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  • Writer's picturePaige Latham Didora

differentiating hops

This weekend it was time to reveal the results of our homebrewing single hop experiment – ready or not! Read on to learn more about tasting individual hops – it was a very valuable experiment.


It case you missed part one, click on the link above. In short, each brewer from our club, the Bitches Brew Crew, picked one hop and brewed a pale ale of identical grain bill with that hop only. We made four additions, including a dry hop. My hop was Perle.


I was biting my nails a bit on the way to Jennifer’s since I was feeling unsure about my first all-grain brew. Fortunately we were listed last on the tasting sheet, hopefully everyone’s palates would be dead by that point, right?

Each of us opened out bottles in turn and we slowly worked our way through about eleven beers while munching on some great food and sharing our thoughts.

The first and best hop we tried was Mosaic. It has a grapefruit and lychee aroma with more grapefruit in the taste and general fruitiness. The bitterness is mild.

Another favorite was Citra. Citra hops are fairly distinct in their citrus character. The aroma is citrus with some peach notes. They give a sour-bitter taste to the brew.

Simcoe hops are one I have known by name over the years due to their distinct pine flavor. The aroma is sweet, and the resin and pine notes hit the palate immediately on sipping.

A very new and interesting hop called Rakau smells like peach and lemon. It comes from New Zealand and is prefect for late hop additions in IPAs and ESBs. I thought it tasted a bit herbal but also picked up on passionfruit. It can also lend some mango flavor to beer.

Also from new Zealand are Motueka hops. They are a relative of Saaz and as such are frequently used in Pilsner. They are mild and bright with a mild aroma.

Single Hop

Amongst the “meh” hops were Liberty – little to no aroma, earthy and bright character – and Glacier – pear aroma with earthy banana notes.

Cascade was okay, too, and would be good in combination with other more flavorful hops. The flop of the day was (surprisingly not my beer) Horizon hops. We actively disliked them. They offered a harsh bitterness with no other redeeming factors to balance out their taste.

Single hop notes

I held my breath, I told Jennifer not to open two, one would be plenty.

To my shock, it looked like beer. Not very coudy at all. It smelled like beer – the Perle hops smell sharp with some honey notes.

And it tasted like beer! Perle hops are very spicy and unique with moderate bitterness. There are herbal, almost minty notes.

The day was a huge success and we all learned so much about individual hop flavors. Obviously, most beers use more than one variety of hops, and by the end of the experiment we were already concocting hops combination schemes, pouring drops from one little glass into another – Mosaic and Liberty anyone?

I encourage this experiment for groups of homebrewers. We are now talking about a similar test using yeast since many of us want to get better and distinguishing yeast, too.


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