Piney Hops – We Look at Some Examples for Your Homebrew

Anybody who’s a regular visitor to this site will already know how much I love my hops. I’m a devoted hophead through and through. For me nothing beats a hoppy IPA with its aroma and flavors of pine and citrus. But what gives a beer that piney flavor, and which hops are the piney hops?

Are Piney Hops an American Hop?

close-up of a pine tree on a black background
Photo by Artur Stanulevich on Unsplash

Although hops have been used in the brewing of beer for centuries, dating back to the Middle Ages, it wasn’t until the 19th century that hop cultivation became a major industry in countries such as Germany and the United States.

During this time, hop breeders began developing new hop varieties with different characteristics to meet the demands of brewers.

Piney hops are a relatively new addition to the world of hops, and their history can be traced back to the 1970’s and the USDA hop breeding program. One of the results of these experiments was the development of hops with a piney aroma and flavor.

Characteristics of Piney Hops

close-up of green hops growing on a tree branch, against a blurred background
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Piney hops are known for their unique aroma and flavor, which is often described as piney with resinous notes, and slightly citrus characters. The exact flavor profile and aroma can vary depending on the specific hop variety and how it is used in the brewing process.

One of the key compounds that give piney hops their aroma and flavor is alpha-pinene. This compound is also found in pine trees and is responsible for the characteristic scent of pine needles.

Other compounds found in piney hops include beta-pinene, myrcene, and humulene, which all contribute to the complex flavor and aroma profile.

What Do Piney Hops Add to a Beer?

One of the key advantages of piney hops is their versatility. While they are most often associated with hop-forward styles such as IPAs and pale ales, they can also be used in a variety of styles such as stouts, porters, and other dark beers to add complexity and balance.

Additionally, piney hops can be combined with other hop varieties to create custom blends that showcase different aspects of their flavor and aroma.

Top view, three mugs filled with different types of beer stand on a dark brown table on which green hops are scattered
Photo by Missy Fant on Unsplash

Piney hops can be a dual-use hop in the brewing process. They can be added to the boil to extract their essential oils and resins, which contribute to the beer’s flavor and aroma.

They can also be added to the fermenter during the dry-hopping process, which allows the hops to impart their aroma without adding additional bitterness.

Another advantage of piney hops is their potency. Being high in essential oils and resins, a little goes a long way when using them in a brew.

This can make them a cost-effective option for craft brewers who want to add a distinctive flavor and aroma to their beer without having to use large quantities of hops.

However, when using piney hops in a brew, it is important to consider how they will interact with other ingredients.

For example, piney hops can sometimes clash with certain types of malt or yeast, so it is important to choose ingredients that complement their flavor and aroma. Additionally, the timing and method of hop addition can also have an impact on the final flavor and aroma of the beer.

The Piney Hops

Close-up of a hand holding a handful of green hops on a blurred background
Photo by Ryan Cuerden on Unsplash

Although the list below is by no means exhaustive, the following 10 hops are generally regarded to be the most piney of hops and also the most widely used hops by American craft brewers in a range of beer varieties.

Piney hops include:

  • Admiral Hops
  • Ahtanum Hops
  • Apollo Hops
  • Cascade Hops
  • Centennial Hops
  • Chinook Hops
  • El Dorado
  • Mosaic Hops
  • Nugget Hops
  • Simcoe Hops

Admiral Hops

Country of OriginUK
Alpha Acid % (AA)13 - 16.2%
Popular Beer StylesEnglish IPA, English Ales
Substitution HopsTarget, Northdown or Challenger

A cross bred hop between the Challenger and Northdown hop, it was first bred by Wye College in the UK and released in 1998.

As English hops tend to be harvested annually during the fall for a short period from early September to early October, they can be out of stock when searching on Amazon in the spring months.

This is a hop you really need to consider adding to those winter IPA brews.

UK Admiral Pellet Hops 8 oz
  • Alpha acid content: high
  • Flavor/aroma: citrus, herbal
  • Origin: English

As a bittering hop, Admiral is commonly only added to the beer at the start of the boil for bittering and rarely adds too much flavor or aroma.

Aroma descriptors for the Admiral hop include pleasant, pine resinous hop aroma with hints of citrus aromas (orange) and mild herbal tones. The milder aroma characteristics make it suitable for late or dry hopping when used with other hop varietals.

Ahtanum Hops

Country of OriginUSA
Alpha Acid % (AA)3.5 – 6.5%
Popular Beer StylesLager, IPA and Pale Ale
Substitution HopsAmarillo, Cascade, Centennial, Williamette

Bred by Yakima Chief Ranches, the lineage of the Ahtanum hop is unknown, although we do know it was open pollinated and first released in 1997.

Again, there are harvesting issues. Normally, US aroma hops are harvested annually in mid to late August, meaning you may struggle to find this hop at certain times of the year. Try Amazon or you could go direct to one of the many Yakima Valley hop sellers.

Ahtanum Pellet Hops 2 oz (Pack of 25)
  • Alpha acid content: low
  • Flavor/aroma: citrus, floral
  • Origin: American

With it’s low Alpha acids level, the Ahtanum hop is an aroma hop which is typically only added in the late boil or as a dry hopping addition. Used primarily for it’s aromatic qualities, aroma descriptors include citrus grapefruit and geranium backed with floral, piney and earthy tones.

Known for its milder flavors, the Ahtanum hop is often paired with other hops, most commonly this includes the Amarillo, Simcoe, Chinook, Centennial and Cascade hops. Although that’s not a complete list it should give you an idea of what type of hops you will be looking at.

Apollo Hops

Country of OriginUSA
Alpha Acid % (AA)15 – 20%
Popular Beer StylesAmerican Ale, IPA & DIPA
Substitution HopsMagnum (US), Magnum (German), Colombus, Tomahawk, Zeus, CTZ or Nugget

Apollo hops are a direct descendant of the Zeus hops, which were first created by Hopsteiner in 2000 and have been commercially available since 2006.

Strange Brew HOZQ8-1162 US Apollo Hop Pellets - 1 lb.
  • Alpha acid: 15.0-21.0
  • Flavor: resin
  • Typically use: bittering

As a super high-alpha variety, Apollo hops were originally intended to be used as bittering hops, but recent developments have seen it become a dual purpose hop.

The low levels of cohumulone means the Apollo hop imparts a smoother bitterness when added to the boil compared to high alpha hops, which have higher levels of cohumulone that can add a sharper bitterness to the finished beer.

When added towards the end of the boil, Apollo hops can bring out aromas of citrus (lime), citrus flavors such as grapefruit or orange, pine, a resinous aroma, and even a slight note of cannabis. Used as a dry hop, it can further enhance those grapefruit flavors.

Cascade Hops

Country of OriginUSA
Alpha Acid % (AA)4.5 - 9%
Popular Beer StylesAmerican Ale, IPA, Porter, Barleywine, Witbier, Pale Ale & American Pale Ales
Substitution HopsAmarillo, Centennial, Ahtanum or Summit

Cascade hops are, without doubt, the ones which made hops famous in the US. It’s famously the finishing hop for the era-defining Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale, which many would argue kicked off the whole IPA and hoppy beer craze of the American craft beer scene. This hop alone accounts for around 10% of the US’s harvest of hops.

Originally created by the USDA breeding program at Oregon State University, the cascade hop is a cross breed between a Fuggle hop and the Russian hop Serebrianka.

Despite being known primarily as an American hop varietal, it is also produced nowadays in New Zealand, Argentina and Australia. And best of all, as they are not a trademarked variety you can grow your own Cascade hops at home.

Cascade Leaf Hops 1 Pound
  • Cascade Whole Leaf
  • 1 lb package
  • General AA range 12-14%

Defined by its citrus, more specifically grapefruit, flavor, the Cascade hop also has medium-intense floral and spicy aromas. When it is used as a bittering hop it gives the beer a moderate bitterness.

It can be added to the beer as hop pellets or as a fresh hop, and is often paired with other piney hops such as Centennial, Chinook, Simcoe, Columbus, Citra or Mosaic.

Cascade is frequently used as a single hop in beers to highlight the unique flavors it offers, and popular commercial examples of beers using 100% Cascade hops in their recipe include Sierra Nevada Single Hop IPA Cascade, Anchor Liberty Ale and Deschutes Mirror Pond Ale.

Centennial Hops

Country of OriginUSA
Alpha Acid % (AA)7 - 12%
Popular Beer StylesPale Ale, IPA & Wheat Beer
Substitution HopsCascade, Chinook, Columbus, Tomahawk, Zeus, CTZ or Amarillo

Similar to a Cascade hop but with a slightly higher Alpha Acid content, the Centennial hop was first bred in 1974 as a cross between a Brewers Gold and Fuggle hops.

Other sources mention East Kent Golding and Bavarian hops added to that mix of Fuggle and Brewers Gold. Named after the Washington State Centennial Celebration of 1989, the centennial hop was released to the public in 1990.

Simi Valley Home Brew HOZQ8-096 Centennial Hop Pellets- 1 Oz
  • Centennial pellets
  • Model Number: HOZQ8-096
  • Item Product Dimension: 6.0" L x 5.0" W x 1.0" H

A dual-purpose hop, Centennial can be used in all hop additions throughout the brewing process.

Centennial hops are characterised by their aromatic pine, citrus and floral qualities rounded off with medium-intense floral, citrus and grapefruit flavors and aromas. Other flavors imparted by the centennial hop include pine needles and tangerine.

Popular examples of commercial beers which use 100% centennial hops include Bell’s Two Hearted Ale and Founders Centennial IPA.

Chinook Hops

Country of OriginUSA
Alpha Acid % (AA)11.5 - 15%
Popular Beer StylesAmerican Pale Ale, IPA, Stout, Porter, Lager & Winter Ale
Substitution HopsNugget, Columbus, Tomahawk, Zeus, CTZ, Northern Brewer (US) or Galena

A cross between the Petham Golding hop and a USDA male, Chinook is argued by many to be the pine-iest of all the hops. Chinook is an incredibly versatile hop which can be used at any point during the brewing process. It can be used for bittering or for numerous aromas.

BSG Hops Chinook Hop Pellets 8 oz.
  • Alpha acid: 11.0-14.0 percent
  • Origin: united states
  • All BSG Hops are packaged in nitrogen-flushed, oxygen and light-barrier packages

The bold aroma profile can be one of spice with smoky, earthy aromas. The pine aroma characteristics are also a dominant aroma with a resinous character shining through.

You also get fruity aromas such as grapefruit evident. However, if used as a bittering hop in the boil, it should be used sparingly as overuse can result in a harsh bitterness.

El Dorado

Country of OriginUSA
Alpha Acid % (AA)13 - 17%
Popular Beer StylesBlondes, Lagers, American Pale Ales, IPA, Cream Ale, Red Ale, Amber Ale
Substitution HopsCitra, Nelson Sauvin, Rakau or Northern Brewer (US)

The El Dorado hop is a relatively new piney hop which was released by CLS Farms in Moxee, Washington back in 2010. It can trace its lineage back to Brewer’s Gold, Bullion, Comet and Fuggle hops.

BSG Hops El Dorado Hop Pellets 8 oz.
  • El dorado is a unique, dual-purpose hop with exceptional aroma qualities and high alpha acid levels. A relatively new variety, its consistent performance eliciting fruity notes
  • Has a soft, floral and spicy character with a smooth bitterness
  • Origin: united kingdom

Its a dual purpose variety of hop which can be used for bittering or aroma and even dry hopping. Flavors and aromas include stone fruits, citrus lemon and pine, watermelon and a pleasant spice with woody and resinous notes.

High alpha acids add a balanced bitterness to your beer with intense fruit flavors and aromas of stone fruit mixed with the citrus characters of lemon and pine.

The resinous notes are very impressive with spiced yet woodsy tones. Think of it as a more piney version of the Citra hop, adding a higher intensity hop aroma with pine, stone fruits and earthy qualities.

Mosaic Hops

Country of OriginUSA
Alpha Acid % (AA)11.5 - 13.5%
Popular Beer StylesAmerican Pale Ale, IPA, Double IPA & Stout
Substitution HopsCitra or Simcoe

Daughter of the Simcoe Hop and a Nugget-derived male, the Mosaic can trace its lineage back to Tomahawk, Brewers Gold, Early Green and another unknown varietal. It was first released to the craft brewing market in 2012 by Hop Breeding Company.

Mosaic (US) Hop Pellets 8 oz
  • Mosaic (US)
  • Hop Pellets 8 oz
  • Strong impressions of citrus oil, balsam pine, blueberry, peach and tropical fruit

A dual purpose hop, the complex floor and aroma profiles led to this hops name. The complex aroma is most noted for it’s blueberry and tropical fruits, although it also has grassy notes along with citrus, pine, spice, tangerine, papaya, rose, earthy and floral blossoms aroma characters evident.

The relatively high alpha acid levels allow mosaic to act as an excellent bittering hop while adding a mix of flavors and numerous complex aromas simply not achievable with many other hop cultivars.

Mosaic hops are one of the most often used and instantly recognisable hops around today, and can be found in many beer styles but usually in IPAs and Pale Ales.

Nugget Hops

Country of OriginUSA
Alpha Acid % (AA)9.5 - 16%
Popular Beer StylesAles, Stout, Barleywine, Saison, Biere de Garde, & IPA
Substitution HopsGalena, Magnum (US), Columbus, Tomahawk, CTZ, or Zeus

Another hop crossbreed from the Yakima Valley in Washington State, Nugget hops are the lovechild of Brewers Gold hops and a high alpha-acid male which was first released way back in 1983.

US Nugget 1 lb. Hop Pellets for Home Brewing Beer Making
  • Alpha 12.2% Beta 4.5%
  • Aroma - Mild, Herbal & Pleasant
  • Typical Beer Styles - Ale, Stout, Barley Wine

As an excellent high-alpha bittering hop it also has a wide menu of aromas such as spice, peach, pine, wood and herbal aroma notes that make it ideal for most styles of craft beer.

This wide range of aromas, along with its subtle flavors, makes it a hard hop to substitute. At a push, Simcoe can be a solid choice for pine flavors but will lack the same variety of intense aroma notes of the Nugget hop.

Simcoe Hops

Country of OriginUSA
Alpha Acid % (AA)11 - 15%
Popular Beer StylesPale Ale, IPA, Double IPA, Lager, Wild Ale & Red Ale
Substitution HopsSummit, Magnum (US), Amarillo, Mosaic, cascade, Centennial, Citra or Columbus

Simcoe was created by Charles E. Zimmerman and developed by the Select Botanicals Group before being released by Yakima Chief Ranches in 2000. Because it’s a trademarked varietal the parentage is a secret of the Simcoe hop, but it’s believed to have derived from open pollination.

Craft Brew Union H020 Simcoe (2 oz.)
  • Simcoe hops have a typical Alpha 12 14%
  • Simcoe is a dual purpose hop with funky pine character making it practically synonymous with American IPA
  • Manufactured in United States

With a relatively high alpha-acid level, it’s known for its bittering properties and often called a Cascade on steroids due to its tropical fruit flavors. A refreshing aroma packs a punch of stone fruit, pine and citrus zest aromas.

Although its 12 – 14% Alpha acids means its commonly used for bittering, it’s a truly dual purpose hop which can stand up for itself in single hopped beers in a wide range of beer styles.

It can be earthy, in particular woodsy and pine, but also introduces some fruity undertones of citrus, passion fruit and berry aromas.

Commercial beers which use 100% Simcoe hops in their recipe include Temescal Simcoe IPA, Hill Farmstead Simcoe Single Hop pale Ale and Other Half DDH Simcoe Chroma.

Are Piney Hops Available in Lupulin Powder?

Depending on the hop varietal, yes, you can get some piney hops as a lupulin powder rather than the traditional cones or pellet forms. Pure lupulin powders lead to a huge concentrated flavor, especially when used in the whirlpool or as a dry hop addition.

Of the 10 hops we have looked at, only the Admiral, Apollo, Chinook and Nugget don’t yet have lupulin powder versions. Pure lupulin powder can be beneficial when wanting those unique pine flavors as you only need to add half the quantity of lupulin power compared to the usual hop cones or pellets.

Piney Hops – Final Thoughts

Piney hops are a unique and distinctive addition to the world of hops. Their piney aroma and flavor make them a popular choice for brewers looking to add complexity and balance to their beers.

Whether you are a homebrewer or a commercial brewer, piney hops are a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of beer styles. If you are looking to experiment with new hop varieties, consider trying some piney hops to add a unique twist to your brews.

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