Stan Hieronymus Hop Queries – November 2021 November 2021

Each month respected beer writer Stan Hieronymus produces Hop Queries, a must-read summary of what is happening in the hop world, and has kindly offered to let us publish it for Australian industry readers. If you would like to subscribe directly, you can here.

Welcome to Vol. 5, No. 7. In the 1990s, I can remember brewers saying, “I don’t need a Cascade fix anymore.” Will that eventually happen with Citra and Mosaic?

As the hop ripens

This month I wrote about harvest windows and the importance of hop maturity for Brewing Industry Guide subscribers. As demand for hops with greater aroma intensity increases growers, supported by scientific research, have made adjustments intended to meet that demand.

This related nugget from a recent paper in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that examined five hop varieties I saved for Hop Queries readers.

“One interesting observation is the overlap between Mosaic, Simcoe, and Citra. As Mosaic matures, its composition becomes more similar to early/typical harvest Simcoe and early harvest Citra, whereas as the analytical profile of early harvest Simcoe is similar to that of typical/late harvest Mosaic and as it matures, it becomes analytically more similar to early/ typical harvest Citra. Finally, as Citra matures, it becomes analytically more unique and is highlighted by the production of polyfunctional thiols.

“Generally, this observation is not entirely unexpected because Mosaic and Simcoe have a similar genetic pedigree because Simcoe is one of Mosaic’s parents. . . . (It) is surprising because Simcoe (which has an unknown pedigree) seems to overlap with both Mosaic and Citra, which suggests that these varieties may also have a similar pedigree. Overall, these results highlight the importance of both genetics and maturity/ripening in the compositional profiles of these cultivars and suggest that the varieties planted and the date of harvest are essential considerations for farmers. For example, from an analytical standpoint, different amounts of ripening or different farming practices/locations will not result in Mosaic, Simcoe, and/or Citra being similar to Sabro and/or Cascade.”

One observation for those growing hops at home. Measuring dry matter (Vol. 2, No. 8) isn’t necessarily the best way to determine when a plant is at peak maturity, but it is cheaper than investing thousands of dollars in lab equipment.

To measure:

  • Weigh an empty container (in grams).
  • Weigh that container with hops (in grams).
  • Dry the hops down to 0% moisture. For growers without specialized equipment this is best done in a food dehydrator. It can be done in a microwave or oven, but needs to watched closely to avoid scorching. Once the sample has reached a stable weight, the hops will be at 0% moisture.
  • Here is the formula:
    Hop percent dry matter = 100 x (dry cone weight – empty container/green cone weight – empty container)

Commercial farms generally target Cascade dry matter at 22-25%, Centennial at 23-24%, Chinook 23-24%, Nugget 23%, and Willamette 20%. Picking at the outer edge of what is recommended for a variety will result in more free thiols in your hops; that is if you are growing a known thiols producer. For instance, pick Cascade when dry matter is at 26.

And as cannabis ripens . . .

I’m going to include this from a post because, well, why should be obvious:

A quick bit of background. The genus Humulus (hops) belongs to the family Cannabaceae, which also includes Cannabis (hemp and marijuana). Scientists long ago documented that hops and weed share some of the same terpenes — such a limonene, myrcene and pinene — that produce fruity, sometimes pungent, aromas and flavors.

While it has been suspected that like hops marijuana has sulfur-containing compounds it was not scientifically confirmed. Sulfur-containing compounds, that is thiols, are the “shiny new thing with regard to beer flavor.”

Earlier this year, a research team concluded that the compound 3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol (MBT), is the primary source of “skunky” aroma in cannabis. MBT, of course, is responsible for skunkiness in light-struck beer.

Friday, Avery Gilbert reported in his always illuminating newsletter that a research team in Southern California has “identified a family of seven different sulfur-containing molecules that are the likely basis for the funkadelic ganja note of weed.” They included MBT.

The team also discovered that the concentration of sulfur-containing compounds ramped up dramatically in the final weeks before harvest and more during a week of curing. Just like hops.

Citra & Mosaic, Part II

Earlier this month on Twitter, Jeff Alworth asked “if Citra/Mosaic becoming a marker of style in the way Saaz is in Czech pilsners or EKG in bitters?” He followed this up with a blog post in which he wrote, “I don’t want to overemphasize this trend, just flag it. We should watch to see if this combo becomes ever more entrenched in IPAs, or if the newer varieties begin to supplant them. I am genuinely curious to see which way it goes.”

I’ll leave making predictions to others. Instead, a couple of thoughts:

  • Hop growers have made a good-size bet on these two varieties. They planted 2,993 acres of Citra in 2015 and 11,994 this year. That’s 9,001 additional acres. The additional acres are 41 times more acres than English farmers planted of East Kent Golding in 2020. Northwest farmers planted 1,800 acres of Mosaic in 2015 and 6,374 this year; 4,574 more in six years. Hops are perennial below ground and annual above and may be productive for more than 20 years. Growers are not anxious to plant something different.

Few of you were receiving this newsletter when I passed along results of research by Japanese scientists presented at the 2017 Hop Flavor and Aroma symposium in Corvallis, Oregon, so here goes again:

“Thirty-five percent of the Saaz plants grown in the Saaz region of the Czech Republic are 20 years old or older – an age at which the amount of linalool (one measure of aroma quality) will slowly begin to decline. Only 4% are 15 to 19 years old, so as new ones replace the oldest the over 20 population will decrease. Otherwise, 16% are less than 5 years old, 21% between 5 and 9, and 24% between 10 and 14.

“The researchers analyzed hops both on their own and in brewing trials. They found that the younger hops, particularly less than 3 years old, had more luxuriant vegetative growth and were late flowering. They contained lower amounts of monoterpenes associated with floral, fruity and citrusy aroma and flavor. They contained more sesquiterpenes that contribute to sylvan (woody) character. As a result, beers brewed with them were less floral, fruity and citrusy.

“A similar study focused on New World hops with higher levels of, say, geraniol or various thiols might well yield different results. But this certainly suggests that the composition of compounds within hops change as the plant matures, particularly in the first three years. So it shouldn’t be surprising that as production of a popular variety ramps up to meet demand that some brewers and drinkers suggest it might be different than the year before.”

  • Will Saaz remain a “marker” if more American brewers start making “Czech-style” (or more accurately, Czech-inspired) pale lagers? Practically speaking, they may need to find alternatives because there may not be enough Saaz to go around. First, those alternatives may be similar to Saaz. Sterling, for instance is a “safe” choice. But newcomers such as Adeena and Contessa are lovely and more environmentally friendly.

In total, I guess I am left wondering if we need a marker for each style. Perhaps I also should be wondering when the style authorities will come to take away my beer judging credentials.

What makes a hop English?

Paul Crowther wrote a story for Pellicle about brewing a New England IPA using English hops, explaining why this could be a challenge.

“Ask someone who enjoy craft beer to describe British hops. If they’re being complimentary they might say ‘earthy,’ ‘floral’ or perhaps ‘spicy.’ If they’re being derogatory they’ll tell you they taste ‘twiggy’ or ‘boring.’

“The good news is that English hops have quietly been playing catch-up in the development of varieties that can impart the citrus fruit character of their North American and Antipodean rivals.”

I was reminded of a conversation with Alastair Hooker, former owner of Meantime Brewing in Greenwich. “English hops are so, well, English,” he said. “They are pent up. They are (nicely) subtle, but they aren’t for every beer.”

Crowther dry hopped the NEIPAs he made with several newer varieties. He was particularly happy with one hopped only with Harlequin. Harlequin is a granddaughter of Jester, the first of the “new wave” English varieties to get attention. Jester is a daughter of Cascade, herself the first hop to exhibit the spicy citrusy characteristics that have become central to “flavor hops.”

Cascade’s mother was the offspring of the English hop Fuggle and continental Serebrianka. She was open pollinated, meaning her father is unknown, but presumably was a wild American hop. She was bred in Oregon. So we call her American.

But 87 years ago, E.S. Salmon at Wye College released a new variety that also had American and English parents, calling her Brewer’s Gold. Are English brewers (and others elsewhere) missing an opportunity to see what aromas and flavors she’d add to a 21st century beer?

Reading and listening

  • Because I provided the questions for the questions John Henning answered (the important part) in the current Master Brewers Association of the Americas Technical Quarterly I can share the interview (otherwise behind a paywall) with you. Here it is.
  • Brewers Association members may read my story about the role of locality in hop characteristics in The New Brewer raw materials issue, in print and online.
  • This love letter to Sierra Nevada Celebration provides wonderful detail about selecting and quickly transporting 45,000 pounds of Cascade hops and 30,000 of Centennial hops to be used to brew the 2021 batch.
  • Two more excellent segments from the Bigger Than Beer podcast presented by Yakima Chief Hops: Alexa Weathers of Sodbuster Farms and Liz Coleman of Coleman Agriculture.
  • Sapwood Cellars has brewed a collaboration beer using Omega Yeast’s Cosmic Punch Ale strain and Phantasm’s powder extracted from the skins of Sauvignon Blanc grapes. As the title, “Utilizing bioengineered yeast and high bound thiol precursor hops and phantasm powder to thiol drive beer,” suggests Scott Janish’s blog post won’t be for everyone. It is a deep dive and the yeast strain involved was created using CRISPR technology. But even those interested in only using hops and sticking to more conventional yeast strains will learn something.

Finally, to return to the observation in “As the hop ripens,” researchers in the study cited found that as a plant matures the measure of thiol precursors (bound thiols) decreases and the level of free thiols increases. (Some) hops themselves are good at doing exactly what Janish is asking of yeast. One more reason to love hops.

Questions? Topics to explore?

Thank you for subscribing. If you have queries you’d like to see addressed drop me a line at

Back to Brewery Pro