy, tropical citrus characteristics are energetic in aroma and flavor. Citra is also a team player, frequently in the same brews with Mosaic, Amarillo and Cascade. This hop carries a lot of attention — the plug of its name can entice any drinker — but Citra lives up to the hype.
Beer Examples: Georgetown Brewing Co. Johnny Utah Pale Ale; Elysian Brewing Space Dust India Pale Ale
Centennial | Centennial packs a high-alpha punch of floral and citrus. Strong aromatics and bittering capabilities make this dual-purpose hop a popular variety in the craft brewing community. Centennial closely followed its Cascade predecessor in the 1970s, but was not released until 1990 by Washington State University. It’s fondly referred to as the “super Cascade,” possessing similar qualities as Cascade with twice the alpha acid content (7-12 percent).
Beer Examples: Ninkasi Brewing Quantum Pale Ale; Iron Horse Brewery Beer Wolf India Pale Ale
Mosaic | Mosaic has stolen the hearts of craft beer lovers in an unprecedented way since its release in 2012. The daughter of Simcoe and Nugget hails from Perrault Farms and gets special attention in hoppy, sessionable beer styles like the pale ale and the India pale ale. With a high alpha acid content (10.5-13 percent), the Mosaic brews well on its own. But it also plays nice with others, particularly Citra, Simcoe and Amarillo. Each sip sustains a complex “mosaic” of flavors: ranging from lush tropical fruit to dank pine.
Beer Examples: pFriem Family Brewers Mosaic Single Hop Pale Ale; Fort George Suicide Squeeze India Pale Ale
Chinook | Chinook has established a strong name for itself since its release in 1985. With its high alpha acid content (11.5-15 percent), this hop can be expected for only bittering purposes. However, spicy pine and mild grapefruit characteristics make its aromatics just as desirable in any brew. Chinook is found is a wide variety of English and American styles — it also can be spotted complementing hops like Simcoe and Cascade.
Beer Examples: Stoup Brewing Northwest India Pale Ale; Pelican Brewing Five Fin West Coast Pilsner
Amarillo | Amarillo was first discovered on the fields of Virgil Gamache Farms in the Yakima Valley, and is exclusively grown there to this day. With the highest myrcene content (that perfume-y quality) than any other hop variety, this hop has a pungent bite of orange and grapefruit, adding a fruity and deceptively sweet kick to any brew.
Beer Examples: Fremont Brewing Summer Ale; Block 15 Brewing Print Master’s Pale Ale