Let’s face it: asking a brewer to pick a favorite hop is like asking Kim Kardashian to pick a favorite selfie. It’s an impossible choice.
Just ask Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione. As the face of continually hopped beers, he jokes that relying on one hop forever and always would be uncomfortable: “Kind of like trying to walk with one leg tied behind the other… I guess that’s why they call it ‘hopping.’”
Contrary to popular belief, however, brewers are indeed human. And sometimes humans play favorites. So what are the “stranded on a desert island” hop selections of some of the country’s best brewers?
What’s your favorite hop?
Let’s start with the golden child of hops. Since Cascade was first introduced by New Albion Brewing Company in the ‘70s, it quickly rose to prominence in terms of production quantity (16.5 percent of U.S. production in 2015) and street cred. Thanks to its floral, spicy, citrusy aroma and balanced bittering potential, it works great in a variety of styles, including sours.
“As primarily sour beer producers, we really don’t focus on hop profiles in our beers,” says Jonathan Berry, Brewery Production Manager at Cascade Brewing. “But when we want to get our hop on, we turn to Cascade for that classic crushing signature northwest varietal of pine and citrus.”
He’s not alone. Boulevard Brewing’s Rob Odell finds himself constantly coming back to Cascade, even when other brewers are rushing to create IPAs with the trendiest new hops. “The spicy, citrus character is tried and true and gives a distinct flavor and aroma to any beer,” he says.
Speaking of new and trendy, Mosaic hops — introduced in 2012 — have become increasingly popular, and for good reason. Alpine Beer Company’s Pat McIlhenney points out that, as a brewery specializing in hop-forward beers, it would be impossible to utilize just one for any other reason than to showcase the qualities of that particular hop. But he admits a particular fondness for this first-born child of Simcoe, thanks to its earthy, tropical notes and the fact that it’s “very pungent.”
But the classics are always in style. Cris Morgan, also from Boulevard, really digs the spiciness of Saaz: “Give me loads of them in a dry Pilsner and I’m happy!”
Forced to choose, Calagione would prefer Palisade. It’s the centerpiece for Dogfish Head’s unique, continually hopped beers such as 60 Minute and 90 Minute Imperial IPA, and he loves its “distinct and enticing bouquet of grassy earthiness, sweet nectar fruit and forward hints of citrus.”
Deschutes’ brewmaster, Veronica Vega, is more forthcoming about her favorite. “My pet hop is Crystal. It’s light, delicate, juicy, floral and slightly fruity and citrusy. It’s an Oregon variety that’s super-versatile and can be elegant or flavorful depending on how you use it.”
Cody Martin, founder and head brewer of Martin House Brewing Company, has really come to love Columbus as a utility hop. “It’s great for bittering due to its high alpha and low price, and it’s also got some great flavor.”
So tell us — what’s your favorite hop? If you’re not sure yet, well, enjoy your research!