Perfect Pale Ale – Five Hops You Should Know

Pale ale is a popular style of beer

© Shutterstock

Pale ale beer

Pale ale is a popular style of beer

© Shutterstock

There’s more to beer than meets the eye. Pale ales, with their hop-forward character, originally came about in the 1700s when brewers in England started making beer with malt that had been roasted with a fuel that had a high carbon content and low smoke yield. This gave it a paler colour than the popular porter of the time.

Like grape varieties in wine, there are lots of hop varieties and they grow in cool-medium warm climates the world over, from Belgium and California to Kent in the UK. Each  has its own distinct characteristics and a brewer can alter the taste of the finished beer depending on when they add them to the brew – before the boil they bring bitterness in varying degrees, after they express their aromatics more clearly.

Here are the five you should know to really get the most from your Pale Ale.

Cascade

This hop is the backbone of many craft and mainstream pale ales. Cascade is so popular it makes up around 10% of hops grown in the US. Now grown the world over, Cascade brings a steady balance of grapefruit-y, citrussy, spicy notes to any beer. Knowingly or not, you’ll have tasted Cascade in many guises a.k.a it's a safe pair of hands. “Oh, this seems very classic and Cascade based…”


Mosaic

A widely used highly aromatic hop. Mosaic brings clean tropical fruit, citrus and pine character to beers as well as a pleasant herby character. It tends to be used in dry hopping – thrown in to the beer as it cools following the boil to extract the high-aroma mango and peach fruit notes and piney character without bitterness. If added earlier, it can bring a distinct bitterness to a brew. 


Citra

A HUGE charactered, bold hop. Citra gives both aromatic and bittering potential to brewers but is used chiefly late in the boil to gain the bright lemon-lime citrus character it does so well. Citra is big flavoured and bold – once you know it, you’ll pick it out fast. Loads of bright tropical and grapefruit character alongside the citrus hit!


Nelson Sauvin

Originating in New Zealand and named after the Sauvignon Blanc grape, due to similar aromas. Think high-toned sharp citrus, gooseberry and juicy grapefruit, with big ripe mango tropicals. These distinctive fresh and funky aromatic hops are increasingly popular for their bright, intense fruit profile.


Chinook

As the name suggests, a heavy-weight, rich charactered hop. Big bittering potential and pine-heavy, spicy aromas. There is fruit here, but it’s often in the guise of earthy, bitter grapefruit and citrus peels, rather than overtly juicy notes. A good chunky baseline for the beer, that can add bitterness.

To start you off on your hop journey: 

  • Try Citra by UK-based Oakham Ales – no prizes for guessing what’s in that.....
  • How’s The Serenity? Vermont Pale by Gun Brewery is a great example of lots of Mosaic at work.

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