Editors’ Picks: Hop Blends

Our hop choices as brewers aren't limited to single varietals. Those who know hops best are mixing and matching them to make useful blends. Here are some options worth trying on brew day.

Joe Stange Oct 14, 2020 - 4 min read

Editors’ Picks: Hop Blends Primary Image

For many brewers, making a recipe is part of the fun, and that means choosing which hops to mix up and throw into the kettle or fermentor. On the other hand, there are expert hands out there who have been mixing, matching, and blending different varieties for years, going for that hops gestalt that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Buying commercially available hop blends gives us a way to take advantage of that know-how in our own breweries while adding more variety to our options. Here are some blends that have appeared in recent years, and what they might do for your beers:

Aged Hop Blend: Yakima Chief Hops in February announced its Aged Hops Program, aimed at carefully selecting and aging lower-alpha hops for use in lambic-inspired wild ales, to provide preservative qualities with minimal bitterness (less than 1% AA).

Cluster Fugget: Released by Yakima Chief in 2019, this homebrew-exclusive blend of Pacific Northwest varieties is said to have a peppery, spicy, floral profile.

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HS-1228: From the BSG Hop Solutions program, this new blend is said to balance tropical fruit—mango, pineapple—with more classically West Coast citrus and pine.

Independence: This Yakima Chief blend fits a more classical profile but with the dials turned up a notch: floral, herbal, tobacco notes, with subtler citrus and stone fruit possible. (I brewed with this myself and found it be a great, earthy fit for a saison and a clean, hop-forward blond ale.)

NZH-107: Another new BSG blend, this is a mix of New Zealand–grown hops with pronounced tropical (guava, passion fruit) and citrus (grapefruit, lime) aroma.

Pacific Crest: This Yakima Chief proprietary blend uses U.S.-grown varieties to create a floral-spice-forward, Noble-esque profile.

Pink Boots Blend: More than 100 Pink Boots Society members gathered at the Great American Beer Festival last year to rub and curate this blend, said to have expressive notes of tropical, citrus, and pine. Yakima Chief contributes the proceeds to the Pink Boots scholarship fund, which supports training for women in the brewing industry.

SA Blend: Available from Yakima Valley Hops, this is a blend of two South African varieties: Southern Aroma (80 percent) and Southern Sublime (20 percent). The company describes the profile as “very fruit-forward with sweet fruits of mango, plums, and grapefruit.”

Trident: From Hopsteiner, this new blend of Pacific Northwest–grown hops is said to be redolent of tropical fruit (passion fruit) and citrus.

Veterans Blend: Another of Yakima Chief’s blends for a cause, proceeds of this one go to the Semper Fi Fund for injured veterans. Various breweries also use the blend in beers whose proceeds go to other veteran charities. The idea is that veteran-owned breweries from across the country meet at the Craft Brewers Conference to rub hops and select their varieties. This blend is said to be a mix of citrus, tropical, and herbal aromas.

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