Hops have gotten nearly all the attention in the beer world as of late, and they are, in part, pretty deserving. While we would have nothing without yeast, malted grain (usually barley) and water, hops are the magical fourth ingredient that preserve and, lately, dominate the flavor profile of our beverages of choice. While hops are grown throughout the world, I want to focus this article specifically on American hops.
To quickly recap, gotbeer.com has some excellent articles already written about hops for those interested. Dave Wilfore wrote an excellent article about hops in general and I'd highly recommend checking it out here. More recently, I wrote an article about IBUs and how hops relate to them, which you can check out here.
Sometimes it's hard to see how far the hops rabbit hole goes, as each individual strand of hops gives beer a unique flavor due to the essential oils they leave in the brew. Some hops are noted for their piney flavors, while some are citrusy, spicy, floral, and earthy. Each strand of hops provides a different flavor and percentage of the bittering alpha acids, so it is difficult to generalize them.
That being said, American hops are probably the most talked about as they quite literally exploded onto the market with the advent of craft in the 1970s. American hops, most notably Cascade, Centennial and Tomahawk are big and usually carry a hefty amount of bittering alpha acids. They are, generally, used for IPAs and ales and can now be drunk in beers throughout the world.
American hops are known for their citrus and piney flavors, though there are American hop varieties ranging from earthy to spicy as well. Some of the best beers, in my opinion, to highlight the best that American hops have to offer are Ballast Point Sculpin IPA and Long Trail Green Blaze IPA.
Sculpin IPA is predominantly citrusy and fruity, hopped with a blend of hops (and at five different stages, according to the brewery itself). While Ballast Point doesn't officially label the hops they use on their site, it's likely they use the Warrior, Tomahawk and Simcoe as well as others to create the fruity, citrusy blend that, in my opinion, offers arguably the best that the West Coast has to offer.
While American hops have dominated the West Coast, the East Coast is catching up and, especially with the advent of the NEIPA, is beginning to carve its own niche in the beer world. (Read "The Rise of the New England IPA" by Nate Reynolds.)
There are so many East Coast IPAs I want to highlight, but I want to focus on the Green Blaze I mentioned before. Green Blaze proudly displays the four hops used in this brew as Columbus (Tomahawk), Equinox, Chinook and Mosaic. Green Blaze, drawing specifically from the Chinook hop, is piney with fruity undertones and highlights the other well known flavor profile for American hops (and from the other side of the country). The fruity undertones help tamper the pine flavors and, as I've mentioned before, creates one of my favorite IPAs of all time.
That being said, as a Connecticut-New York based beer enthusiast, I have to shamelessly plug probably the most exciting brewing project I've seen in a while, which is Ithaca's Brew York. This hop forward pale ale features 100% grown New York hops and 70% of the beer ingredients are entirely grown in New York. While I want to remain somewhat impartial to both coasts, as I do love beer coming from all over the United States, please do check out Ithaca's Brew York.
Now that I've shared some of my American hops musings, I'd like to hear from you all. What hop forward, American beers are your favorites, and do you prefer piney hops, citrusy, or another flavor profile all-together?
Steve Pendergast is a beer and food enthusiast. After going to school in Albany, he's split his time between drinking beer and writing about it. He's always searching for a new craft beer to try, and loves finding the local brewpub to immerse himself in the unique taste that each town develops. When he's not writing or reading, you can be sure to find him sitting by a campfire with a bottle of Green Blaze in hand or hiking whatever mountains are close at hand.