The U.S. Has a New Favorite Hop Variety
American appreciation of individual hop varieties is a relatively new phenomenon. Even as super-hoppy IPAs started becoming more popular back in the early 2000s, breweries typically didn’t list what hops went into these beers, and most people didn’t know their Amarillo from their Tettnang. But now, it’s not uncommon to see hop varieties printed right on the packaging if not straight up mentioned in the name like Mosaic IPA or Forever Simcoe. This increased interest in specific hops has also changed the hop market itself, and a recent report really hammers home how American beer drinkers’ palates have shifted:
The United States has a new top hop…Citra.
Cascade is often cited as America’s signature hop. The variety was bred at Oregon State University, and since its first release in the 1970s, has gone on to become the go-to hop used is many of craft brewing’s seminal beers, including Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Cascade has also long been one of the most-farmed hops in the U.S., including as recently as last year, when it made up about 13 percent of all hops grown in the country by acre.
But according to the recently released USDA mid-year Acreage Report, that’s set to change for 2018. This year, more Citra hops have been strung for harvest than Cascade, edging out that classic hop by over 600 acres.
Citra first came onto the scene back in 2007, and at its core has some similarities to Cascade. The hop supplier YCH Hops lists grapefruit in both varieties’ aroma description. But as Citra’s name implies, it pushes those fruity notes even further, with YCH Hops suggesting additional aromas of “melon, lime, gooseberry, passion fruit and lychee” — flavors more in line with America’s recent juicy IPA trend.
Overall, hop production is set to be up over 2,000 acres this year, with 55,339 acres planted in total according to the report. But whereas Citra is trending up in America’s three largest hop growing states — Washington, Idaho, and Oregon (in that order) — across the board, Cascade is trending downward. Though it’s possible these patterns could change, the more likely scenario is that Citra may just be at the start of its reign.