Hazy IPAs are almost always described as “vaguely tropical-tasting.” Interchangeable words like dank, pine, mango, pineapple, and citrus are thrown around in their presence, illustrated on can art, and listed on Instagram captions whenever a brewery drops its latest hazy. While this may seem redundant, it makes sense: The hops most often used in hazy IPAs carry these notes.
There are a lot of compounds that contribute to how hops smell and inevitably taste when made into beers, like sulfur-containing thiols, terpenes (also found in cannabis), and bitterness-imparting alpha acids. That said, there is no single source from which hops draw all their aroma or flavor. It also comes down to how the hops are used in the brewing process. If added in the dry-hopping stage, hops have a much better shot at expressing their natural terpenes and aromas, as some compounds are broken down in the boiling stage, and won’t be detectable in the final product. Meanwhile, adding hops early on in the boiling stage will extract their much-needed bittering elements, and adding them a bit later in the boil will impart more flavor. It’s all rather complicated, and there’s still a lot of research that needs to be done to fully understand hops. Nonetheless, craft brewing has come a long way in recent years, and these are the hops that show up most frequently in today’s hazy IPAs.
This is the undisputed king of all hazy hops. Citra is the hop equivalent of adding butter and salt to a dish — most of the time, it’s only going to make things taste better, and chefs would rather you didn’t know how much they actually use. They appear in a comical amount of hazies on the market, but for good reason. In the raw, Citra unmistakably smells like — dare I say it — cat urine. But in beer, Citra takes on incredible dank, tropical fruit aromas, with enough bitter undertones to give hazy IPAs the bite they need to be drinkable without being overly sweet. Even with so many different breweries offering single-hop Citra beers, they all taste different: When used with different yeast strains, malt bills, and water types, Citra expresses itself in many ways. Like with a lot of these varieties, it’s all about how you milk them.
Mosaic is dank, dank, dank thanks to a heavy dose of myrcene, a terpene that lends itself to the musty, almost diesel fuel-esque quality associated with potent cannabis. A cross breed of Simcoe and Nugget, Mosaic is very blackcurrant and blueberry-heavy. The variatal also looks beautiful up close — tight-knit and organized.
Arguably the most famous Australian hop, it packs in notes of overripe guava — so much so that some single-hop Galaxy IPAs often taste like rotting fruit. Reminiscent of blue cheese at times, its funkiness either repels or attracts with a passion. Ultimately, this one works best when synthesized with other hop varieties.
El Dorado is another fantastically juicy hop. It holds up well on its own, but also mingles alongside other varieties with ease. In terms of flavor profile, it tastes like straight-up pineapple. El Dorado holds almost the same potential as Citra in flavor and versatility — it just doesn’t have as much clout.
Simcoe packs heavy aromas of peaches, dried turkish apricot, pine, and orange rind. Simcoe’s pine character is also great for bittering. To that end, it serves as the backbone for West Coast favorite, Pliny the Elder, but it’s equally versatile in other hazy IPAs.
Nelson, hailing from New Zealand, is commonly compared to Sauvignon Blanc for its heavy notes of white grapes, gooseberries, and fresh-cut grass. It’s an assertive hop, for sure, making it one to use with care — a little goes a long way.
Idaho 7 exudes tangerine and marmalade notes. It’s a brewer’s secret weapon: As a homebrewer once told me, “if your beer ever feels a little off, dump some Idaho 7 in there and it fixes everything.” It can mellow out some of the other hops at work when used in tandem with them, but will also ride their coattails when used in small doses.
Amarillo is even higher in myrcene terpenes than Mosaic, to the point where the weed-esque dankness takes on the bitter, almost floral qualities of orange rind. It’s typically used as an aroma hop in late-boil or dry-hopping additions. Often compared to Cascade (which is responsible for Sierra Nevada Pale Ale’s grapefruit notes), this hop goes full frontal with its citrus qualities, and like Idaho 7, it works best in tandem with other hops.
If all these hops were related, Sabro would be the wacky uncle. Its coconut-y profile is abundant, with notes of coconut cream and — damn, more coconut. For some, Sabro can be a bit too much, but it remains a popular choice for sweeter brews. And if you’re into Piña Colada-esque IPAs, this is one to spring for.
This Australian hop is bursting with passionfruit notes. Similar to Galaxy in its overripeness with notes of rotting fruit or wild game — in a good way, trust me — it’s best used when piggybacking on a more foundational, solid hop like Citra.
Like the name entails, this guy brings some mouthfeel. Cashmere works well in the early boil, but like a lot of hops on this list, it shines in the late-hop, whirlpool stages. It’s commonly used in conjunction with fruited ales, as it hones in on lemon, lime, and honeydew melon-forward flavors. Now just 10 years old, Cashmere hops were released in 2013 through Washington State University’s hop-breeding program.
Described by writer Nick Carr as the “new darling of craft brewers,” Strata has light diesel notes but gives way to a bouquet of tropical hits. Like a Hawaiian fruit basket of sorts, you’re going to taste fruit notes only native to the Polynesian islands and Southeast Asia. Strata’s definitively the new kid on the block: Its patent is still pending, and it didn’t hit the market until 2016 after a few successful test grows.
*Image sourced from breakingthewalls – stock.adobe.com