For any beer drinker in the United States, the names Citra and Mosaic are undoubtedly familiar. Two hop varieties out of Washington, Citra, released in 2008, and Mosaic, released in 2012, first rose to popularity in the 2010s, becoming instant stars of the craft brewing scene among brewers, beer geeks, and casual drinkers. Years later, Citra and Mosaic are still exceedingly prevalent and beloved, and for good reason: Their flavor profiles work well in IPAs, and especially hazy IPAs, which now dominate the beer world.

Today, it seems there’s hardly an IPA brewed without Citra or Mosaic or, more likely, both of them together, which has led them to become something of a power couple (they’re so often paired together that memes have even been created about them). But why? Is it because of their individual popularity? Their unique chemical makeup? Or their extreme compatibility? For these harmonious hops, the pairing goes beyond craft beer’s IPA obsession to something more.

The Most Desirable Characteristics

For Nick “Dickey” Palmero, head brewer at Alvarium Beer Co. in New Britain, Conn., Citra and Mosaic made the most sense for its flagship beer, Phresh, a New England IPA. “From a brewers standpoint, I think the best lots of Citra and Mosaic have some of the most desirable characteristics that we’re looking for when it comes to NEIPA,” says Palermo. “The Citra brings that bright citrus and tropical fruit with a touch of bitterness, while the best Mosaic gives us the berry medley, papaya, earthiness that all blends so well in the soft, juicy, and luscious body that we strive for in this style.” Cracking open a can of Phresh, one’s overwhelmed with the aroma of fruit salad, heavy on the raspberry, mango, and orange. “Nowadays, I’d say the average craft beer consumer can recognize those hops in any beer, and have an idea of what the beer should taste like when trying out a new spot for the first time,” Palermo adds.

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At Fair State Brewing Cooperative in Minneapolis, head brewer Joe Wells also chose the combo in its flagship IPA (with a dash of Idaho 7 as well). “Citra and Mosaic are super-well-rounded hops, one leaning more citrus and the other tropical,” says Wells. “When blended together they make a nice one-two punch of fruit with underlying grape must and dank aromas to keep things interesting,” he adds. The end result is a beer that feels approachable and keeps people coming back for more. “The name recognition may help folks to order the first pint, but the flavor and aroma get them to order the second and third,” Wells says.

Dancing Gnome Brewery in Pittsburgh brews a Citra/Mosaic hazy IPA called Pounce but the brewery leans on Citra/Mosaic plus a third hop in a lot of its IPAs. For example, it makes an IPA called Gravel Grinder that is Citra/Mosaic/Simcoe.

“Beer, like anything, is subjective, but I think it’s really hard not to enjoy a well-made Citra/Mosaic beer because of what they bring to the table,” says brewer-owner Andrew Witchey. “Both are excellent as single-hop beers, but together they add that complexity that just takes it to a new level.” Similar to Palermo and Wells, it all comes down to the fruit. “They both exhibit fairly strong fruit characteristics, and though they can and do have other attributes, that’s where they shine.”

A Scientific Explanation?

“The first reason they work well together is that they are strong on their own,” says “For the Love of Hops” author Stan Hieronymus.

Hieronymus points to thiols and terpenes in the hops as a possible scientific reason why Citra and Mosaic may be so potent together, though more research needs to be done. Thiols are sulfur-possessing compounds while terpenes create the makeup of oils in hops. If you ever look at a hop spec sheet you’ll see words like myrcene, linalool, and humulene. Those are terpenes that create the flavor and aroma of a particular hop. (Terpenes are well known in other plants like conifers and cannabis.)

“Citra and Mosaic both contain a significant amount of the terpene geraniol,” says Hieronymus, “which may be converted into citronellol — yes, the smell in candles you use to keep away mosquitoes — by yeast through biotransformation.” When linalool, geraniol, and citronellol interact with the thiol 4MMP, which Citra is high in, the resulting tropical aroma and flavor is bolder and more intense.

Beyond the IPA

Like Alvarium’s Phresh, there are plenty of examples of Citra and Mosaic working together seamlessly to create juicy and hazy IPAs to satisfy today’s seemingly insatiable thirst for the style. But are there other styles that lend themselves well to using Citra and Mosaic?

“I’ve seen the combo used in West Coast IPAs, dry-hopped saisons, and most recently some non-alcoholic seltzers,” says Palermo. Back at Fair State, Citra and Mosaic have found their way into hop water, a sparkling non-alcoholic seltzer infused with hops that’s gained popularity in recent years.

“Our Hop Water is one of my favorite projects we have going right now,” says Wells. “Getting older, having kids, drinking less and still being social, and, of course, not getting hung over, it all makes Hop Water important to me.”

Fair State started making Hop Water a little over a year ago and now packages it in cans for sale at the brewery and some local shops. It makes other varieties of Hop Water besides Citra/Mosaic as it’s an effective way to showcase the hop’s fruity potential with sparkling water as a blank canvas.

Witchey really loves Citra and Mosaic in a specific lager. “I actually really like them in a dry-hopped American pilsner,” the brewer says. “Obviously not the same usage as a hazy IPA, but they still bring out some really wonderful notes in a light and supremely drinkable style.”

So will Citra and Mosaic’s reign ever end? With more and more beers using these hops (they were the top two hops grown in the Pacific Northwest by acreage in 2022), it doesn’t look like any time soon. Plenty of new hops have come along in recent years — Strata, Riwaka, and Nectaron, to name a few — and they may steal the spotlight, if temporarily. But for the time being and for the foreseeable future, Citra and Mosaic may continue to rule the craft beer world.