I have a problem.
I say I like to try new things, but I also am afraid of failing with expensive hops which would force me to dump my pricey work down the drain. For the first couple years of brewing New England-style beers, I found myself only working to correct mistakes in my home brewing methodology, but not much else. Between reducing oxidation to finding infections to optimizing dry hopping techniques, I tried to fix every conceivable flaw imaginable. What I didn’t do much of was branch out and try new hop varieties or combinations. I had found a couple that I liked right off the bat, and mostly stuck with them.
My problem now is that I still find myself frequently reverting to using the same hops I’ve always used. While this more often than not makes a beer that I enjoy heartily and kick faster than I should, I
want should experience more.
After getting to taste the different GLH hops provided by Hang ’em High last month, my mind started wondering. What am I missing by not trying new hops? Am I missing out on some flavors and aromas that I love in commercial brews, but haven’t found the right combination yet for myself?
Last year I attempted to answer these questions when I looked into what the most common hops used in IPAs. However, researching and doing are two completely different concepts. I found myself always making choices based on which hops were the cheapest or what I had used in the past when I started making clones.
Here is my list of go-to for aroma, bittering and dual-purpose hops. I’ve listed the hops that have done me well over the years, but also the ones I am committing to trying more of throughout the next year. You may have the same problem I do, and if so… let me know about it in the comments. I’d love some confirmation that I am not the only one with these problems.
My Favorite Dual-Purpose Hops
These are the hops that I use throughout all hop additions, starting with FWH all the way to dry hopping.
So, I use Columbus in probably 90% of my New England IPA brews right now. I love the dank, resin and spicy flavors it gives off when used as a true dual-threat hop. I was first turned onto this hop after finding out my favorite local brewery uses it in all their beers as well as Congress Street from Trillum uses a healthy dose of Columbus as well.
Since I make 5-gallon batches, I am usually adding about 1/4 ounce in the FWH, then another ounce or so in both the whirlpool and dry hop, no matter what the other hops being used are. I however, enjoy the Columbus flavor and aroma so much, that I doubt I’m going to stop using it anytime soon, especially since its one of the cheaper hops on the market today.
This is another hop I need to pump the brakes on. The problem is that I know that no matter what hop I pair with Citra, it’s going to turn out great. This is a crutch I find myself falling back on way too often. It’s so easy to do though – My NEIPAs need that citrus kick to them, and Citra does it better than any other hop on the market. There are loads of other cheaper hops that provide citrus flavors, and I need to try more of them.
I’m actually thinking that I’ll scale back on the dual-purpose hops a bit. I want to focus more on neutral bittering with enormous doses of whirlpool and dry hops. Furthermore, I’ll probably stick with using small amounts of Columbus here. This kind of goes against the theme of this post, but something in my head says that Columbus just belongs in my beers.
My Favorite Aroma Hops
These are hops that I use only in the whirlpool and dry hop additions.
Simcoe hops have gotten really expensive over the last couple of years, probably due to being the third most used hop in IPAs. Now, it is of course being used so frequently by brewers because it’s a fantastic hop. Known for its intense berry flavors, this hop pairs so well with just about any other hop inside hazy IPAs. You really can’t go wrong by substituting Simcoe into any NEIPA recipe.
My love of El Dorado can be traced back to the first time I brewed the WeldWorks Juicy Bits clone. In that recipe, El Dorado was the “new” hop to me. It was being combined with Citra and Mosaic – two hops that I was intimately familiar with due to their wide commercial usage. El Dorado provided such a juicy, fruity flavor to the beer that I was instantly hooked.
Amarillo hops to me are very similar to Simcoe, and really go with any other hop you pair it with. While Amarillo doesn’t quite have as much berry flavor, but is similar enough that I use them interchangeably. Since I am close to running out of my latest 1lb bag, I started looking for replacements.
Michigan Cooper is a hop I’d like to experiment more with in place of Simcoe. They both have intense berry and pine aromas, acid and oil compositions, and I think could be very comparably interchanged.
I’ve also found that Motueka has been a good hop for me lately, but even it is on the verge of becoming over-used (and expensive). Huell Melon and Waimea recently caught my attention as well. Both are very reasonably priced… which are great considering how big some of my dry hops are lately.
My Favorite Bittering Hops
I like to layer hops together for complex flavors. I usually pair a neutral bittering hop with either Columbus or Citra. These are the bittering hops I use in that pairing.
I was introduced to Apollo when I brewed my Black IPA. The citrus played nice with the Hornindal yeast esters, and created a smooth wonderful beer. If I continue to use Apollo, I want to use it later in the process during the whirlpool. When used in the whirlpool, Apollo is said to impart citrus, pine and cannabis tones… which is right up my ally.
Magnum hops became my bittering hop of choice for over a year, but I’m second guessing my decision now. I never actually had a problem with Magnum – it always preformed pretty neutral for me, regardless of what its aroma profile says. But I think I want to get more neutral and/or budget friendly.
Warrior (pine), Pahto (earthy), Summit (citrus) appear to be good options to play with once I run out of my current stash of bittering hops. I’ll probably still stick with adding small amounts of Columbus at FWH, but these three seem like good candidates to play around with.
Pahto in particular is interesting as I want to see if I can stretch a pouch of it further than I’m used to since it is the highest AA% bittering hop available.