In this article, we’ll talk about ten different types of hops typically used in craft beer and what they bring to your homebrew.
Water, barley, yeast, and … HOPS!
For many people just getting started in homebrewing, there is a preconceived notion that hops are only for dank, fragrant, bitter IPAs. However, hops are an essential part of every beer style, even those light and fresh pilsners or the increasingly popular sour or farmhouse-style beers.
When brewing at home, we always take a few moments to stop and smell the hops. It is surprising how each style of hop has its own aroma and how each hop changes the flavor of a beer. We have also found it interesting how some of our favorite hoppy beer styles can use a whole range of hops and end up with a very similar flavor profile.
The versatility of hops was very apparent to us as new brewers when we would rely on pre-assembled beer kits for our brewing process. You could buy the same kit multiple times over a year and not have the same hop varieties included.
I guess that is the great thing about hops. There is so much variety, from European and American to Australia and New Zealand, and if you can’t find your favorite, there is another one waiting in the wings that will work perfectly.
With all the enthusiasm about hops, it is also important to know which hops are best for the different flavor profiles of your beer. For example, some hops add bitterness and a slight piney flavor. Other hops add citrus or tropical fruit flavor but aren’t as bitter.
Knowing which hop to pick for the beer style you’re brewing and for each phase of your boil is crucial for getting the right flavors and bitterness. Then, of course, there’s also the now popular option of dry-hopping to make the brewing process more confusing.
One basic rule of thumb that you should keep in mind is to pick your hops based on the percentage of Alpha Acid in the hops. You’ll find this number on the packaging of your hops—the higher the alpha acid, the more bitter the hop flavor. As we discuss our hop picks, we’ll use “AA” to reference the alpha acid percent in each hop style.
So, in this article, we’ll give you ten great hops that work in just about any beer style. This list isn’t exhaustive, but a great base to get you started.
Ten Great Hop Styles
We did a bit of research on hop styles that are popular right now. There’s a lot of information out there, and what we found is that popular hop styles change from year to year and can be different from country to country. So the list that we’ve compiled is based on the sales and popularity information from 2020 (sorry, 2021 information isn’t out yet).
This list isn’t in any particular order but will give you a great variety of hops to use in just about any beer style. If you want to get in the weeds on popular beer ingredients, hops included, we love this site, where you can see trends in the use of beer ingredients.
There are so many hop varieties on the market today. It was tough to pick just 10. If you are looking for resources to help determine the best hop for your brew day, we found that the Yakima Valley Hops was a great resource.
So, with that said, here is our list of ten great hops for your homebrew.
We’ll start with Citra because it has become a great, all-around hop in the last few years. Citra is an American developed hop and grown throughout the United States. It is very easy to come by. It is now the heaviest planted hop in the US.
Citra hops are high in bitterness, with an AA value of 11-13%. As the name suggests, Citra hops impart a very intense citrus flavor. So use these hops in IPAs, pale ales, or even Belgian style ales.
Another good all-around hop, the Cascade hop, took its name from the Pacific Northwest region where it is grown and was first developed. This hop has an AA value of 4.5-7.0%. It isn’t terribly bitter, but its intense floral and fruity notes make it an excellent choice for dry-hopping. In fact, it is probably the most commonly used for dry-hopping across the brewing industry.
Surprisingly, this hop variety is great in porters but is also commonly found in pale ales and IPAs.
The Mosaic hop is a relatively new hop variety, hitting the market in 2012. It gets its name from both the different fruit, floral, and pine notes that it gives to beer and the number of hop varieties used to develop it.
The Mosaic hop is great for bittering with a high AA value of 11.5-13.5%. In addition, you’ll find that it has strong notes of blueberry, passion fruit, and other tropical fruits. Use this hop in your American Pale Ales, Stouts, or Double IPAs.
Another incredibly popular yet relatively new hop variety is Amarillo. It hit the market in 2003 and has quickly become a staple in the brewing market. You may also find this hop called “Amarillo Gold.”
The Amarillo hop has a fairly low AA value at 7.5-11.0%. It is not a great pick for early hop additions, which generally add bitterness. Instead, use this an aroma hop later in your boil. You’ll find that the Amarillo hop promotes notes of citrus fruits and stone fruits like peach and apricot.
This hop is very versatile and can be used in various beer styles, including wheat beers, porters, or amber ales.
This hop is the delightful pairing of traditional German and American hops. It is highly popular and has become a quick substitute for Noble hop varieties, especially in the United States.
Noble hops are traditional hops that have been used in brewing beer in Europe since the Middle Ages. There are four varieties of Noble hops, and all originate in Germany and are called out specifically in the Reinheitsgebot or the German Beer Purity Law.
The Magnum is a cross between the US Galena hop and the German Hallertau Mittlefruh hop. It is a very bitter hop and is used almost exclusively at the beginning of the boil to add bitterness. You’ll want to use this hop sparingly, especially in lighter beers, because it has such a high AA value of 11.0-16.0%.
Frankly, you can use this hop in just about any beer style, and it is probably the most versatile on our list. Use it for lagers, ales, porter IPAs, and … well, you get the picture.
This hop, named for the Centennial anniversary of Washington state, hit the market in 1990 and quickly became a trendy hop for a range of beer styles. This is an excellent dual-purpose hop, working well for both bittering and aroma.
The Centennial hop is a favorite for West Coast Style IPAs, thanks to strong notes of pine, citrus fruits (particularly grapefruit), and florals. Don’t be afraid to use it in blonde ales or even wheat ales for surprising flavor profiles.
The Simcoe hop is another relatively new hop variety, hitting the market in 2000. This hop is excellent for bittering and has an intense aroma profile, making it a great hop to use in any phase of your boil. The Simcoe hop is used very frequently in single-hop IPAs, thanks to its flavor and bitterness.
You can use this hop in a wide range of beer styles. It does have an AA value of 11.0-15.0%, so use it sparingly in lighter beer styles. Use this hop for pale ales, wild ales, sours, and lagers.
Saaz is another member of German Noble hops. This hop variety originated in what is now the Czech Republic. Saaz hops are among the oldest known hop varieties, so it is a reliable option for new brewers. It is a very mild hop, with low bitterness and an earthy yet spicy flavor.
Traditionally this hop has been used in Czech-style pilsner beers and is not often found in more intense flavored beers like IPAs or Stouts. With an AA value of 3.0-6.0%, you can easily use this hop in any phase of your boil or even in dry-hopping. This is a great hop for a smooth, easy-to-drink beer.
We suggest using Saaz in pilsners, lagers, and Belgian-style beers.
9. East Kent Golding
If you’re into brewing English-style beers, this is the hop for you. The East Kent Golding hop is an old-style hop, first marketed around 1790. You may also find it called the Canterbury Golding (there is some controversy here, but the two hop styles are identical).
This hop is a favorite of English brewers thanks to a mild bitterness (AA value 4.5-6.5%) and flavors of lavender, honey spice, and thyme. It is a bit earthy, too, making it a great hop if you’re looking for a full-flavored beer.
We recommend using the East Kent Golding hop in traditional English-style beers such as ESBs or English Strong Ales. It’s also great in pale ales and lagers.
10. Hallertau Mittlefruh
Last but not least, the final beer on our list. Another Noble hop, this is likely the oldest hop style on our list, having been used for centuries in Europe. This hop style has made a recent resurgence in the brewing industry thanks to its age and heartiness. While many new varieties have recently suffered from disease, the Hallertau has remained strong and relatively disease-free.
The Hallertau Mittlefruh hop is a mild hop with an AA value of 3.0-5.5% and aromas of florals, spice, and fruity. It is a perfect hop for any beer style. It can be used heavily in the early stages of your boil for light bitterness, and you’ll find that its mild flavor won’t overwhelm your beer.
The Hallertau is great for cask ales, lagers, Bocks, Altbier, and Belgian or European-style beers.
Runner-up: El Dorado
A fairly new hop style, hitting the craft beer market in 2010, this hop is an excellent dual-purpose hop perfect for bittering and aroma. It can be used throughout the boil and has taken a place alongside crystal and hops from the Willamette region as IPAs move from dank to fruity. El Dorado has started gaining popularity with the hazy IPA movement. The El Dorado has flavors of tropical fruits, passion fruit, watermelon, and pear. Pick this hop for your juicy IPA or New England style IPA.
Final Word on the Different Types of Hops Used in Homebrewing
Whether you use traditional hops like Tettnanger, Zeus, or Spalt for your favorite pilsner, lager, or English ale, or are excited about trying new hop styles like galaxy, super cascade. Perhaps you even fancy trying the high alpha acid hops like Chinook, Simcoe, or Magnum, which are perfect for IPAs. Whichever it is, you are sure to find hops that work in any beer style.