Top Hops: Cascade Ranks #1 Among Craft Brewers’ Favorite Varieties

By Andrew Kaczmarek

Hops were not always brewers favorite flowers, but in a time of Imperial IPAs and Cascadian Dark Ales, it is safe that hops are fundamental to American craft beer. The hop plant has played an integral role in the beer industry, and many of the top craft brewers in the country are responsible for the use and development of new hop varieties with intense aromatics, ranging from white wine to potent citrus.

Cascade has been the top U.S. hop in production for US craft brewers the past five growing seasons, and is often considered the quintessential American hop. Cascade was the first American-bred aroma hop, and some would say it’s just as responsible for the craft beer revolution as the early brewing pioneers.

The Cascade variety was bred by the USDA in 1956 and released to brewers in the 70s, winning the hearts of craft brewers across the U.S. Cascade hops fit perfectly within the dogma of small and independent brewing companies. A notable beer using the hop was Anchor Brewing’s Liberty IPA, the first modern IPA brewed after the prohibition.

The beer is entirely made with Cascade hops in the boil kettle and post-boil hop additions, igniting a single hop phenomenon apparent in craft brewing today. The legend of the Cascade hop plant was propelled by being prominently featured in the iconic Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and a host of other craft beers.

While, craft brewers seek out a highly coveted gold medal in the IPA category, the most entered GABF category, hop farmers across the country compete for The Cascade Cup, given to the farmer with the best Cascade crop each year.

Notable Cascade Beers

Liberty IPA | Anchor Brewing
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale | Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
Mirror Pond Pale Ale | Deschutes Brewery
Green Pig Fresh Hop Ale | Coalition Brewing Company
Cascade IPA | Intuition Ale Works

Although, Cascade may have been the first American bred aroma variety, and rein in production rank, their are many other important hops prevalent in craft beers today. The two other hop cultivators that round out the top three hops in U.S. production are: Centennial and Chinook. Each of these hops are responsible for highly-hopped pale ales and IPAs throughout the country.

Notable Centennial Beers

Hellhound | Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales
Centennial IPA | Founders Brewing Company
Two Hearted Ale | Bell’s Brewery, Inc.

Notable Chinook Beers

Chinook Single Hop Imperial IPA | Flying Dog Brewery
All Chinook Pale Ale | Coast Brewing
High Tide Fresh Hop IPA | Port Brewing (Centennial and Chinook fresh hop additions)

Photo © Carlsberg Group via Flickr CC


Andrew KaczmarekAndrew Kaczmarek, is the current Craft Beer Program Intern, hop farmer, beer writer for the CU Independent, homebrewer and student at the University of Colorado in his final semester. When not pursuing hoppiness, as a Colorado native, he spends his free time skiing, camping or biking in the Rocky Mountains.