Citra Hops: A Key Ingredient in Crafting Fine Homebrew Beers

Monday, January 8, 2024

In the verdant fields of the Pacific Northwest, a hop variety was born that would dramatically alter the landscape of craft brewing - the Citra hop. This variety, known scientifically as HBC 394 cv., emerged not just as a new ingredient but as a harbinger of innovation in the world of beer. 

The story of Citra hops is a tapestry woven with threads of agricultural science, brewing artistry, and market forces, culminating in a phenomenon that resonates with brewers and beer enthusiasts alike.

The genesis of Citra hops dates back to the early 2000s, in a breeding program that sought to blend the robust characteristics of various hop varieties. Born out of a crossbreeding of diverse hop strains, Citra was developed by Hop Breeding Company, a joint venture which fused the expertise of John I. Haas, Inc., and Select Botanicals Group. The hop was officially released to the brewing world in 2007, but it was not until a few years later that its presence would be felt across the brewing industry.

Citra's ascent to prominence among craft brewers resembles a grass-roots movement. Initially embraced by pioneering craft breweries seeking to push the boundaries of flavor, it soon became a cornerstone in the arsenal of hop varieties used in craft brewing. Its allure lies not only in its bold and distinct flavor profile but also in its ability to singularly define the character of a beer.

What sets Citra apart is a symphony of olfactory and gustatory notes that it brings to beer. Its name itself is a testament to the prominent citrusy characteristics, but to describe it merely as citrus-like is to understate its complexity and versatility. Citra hops offer a kaleidoscope of sensory experiences, encompassing not just citrus but also tropical fruit, floral, and even herbal elements.

brewing homemade beer with citra hops

Origin and Development

Citra hops' genetic lineage is as rich and complex as its flavor profile. It inherits traits from illustrious ancestors like Hallertau Mittelfrüh, Tettnang, East Kent Golding, and others. This genetic mosaic endows Citra with a robustness and a spectrum of characteristics that are uncommon in single hop varieties.

The development of Citra was a journey marked by scientific rigor and serendipity. Breeders at the Hop Breeding Company undertook a meticulous process of selecting and crossbreeding plants, constantly seeking a balance between desirable aromatic qualities and agronomic viability. The challenges were manifold - from ensuring disease resistance to achieving consistency in flavor profiles.

Citra's introduction to the market was a gradual crescendo. Initially available in limited quantities, it was a rare gem coveted by experimental brewers. As its popularity soared, driven by its success in iconic beers, Citra saw a rapid increase in cultivation. By the early 2010s, it had become a mainstay in craft brewing, a must-have for creating innovative and flavorful beers.

Characteristics of Citra Hops

The aroma and flavor profile of Citra hops is a vibrant tapestry of sensory notes. On the nose, it exudes strong citrus scents reminiscent of lime and grapefruit, intertwined with subtler notes of mango, lychee, and passionfruit. On the palate, it delivers a refreshing burst of tropical fruitiness, underscored by a mild herbal undertone.

When juxtaposed with other hop varieties, Citra's uniqueness becomes even more pronounced. Unlike the piney and resinous notes of Cascade or the floral and earthy tones of Fuggle, Citra brings a fruit-forward and complex profile that can dominate and define the character of a beer.

The essence of Citra's distinctiveness lies in its chemical makeup.

It boasts a high alpha acid content, typically ranging from 11 to 13 percent, contributing to its potent bittering quality. But it's the symphony of essential oils like myrcene, caryophyllene, and humulene that orchestrates its aromatic and flavor profile. This combination not only imparts the unique citrus and tropical fruit characteristics but also lends a harmonious balance between bitterness and aroma, making Citra a versatile and highly sought-after hop in beer brewing.

citra hops use guide beer making

Maximizing Citra Hops in Home Brewing

Home brewing is a craft that blends creativity with science, and the choice of hops is a crucial element in defining a beer's character. Citra hops, in particular, have gained a formidable reputation among home brewers for their distinctive aromatic and flavor qualities. This guide dives deeper into the utilization of Citra hops, offering comprehensive advice and techniques to elevate your home brewing journey.

Understanding Citra Hops

Flavor and Aroma Profile:

Citra hops, a relatively new addition to the brewing world, introduced in 2008, have quickly become a darling of the craft beer scene. They are revered for their potent bouquet of citrus, tropical, and floral notes, encompassing aromas and flavors like grapefruit, lime, passion fruit, and lychee. This rich spectrum allows them to impart a beer with a complex, fruity, and refreshingly crisp profile. The impact of these hops goes beyond just the bitterness; they can alter the overall sensory experience of the beer, making it vibrant and inviting.

Bitterness Level:

The alpha acid content in Citra hops typically ranges from 11% to 13%, placing them on the higher end of the bitterness scale. This characteristic is essential for counterbalancing the sweetness of the malt, contributing to a well-rounded taste. When used judiciously, Citra hops can impart a clean, crisp bitterness that doesn’t overpower but rather complements the beer’s flavor profile. Balancing this bitterness requires a good understanding of the malt backbone of your brew, as different malts can interact with the bitterness in unique ways, either amplifying or mellowing it.

brewing with citra hops

Brewing Techniques

Boil Additions:

The timing of Citra hop additions during the boiling process is a delicate art. Adding them early in the boil (60 to 90 minutes) extracts more bitterness but less aroma. Mid-boil additions (15 to 30 minutes) strike a balance, imparting both flavor and a moderate amount of bitterness. Late boil or whirlpool additions (last 5 minutes to post-boil) are primarily for aroma, as the heat extracts the oils responsible for Citra’s distinctive scent without contributing much to bitterness. Mastering these timings can significantly influence the final character of your beer, allowing you to tailor it to your exact preferences.

Dry Hopping:

Dry hopping with Citra can transform a beer’s aromatic profile. This technique, where hops are added during or after fermentation, allows for the extraction of essential oils without additional bitterness. The timing and duration of dry hopping are crucial; a shorter exposure (2-3 days) can yield a more intense, fresh aroma, while longer periods might introduce more complex, matured notes. Dry hopping with Citra is particularly effective in styles like IPAs and Pale Ales, where aroma plays a leading role.

Quantity and Ratios:

The quantity of Citra hops used in a brew varies based on batch size and the specific style of beer being crafted. In general, lighter styles may require less, while hop-forward styles like IPAs may see a generous use. When used in combination with other hop varieties, the ratio becomes key to creating a harmonious flavor profile. Citra hops can dominate a brew if not balanced correctly, so careful consideration should be given to how they interact with other hops and ingredients.

Recipe Formulation

Single Hop Brewing:

Single-hop brewing with Citra allows brewers to showcase the unique characteristics of this hop variety. This approach is particularly effective in styles where the hop character is meant to shine, such as in an American IPA or a Pale Ale. Here, the singular use of Citra can illuminate its full range of flavors and aromas, providing a pure and unadulterated hop experience. However, this method requires a skilled hand to balance the intense flavors and prevent them from overwhelming the beer.

Complementary Hops:

When pairing Citra with other hops, the goal is to create a blend where each variety complements or contrasts with the others. Hops with earthy, piney, or spicy characteristics can provide a compelling contrast to Citra’s fruity and floral notes. Common pairings include Amarillo for its orange flavor, Mosaic for its complexity, and Simcoe for its piney undertone. These combinations can lead to a more layered and nuanced beer, adding depth to its flavor profile.

Malt Balance:

The choice of malt plays a pivotal role in complementing Citra hops. Malts that impart caramel or biscuity flavors can offer a sweet counterpoint to Citra’s bitterness and aromatic intensity. The malt selection should aim to support and not overshadow the hops. Lighter malts might be used for beers where the hop character is front and center, while more robust, darker malts can be chosen for beers where a balance between malt and hop flavors is desired.

citra hops beer style

Advanced Techniques

Yeast Pairing:

Yeast selection can dramatically influence the expression of Citra hops. Certain yeast strains can accentuate or mellow the hop's flavor and aroma. For example, American ale yeast strains can enhance the citrus and fruity notes, while English strains might bring more balance and subtlety to the hop character. The choice of yeast should align with the desired outcome of the brew.

Water Chemistry:

The chemistry of the brewing water can profoundly affect how Citra hops perform in a beer. The mineral content of water (especially ions like calcium, magnesium, sulfate, and chloride) can alter the perception of bitterness and the overall flavor profile. Adjusting the water chemistry to suit the particular characteristics of Citra hops can help in achieving a more rounded and appealing beer. This aspect of brewing, while often overlooked by beginners, can be a game-changer in crafting a superior brew.

In mastering the use of Citra hops, home brewers find themselves at the intersection of art and science. This guide provides a detailed roadmap for navigating this journey, from understanding the basics to implementing advanced techniques. Each step offers an opportunity to explore, innovate, and refine, ultimately leading to the creation of exceptional beers that highlight the unique qualities of Citra hops.

Using Cascade hops when brewing American Pale Ale

Wednesday, November 29, 2023
Cascade hops, renowned for their distinct and influential role in the craft beer revolution, particularly in the United States, offer a fascinating topic for exploration. They are emblematic of the American craft beer identity and have played a pivotal role in the development of several beer styles. Let's delve into the origins, characteristics, and utilization of Cascade hops in brewing.

Cascade hops were first developed in the 1950s and released in 1972 by the USDA breeding program in Oregon. Their development was part of an effort to establish American varieties of hops that could rival the noble hops of Europe. Cascade hops emerged as a successful result of these efforts, characterized by their unique aroma profile that was quite distinct from traditional European hop varieties.

using cascade hope for brewing beer

Aroma and Flavor Profile

Cascade hops are renowned for their vibrant, floral, and citrusy characteristics, with a distinct note of grapefruit being a hallmark of their aroma and flavor profile. This unique profile was a departure from the more herbal, earthy characteristics of traditional European hops and represented a new frontier in hop breeding and beer flavor profiles.

Contribution to Beer's Bitter Profile

In brewing, hops contribute both bitterness and aroma. The bitterness of hops, measured in International Bitterness Units (IBUs), is derived from alpha acids found in hop oils. Cascade hops have a moderate alpha acid content, typically ranging from 4.5% to 7%. This makes them versatile for both providing a solid but not overwhelming bitter foundation and for contributing to the aroma and flavor of the beer.

Suitability for Beer Styles

Cascade hops have become synonymous with American Pale Ales and India Pale Ales (IPAs), styles where their distinctive aroma and flavor can take center stage. They are also used in:

  • American Pale Ale: This style showcases the floral and citrus notes of Cascade hops.
  • IPA: Both traditional and session IPAs benefit from the balance of bitterness and aromatic qualities of Cascade.
  • American Blonde Ale: A style that often features a more subdued hop presence, allowing the lighter, floral aspects of Cascade to shine.
  • American Amber Ale: Cascade hops can contribute to the balance between malt sweetness and hop bitterness in this style.

Brewing Techniques and Trends

In brewing with Cascade hops, timing is crucial. When added early in the boil, they contribute more to the bitterness of the beer. Later additions, including dry hopping, emphasize their aromatic and flavor characteristics. This versatility makes Cascade hops a favorite among craft brewers, who often experiment with different addition times to achieve the desired balance of bitterness, flavor, and aroma.


Cascade hops have significantly influenced the craft beer movement, particularly in the United States. Their unique profile has enabled the creation of new beer styles and redefined existing ones. As a staple in American craft brewing, Cascade hops continue to inspire brewers and beer enthusiasts alike, making them a cornerstone of the American beer landscape. The exploration of Cascade hops is not just a study of a brewing ingredient but a journey through the evolution of craft beer itself.

Review: The Ultimate Guide to PBW (Powdered Brewery Wash) for Cleaning Homebrew Equipment

Sunday, November 19, 2023

For anyone deeply invested in the world of homebrewing, the quest for immaculate equipment is never-ending. Enter PBW, or Powdered Brewery Wash, a cleaning product by Five Star that has rapidly become the staple for both commercial and home brewers alike. With its roots tracing back to the renowned Coors brewery, PBW has successfully established itself as an indispensable tool in every brewer's arsenal.

The Legacy of PBW: More Than Just a Cleaner

PBW's reputation precedes itself. This cleaning agent is celebrated not just for its efficacy but also for the trust it has garnered among North American homebrewing communities. If you're new to brewing and ask for cleaning recommendations, you'll inevitably stumble upon enthusiastic endorsements for PBW. Skeptical? Just a cursory glance through beer brewing forums will offer testimonies from seasoned brewers singing its praises.

PBW powdered brewery wash for cleaning brewin equipment

Why PBW Shines as a cleaner of beer brewing gear

Stubborn Residue No More: Those who've brewed know the challenge of cleaning the bottom of a 5-gallon stainless steel boil pot. With PBW, those crusty remnants are effortlessly dissolved.

Eco-Friendly: PBW's environmentally conscious formula is biodegradable and septic system-friendly.

Versatile Applications: Beyond brewing equipment, PBW shines in cleaning dishwashers, stainless steel utensils, and even in neutralizing odors from organic substances.

Safety First: Unlike other chemical agents such as sodium hydroxide, PBW doesn't pose a threat to the skin or emit a strong, undesirable odor.

Label Remover: Struggling with sticky beer bottle labels? A soak in PBW ensures they slide right off.

Beyond Brewing: The Unexpected Uses of PBW

It's not just brewing equipment that can benefit from PBW's cleaning prowess:

Beer Bottles: Let's face it, cleaning dried sediment from the bottom of beer bottles is tedious. Why bother with a bottle brush when PBW can do the job?

Fermenter drums : Even if you've neglected your fermenter for weeks, a soak in PBW will bring it back to its pristine condition. And the best part? No scrubbing required.

The PBW User Manual: How to get the best cleaning results

Using PBW is straightforward:
  • Soak your brewing equipment overnight for optimal results.
  • Depending on the equipment, use 1-2 ounces of PBW per gallon.
  • Rinse the next day, and you're all set for another brewing session.

Cleaning vs. Sanitizing: The Essential Distinction

It's crucial to understand that while PBW excels at cleaning, it doesn't equate to sanitization. Post-cleaning, it's imperative to sterilize the equipment to eliminate any lingering microbes. Many brewers swear by Star San, another product from Five Star, as their go-to sanitizer.

To be frank though, after using a PBW product, this brewer doesn't bother sanitizing the gear if it is being used straight away. 

Decoding PBW: The Ingredients that Make it Work

At its core, PBW is powered by Sodium Metasilicate, which constitutes about 30% of its formulation. This ingredient is the powerhouse that tackles grease and brewing residue head-on. Additionally, sodium percarbonate plays a pivotal role. Fun fact: sodium percarbonate is a primary component in many household laundry soakers...

DIY PBW: Crafting Your Own Cleaner

For those looking to replicate the cleaning efficiency of PBW at home, combining TSP/90 (commonly known as Red Devil) with Oxiclean can yield similar results. However, it's essential to note that while percarbonate is more of a sanitizer, metasilicate serves as the cleaner.

In Conclusion about the benefits of using PBW on beer equipment to clean

PBW has carved a niche for itself in the brewing world, and rightfully so. Its cleaning efficiency, coupled with its safety and versatility, makes it an invaluable asset for brewers. Whether you're a novice or a seasoned brewer, integrating PBW into your cleaning routine can significantly elevate your brewing experience.

How to make a hops tea for beer wort home brewing?

The art of brewing beer is as much a science as it is a craft. Every step, from selecting the grains to the fermentation process, plays a crucial role in determining the final taste, aroma, and character of the brew. One of the most influential components in beer-making is hops.

These cone-shaped flowers are not just about adding bitterness to balance out the malt's sweetness; they also introduce a plethora of flavors and aromas, ranging from piney, resinous notes to citrusy and floral undertones.

For those looking to amplify the hop character in their brew without increasing bitterness, creating a hops tea is an innovative and effective method. This essay delves into the detailed process of making a hops tea that can be seamlessly integrated into your beer wort.

making a hops tea for beer wort

Why Hops Tea?

Before diving into the 'how', it's essential to understand the 'why'.

Traditional dry hopping, where hops are added directly to the fermenter, is popular for emphasizing hop aroma. However, it doesn't always extract the full range of flavors from the hops. Brewing a hops tea allows for a more thorough extraction of both aroma and flavor compounds, offering a deeper hop experience without significantly increasing bitterness.

Step-by-Step Guide to Making Hops Tea

  1. Selection of Hops: Choose high-quality hops that align with the flavor profile you're aiming for. Whether you prefer floral, fruity, earthy, or spicy notes, there's a hop variety that caters to that preference.

  2. Measure the Hops: Depending on the intensity of hop flavor you desire, measure out the hops. A general guideline is to use about 0.5 to 1 ounce of hops for every gallon of beer. Adjust according to your taste.

  3. Boiling: In a pot, bring a quart of water to a rolling boil. Once boiling, remove the pot from the heat source and add your measured hops.

  4. Steeping: Allow the hops to steep in the hot water for about 20-30 minutes. This process is similar to making herbal tea, where the hot water extracts the essential oils and flavors from the hops.

  5. Cooling: After steeping, it's vital to cool the tea quickly to preserve the volatile compounds. An ice bath or a heat-resistant container placed in a refrigerator can be effective.

  6. Straining: Using a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth, strain the liquid to remove any hop particles. This ensures a clear tea that will integrate well with your wort (and help with reducing sediment and beer cloudiness)

  7. Integration with Wort: The cooled hop tea can be added directly to the beer wort. Depending on the stage of your brewing process, you can introduce the tea during the boil, post-boil, or even during fermentation.

hops tea beer wort

Considerations and Variations

  • Hop Varieties: Feel free to experiment with different hop varieties or even combine multiple types to craft a unique flavor profile.

  • Duration of Steeping: Adjust the steeping time based on your preference. A shorter duration will extract more aromatic compounds, while a longer steep will delve deeper into the hop's flavor profile.

  • Usage with Other Additives: Hops tea can be combined with other flavoring agents like citrus peels, spices, or herbs to create a more complex taste.

In conclusion, crafting a hops tea is a nuanced method that offers brewers an additional tool in their arsenal to enhance the flavor and aroma of their beers. By extracting the essence of hops in a controlled environment, one can achieve a more pronounced hop character, elevating the overall beer experience.

Whether you're a seasoned brewer or a novice, experimenting with hops tea can lead to delightful and surprising results in your beer-making journey.

What is a 'hops schedule' for when make an all grain beer wort?

The brewing of beer is a meticulous process that combines science, art, and tradition.

One of the essential components of this process is the use of hops, which are flowers that contribute bitterness to balance the sweetness of the malt and also add unique flavors and aromas.

While the inclusion of hops is vital, it's not as simple as just adding them to the brew.

The timing, quantity, and type of hops added can drastically change the beer's profile. This brings us to the concept of the 'hop schedule'—a strategic plan for adding hops at various stages of the brewing process.

hops schedules for brewing explained

What is a Hop Schedule?

A hop schedule is essentially a timeline that dictates when specific hop additions should be made during the boiling phase of brewing beer.

The schedule will detail the type of hops, the amount, and the exact time they should be added relative to the end of the boil.

Why is the Hop Schedule Important?

  1. Flavor and Aroma Profiling: Different hop varieties contribute varied flavors and aromas, from citrusy and fruity to earthy and piney. The duration of their exposure to the boiling wort will determine how these characteristics manifest in the beer. For instance, hops added early in the boil will primarily contribute bitterness, while those added later will impart more of their flavor and aroma.

  2. Bitterness Control: The bitterness in beer, measured in International Bitterness Units (IBUs), is derived from the alpha acids in hops. The longer hops boil, the more these acids are isomerized, resulting in increased bitterness. A hop schedule helps brewers achieve the desired IBU level in the final product.

  3. Efficiency: Hops are a precious commodity, and their efficient use is both an art and a necessity. A well-planned hop schedule ensures that hops are used effectively to achieve the desired beer profile without wastage.

Key Components of a Typical Hop Schedule:

  • Bittering Hops: Added early in the boil (usually 60 minutes or more before the end), these hops contribute the base bitterness to the beer. They are boiled for long enough that most of their aromatic oils evaporate, leaving behind the bitterness from the alpha acids.
  • Flavor Hops: Added midway through the boil (around 15-30 minutes before the end), these hops introduce various flavors to the beer without contributing as much bitterness.
  • Aroma Hops: Introduced in the final minutes of the boil or even after turning off the heat, aroma hops, as the name suggests, contribute the aromatic characteristics to the beer. They provide minimal bitterness.
  • Dry Hopping: While not part of the boiling process, dry hopping is an essential aspect of hop scheduling for many brewers. It involves adding hops post-boil, during the fermentation phase, to enhance the beer's aroma.
what is a hops schedule for brewing with beer wort

In Conclusion

The hop schedule is a testament to the intricate nature of brewing beer. It allows brewers to craft unique flavor profiles and fine-tune the balance between bitterness, flavor, and aroma. Whether one is a seasoned brewer or a novice just venturing into the world of homebrewing, understanding and experimenting with hop schedules can lead to delightful and distinctive beer creations.

It underscores the fact that brewing is not just about following a recipe but also about understanding the nuances and intricacies of each ingredient and the process.

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