A Beer Drinker’s Guide to Hops

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You may be a fan of the Stone IPA and hate  Troeg's Perpetual IPA. They're both IPAs, so what gives? Not all hops are equal. Some variety of hops create flavors and aromas of citrus, while others add a burst of mango or spike of bitterness. To figure out which hops play well on your palate, look for single-hop beers – brews made with just one variety of hop.

"It's the best way to really get to know a hop," says Cam O'Connor, brewmaster at Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon. 

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Good examples of single-hop beers, which always feature aroma hops (as opposed to bittering hops), are hard to find, but O'Connor says that even two- or three-hop IPAs can give you a good sense of what each hop brings to the table. You'll usually have to consult a beer's label or brewery's website for info about which hops are in a beer, but sites like homebrewstuff.com also have reliable, basic info about hop characteristics. Once you start paying attention to hop varieties, you're bound to encounter these five, which O'Connor says are craft brewers' favorites right now.

The Hop: Cascade
Gives the Beer: Big citrus notes, spiciness and hints of flowers
A classic, widely used hop that's been around since the '70s and is considered the quintessential American hop. Cascade creates big aromas of orange and grapefruit, as well as floral characteristics, a bit reminiscent of roses. Try the amber-hued Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale, which O'Connor says is pretty much a single-hop beer, as its brewed almost entirely with Cascades.

The Hop: Centennial
Gives the Beer: Classic IPA grapefruit and pine notes, plus some bitterness
Centennial is another super popular and widely available variety. Try Bell's Two Hearted Ale, a balanced single-hop IPA with enough sweet malt support to make the Centennial hops shine.

The Hop: Simcoe
Gives the Beer: Notes of black currant, tropical fruit, and woodsy earth and hefty bitterness.
Simcoe is a hop that isn't grown everywhere, meaning you'll find it in fewer beers. Try Flying Dog Single Hop Imperial IPA, a surprisingly easy-drinking, 10 percent ABV IPA that's brewed solely with Simcoe.

The Hop: Citra
Gives the Beer: Really big citrus aromas and flavors
Expect a potent mix of orange, grapefruit, lemon, and tangerine with Citra – a distinct combination that's made this hop highly sought after. Try Toppling Goliath's PseudoSue, an American pale ale that's all Citra or another stellar single Citra beer, Three Floyds' Zombie Dust.

The Hop: Mosaic
Gives the Beer: Subtle notes of tropical fruit with some grassiness
A new release from 2012, this hop has quickly become a favorite with IPA drinkers who seem to be gravitating toward tropical-fruit flavors. Look for notes of mango and pineapple, plus some tangerine and blackberry. Try the juicy and complex Southern Tier 2XONE, a single-hop Mosaic pale ale that was also made with just one type of malt.

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