Whether you are looking for a hop that suits a particular style, or just have a flavor you want to feature in a beer, picking the best hop for the job is paramount. All hops have their unique combination of flavors and aromas. This is usually due to their higher-than-normal essential oil content.
We were recently asked for a list of the most intense hops on the market today. We fortunately had the data to put that list together, so here we are. The criteria started out simple: pick the highest value in our radar chart for a particular aroma descriptor. And if there were multiple, we planned on picking the one with the highest oil content.
Well, as with all good intentions, this one went off the rails pretty quickly. We found that some data we use for our radar charts didn’t necessarily match the descriptions provided by the manufacturers. For example, we found one hop that was classified as intensely stone fruit, yet it didn’t list any stone fruits in the description. Unfortunately, this type of thing happens all the time when there is no formal method for classifying aromas.
Anyway, what this made us do is just take a slightly more human approach to choosing the most intense hop for each category. We used the data to guide us, but in the end if there was a question about the data, we used our experiences instead.
Hops are usually classified with nine aroma descriptors: Citrus, Tropical Fruit, Stone Fruit, Berry, Floral, Grassy, Herbal, Spicy and Resinous/Pine. These aromas are charted for every hop we have been able to find the data for.
Most Intense Hop: Citra (US) Citrus Flavor Intensity: 5/5 Hop Oil (mL/100g): 1.5-3.0 mL Citrus Flavors: Grapefruit, Lime
As the name suggests, Citra is a hop exploding with citrus flavors. While the term ‘citrus’ can be a bit broad regarding hops, this one primarily exhibits grapefruit and lime aromas. Citra is the preeminent hop to use when you’re looking to get a burst of citrus.
The two hops that made it into the honorable mentions take their citrus aromas in a different direction. Sultana (formerly Denali) has bright lemon and pineapple notes, while Galaxy is slightly more known for its tropical and peach flavors.
Most Intense Hop: Strata (US) Tropical Flavor Intensity: 5/5 Hop Oil (mL/100g): 2.3-3.5 mL Tropical Fruit Flavors: Passion Fruit
Strata hops burst onto the scene in 2018, and quickly has become one of the most sought-after hops by craft brewers. While Strata hops have very intense fruity aromas, if we had to pick one specific aroma it was stronger with, it would be tropical.
Late hot side additions using Strata will help bring out layers of rounded-tropical plus bright-fresh fruit flavors. This hop is simply bursting with fruit.
Most Intense Hop: Idaho 7 (US) Stone Fruit Flavor Intensity: 4/5 Hop Oil (mL/100g): 1.0-2.0 mL Stone Fruit Flavors: Apricot, Papaya
Idaho 7 is a hop that has slowly grown in popularity throughout the years. This category was a bit hard to choose the top hop for because it seems as though “tropical” and “stone” fruit flavors are often conflated. Also, while Solero had a higher intensity value than Idaho 7, I am able to personally attest to how strong Idaho 7’s aromatics are since it’s a much more common hop.
The high oil content of Idaho 7 make it an ideal hop for dry hopping and whirlpool additions.
Most Intense Hop: Simcoe (US) Berry Flavor Intensity: 5/5 Hop Oil (mL/100g): 0.8-3.2 mL Berry Flavors: Berry
The intense berry flavors from the Simcoe hop have helped propel it into the top ten hop varieties used in the craft and home brewing industries. While Simcoe clocks in with a 5/5 on the ‘Berry’ aroma scale, it also has intense tropical fruit and citrus characteristics.
Most Intense Hop: Loral (US) Floral Flavor Intensity: 4/5 Hop Oil (mL/100g): 1.5-3.4 mL Floral Flavors: Pleasant Floral
Loral hops have been described as a “super noble hop” with its wonderful floral and herbal notes followed by a backdrop of citrus and earthy character. Between 2-4% of all the oils included within this hop are dedicated to producing floral aromas. It is the granddaughter of the French Tardif de Bourgogne hop, which just narrowly missed our honorable mentions cut for this category.
The name Loral is a combination of two of its aroma descriptors, lemon and floral.
Most Intense Hop: BRU-1 (US) Grass Flavor Intensity: 3/5 Hop Oil (mL/100g): 1.5-2.0 mL Grassy Flavors: Fresh Cut Grass
Intense grassy flavors is not a common flavor to try and bring out in beers. Because of this, the BRU-1 hop comes out on top with only a 3 out of 5 intensity score. However, don’t confuse BRU-1 as a grass-only smelling hop. It is most known for its intense pineapple flavors, as grassiness is more of a secondary flavor for this hop.
Most Intense Hop: Eureka! (US) Herbal Flavor Intensity: 4/5 Hop Oil (mL/100g): 2.5-4.4 mL Herbal Flavors: Mint, Dank
Hopsteiner’s Eureka! hop has high notes of fruit and citrus, but it is most well known for its herbal flavors. Coming in with an average of 3.5mL hop oils per 100g of hops, Eureka is loaded with flavorful oils to bring out it’s mint and dank aromas.
Most Intense Hop: Columbus, Tomahawk, Zeus (all are US) Spice Flavor Intensity: 4/5 Hop Oil (mL/100g): 2.5-4.5 mL Spicy Flavors: Curry, Black Pepper, Licorice, Onion
The combination known as CTZ – Columbus, Tomahawk and Zeus – could hav ejust as easily been picked as the herbal winner. This batch of similar hops known as CTZ have an insane amount of hop oils that add a ton of spiciness to your beers. Curry, black pepper and licorice are the most commonly listed herbal aromas from this hop.
Most Intense Hop: Chinook (US) Pine Flavor Intensity: 4/5 Hop Oil (mL/100g): 0.8-3.2 mL Pine/Resin Flavors: Mountain Pine, Resinous
Chinook hops have such a major pine and resinous flavor to them, that many can almost instantly identify when the hop had been used. Chinook hops also have high amounts of citrus notes that help balance out the overall flavor profile. Without the citrus (grapefruit) notes, this hop would be like chewing on pine needles.
While Mosaic is a favorite of many brewers, it is more well known for its unique combination of floral+pine+fruit, rather than just pine itself.