Best Hops Combinations; Complete Guide!

In this article, we are going to talk about a subject not so deeply studied as it is quite subjective and has many variables and interpretations that make it depend largely on the skills and experience of every brewer. 

I am talking about nothing more and nothing less than hops and their combinations.

Next, we are going to see a list with the most used combinations in hoppy styles, the particularities of each one, and how to use them.

Without further ado, let’s get started!

Hop Combinations

HopProfileCombinationProfileStyle 
CitraCitrus, tropical fruit, resinMosaicCitrus, fruity, resinWest coast IPA and pale ale
CitraCitrus, tropical fruit, resinSimcoeCitrus, tropical fruit, resinNEIPAs, west coast IPAs
AmarilloFruity, floralSimcoeCitrus, tropical fruit, resinHazy IPA, juicy IPA
AmarilloFruity, floralCitraCitrus, tropical fruit, resinNEIPAs, juicy IPA, hazy IPA
CentennialFloral, herbal, citrusSimcoeCitrus, tropical fruit, resinWest coast IPAs
MosaicCitrus, fruity, resinSimcoeCitrus, tropical fruit, resinWest coast IPA and pale ale
CitraCitrus, tropical fruit, resinEl DoradoTropical fruit, citrusNEIPAs, east coast IPAs
Citra Citrus, tropical fruit, resinGalaxyCitrus, floral, tropical fruitAmerican IPAs, pale ale
CascadeCitrus, stone fruitCentennialFloral, herbal, citrusWest coast, american IPA
CentennialFloral, herbal, citrusColumbusCitrus, fruity, floralAmerican IPAs, apa
AmarilloFruity, floralCentennialFloral, herbal, citrusNEIPAs, juicy IPA, hazy IPA
CentennialFloral, herbal, citrusChinookCitrus, earthy, pineAmerican IPAs, apa
El Dorado Tropical fruit, citrusMosaicCitrus, fruity, resinNEIPAs
CascadeCitrus, stone fruitChinookCitrus, earthy, pineAmerican IPAs, apa
GalaxyCitrus, floral, tropical fruitMosaicCitrus, fruity, resinWest coast IPA and american IPAs
ChinookCitrus, earthy, pineSimcoeCitrus, tropical fruit, resinAmerican IPAs, apa
CascadeCitrus, stone fruitSimcoeCitrus, tropical fruit, resinWest coast IPAs
CentennialFloral, herbal, citrusCitraCitrus, tropical fruit, resinNEIPAs, juicy IPA, hazy IPA

Citra and Mosaic

This combination is often used in west coast IPAs and pale ales.

  • Citra: Nowadays it is the most cultivated hop variety in the world, surpassing even Cascade. Its profile is mainly citrus, resin, and tropical fruits, and overall has a very balanced profile: in terms of flavor, citrus and resin predominate. In terms of aroma, tropical fruit is more predominant. It is also a very high-yielding hop due to its high content of linalool, a very soluble essential oil.
  • Mosaic: It is one of the most intense hops in terms of aroma and also one of the highest yielding ones. It should be used in small proportions with respect to other hops because it is very invasive. In terms of flavor and aroma, it is dominated by resin, citrus, and fruity notes and is ideal for homebrewing because it withstands oxidation quite well.

How to Use

  • Citra: If added during the boil, whirlpool, or hopstand, citrus notes of lime and grapefruit will predominate, whereas if added when cold (dry hopping, for example) the profile will be more on the side of tropical fruit, mainly mango and passion fruit.
  • Mosaic: Usually used in hot and cold dry hopping but should not be added in whirlpool as it will add too much of a resin flavor.

Citra and Simcoe

This combination can be used in all hoppy styles by alternating the time of addition to extract the different profiles.

  • Citra: Nowadays it is the most cultivated hop variety in the world, surpassing even Cascade. Its profile is mainly citrus, resin, and tropical fruits, and overall has a very balanced profile: in terms of flavor, citrus and resin predominate. In terms of aroma, tropical fruit is more predominant. It is also a very high-yielding hop due to its high content of linalool, a very soluble essential oil.
  • Simcoe: it is the main hop used when brewing west coast IPAs. It adds predominantly citrus, tropical fruit (apricot, peach), and resin notes in both flavor and aroma.

How to Use

  • Citra: If added during the boil, whirlpool, or hopstand, citrus notes of lime and grapefruit will predominate, whereas if added when cold (dry hopping, for example) the profile will be more on the side of tropical fruit, mainly mango and passion fruit.
  • Simcoe: It can be added at any time: Using it at the end of the boil gives us a resin and pine profile without so much of the tropical fruit aroma. Whirlpool additions provide a citrus and pine profile, and in dry hop, it gives us a mainly fruity profile.

Amarillo and Simcoe

This combination is used in almost all styles as they are two very different varieties in terms of flavor and aroma that complement each other very well. 

  • Amarillo: This variety is a little different from the rest. It is characterized by having a very predominant tropical fruit and floral profile without almost any resin and pine notes, and it is a delicate hop to use because it is not very intense in terms of aroma, and in case of bad handling of the finished beer we will have an almost complete loss of those aromas.
  • Simcoe: It is the main hop used when brewing west coast IPAs. It adds predominantly citrus, tropical fruit (apricot, peach), and resin notes in both flavor and aroma.

How to use

  • Amarillo: It offers a much more powerful flavor profile than aroma profile, so it is more efficiently used in whirlpool or hopstand, but it can still be used at any time. 
  • Simcoe: It can be added at any time: Using it at the end of the boil gives us a resin and pine profile without so much of the tropical fruit aroma. Whirlpool additions provide a citrus and pine profile, and in dry hop, it gives us a mainly fruity profile.

Amarillo and Citra

It is a great combination to use in the so-called “new world IPAs” (NEIPA, juicy IPA, hazy IPA, etc.) as their profiles are largely dominated by tropical fruit flavors and aromas.

  • Amarillo: This variety is a little different from the rest. It is characterized by having a very predominant tropical fruit and floral profile without almost any resin and pine notes, and it is a delicate hop to use because it is not very intense in terms of aroma, and in case of bad handling of the finished beer we will have an almost complete loss of those aromas.
  • Citra: Nowadays it is the most cultivated hop variety in the world, surpassing even Cascade. Its profile is mainly citrus, resin, and tropical fruits, and overall has a very balanced profile: in terms of flavor, citrus and resin predominate. In terms of aroma, tropical fruit is more predominant. It is also a very high-yielding hop due to its high content of linalool, a very soluble essential oil.

How to use

  • Amarillo: It offers a much more powerful flavor profile than aroma profile, so it is more efficiently used in whirlpool or hopstand, but it can still be used at any time. 
  • Citra: If added during the boil, whirlpool, or hopstand, citrus notes of lime and grapefruit will predominate, whereas if added when cold (dry hopping, for example) the profile will be more on the side of tropical fruit, mainly mango and passion fruit.

Centennial and Simcoe

  • Centennial: This type of hop is used in almost all beer styles. Its profile is predominantly floral, resinous, earthy, and citric, the latter being much more intense in aroma than in flavor.
  • Simcoe: It is the main hop used when brewing west coast IPAs. It adds predominantly citrus, tropical fruit (apricot, peach), and resin notes in both flavor and aroma.

How to use

  • Centennial: When added during the whirlpool, the floral, earthy, and spicy characteristics will be better exploited, whereas dry hopping makes the citrus aroma stand out more.
  • Simcoe: It can be added at any time: Using it at the end of the boil gives us a resin and pine profile without so much of the tropical fruit aroma. Whirlpool additions provide a citrus and pine profile, and in dry hop, it gives us a mainly fruity profile.

Mosaic and Simcoe

Widely used in most pale ale varieties as well as in west coast IPAs.

  • Mosaic: It is one of the most intense hops in terms of aroma and also one of the highest yielding ones. It should be used in small proportions with respect to other hops because it is very invasive. In terms of flavor and aroma, it is dominated by resin, citrus, and fruity notes and is ideal for homebrewing because it withstands oxidation quite well.
  • Simcoe: It is the main hop used when brewing west coast IPAs. It adds predominantly citrus, tropical fruit (apricot, peach), and resin notes in both flavor and aroma.

How to use

  • Mosaic: Usually used in hot and cold dry hopping but should not be added in whirlpool as it will add too much of a resin flavor.
  • Simcoe: It can be added at any time: Using it at the end of the boil gives us a resin and pine profile without so much of the tropical fruit aroma. Whirlpool additions provide a citrus and pine profile, and in dry hop, it gives us a mainly fruity profile.

Citra and El Dorado

This combination fits perfectly with the profile we are looking for when making a NEIPA, juicy or hazy IPA, as the fruity profile predominates in both varieties.

  • Citra: Nowadays it is the most cultivated hop variety in the world, surpassing even Cascade. Its profile is mainly citrus, resin, and tropical fruits, and overall has a very balanced profile: in terms of flavor, citrus and resin predominate. In terms of aroma, tropical fruit is more predominant. It is also a very high-yielding hop due to its high content of linalool, a very soluble essential oil.
  • El Dorado: This hop variety is characterized by having a very slight resin, pine, and herbal flavor to it, with the aroma profile being predominantly of pineapple and citrus notes. 

How to use

  • Citra: If added during the boil, whirlpool, or hopstand, citrus notes of lime and grapefruit will predominate, whereas if added when cold (dry hopping, for example) the profile will be more on the side of tropical fruit, mainly mango and passion fruit.
  • El Dorado: This hop variety has very high aromatic characteristics due to its large amount of essential oils. That’s why it is mostly used during the fermentation stages either in cold or hot dry hopping.

Citra and Galaxy

This combination fits perfectly with the profile we are looking for when making a NEIPA, juicy or hazy IPA, as both varieties have a high percentage of essential oils.

  • Citra: Nowadays it is the most cultivated hop variety in the world, surpassing even Cascade. Its profile is mainly citrus, resin, and tropical fruits, and overall has a very balanced profile: in terms of flavor, citrus and resin predominate. In terms of aroma, tropical fruit is more predominant. It is also a very high-yielding hop due to its high content of linalool, a very soluble essential oil.
  • Galaxy: This hop variety is characterized for having a high amount of essential oils. Its profile is mostly fruity (passion fruit, peach). In terms of flavor and aroma, it is usually intense when the beer is fresh but tends to fade when maturing for long periods of time

How to use

  • Citra: If added during the boil, whirlpool, or hopstand, citrus notes of lime and grapefruit will predominate, whereas if added when cold (dry hopping, for example) the profile will be more on the side of tropical fruit, mainly mango and passion fruit.
  • Galaxy: It can be used at any time during the brewing process, although it is best to add it during the whirlpool or during fermentation to take advantage of its high content of essential oils.

Cascade and Centennial

These hops have a very similar profile to each other. They are usually used in any variety of malty beer in small quantities. In the world of hoppy beers we can use them in west coast IPAs, preferably.

  • Cascade: Up until 2018, Cascade was the most cultivated hop in the world. It has a very similar profile to Centennial but is a little less intense and not so high-yielding, so it is used in beers of malty character when we are not looking for the hops to be predominant
  • Centennial: This type of hop is used in almost all beer styles. Its profile is predominantly floral, resinous, earthy, and citric, the latter being much more intense in aroma than in flavor.

How to use

  • Cascade: This variety is not very high-yielding during the boil and whirlpool so it is used mostly in dry hopping for its characteristic citrus aroma of grapefruit.
  • Centennial: When added during the whirlpool, the floral, earthy, and spicy characteristics will be better exploited, whereas dry hopping makes the citrus aroma stand out more.

Centennial and Columbus

This combination of hops works very well for beers like American pale ale or west coast IPAs.

  • Centennial: This type of hop is used in almost all beer styles. Its profile is predominantly floral, resinous, earthy, and citric, the latter being much more intense in aroma than in flavor.
  • Columbus: Generally used for bitterness and aroma, its high content of alpha acids has pigeonholed it as a bittering hop, but if we allow ourselves to use it for flavor and aroma we will discover that it has intensity with a herbal and spicy profile to it.

 How to use

  • Centennial: When added during the whirlpool, the floral, earthy, and spicy characteristics will be better exploited, whereas dry hopping makes the citrus aroma stand out more.
  • Columbus: It can be used during the boil to add bitterness, but when used in late additions such as hopstand or dry hopping, we will extract a very potent herbal and spicy profile from it.

Amarillo and Centennial

These hops complement each other very well as they have quite different profiles but share similar floral notes which are perfect for styles like American ales.

  • Amarillo: This variety is a little different from the rest. It is characterized by having a very predominant tropical fruit and floral profile without almost any resin and pine notes, and it is a delicate hop to use because it is not very intense in terms of aroma, and in case of bad handling of the finished beer we will have an almost complete loss of those aromas.
  • Centennial: This type of hop is used in almost all beer styles. Its profile is predominantly floral, resinous, earthy, and citric, the latter being much more intense in aroma than in flavor.

How to use

  • Amarillo: It offers a much more powerful flavor profile than aroma profile, so it is more efficiently used in whirlpool or hopstand, but it can still be used at any time. 
  • Centennial: When added during the whirlpool, the floral, earthy, and spicy characteristics will be better exploited, whereas dry hopping makes the citrus aroma stand out more.

Centennial and Chinook

This combination of hops is mostly used in American IPAs and pale ales because of the citrus and resinous notes they share.

  • Centennial: This type of hop is used in almost all beer styles. Its profile is predominantly floral, resinous, earthy, and citric, the latter being much more intense in aroma than in flavor.
  • Chinook: This variety offers a unique balance between resin, pine, and citrus, like grapefruit and lemon. At first, it was used only for introducing bitterness, but recently a lot of brewers have been using it for aroma as well.

How to use

  • Centennial: When added during the whirlpool, the floral, earthy, and spicy characteristics will be better exploited, whereas dry hopping makes the citrus aroma stand out more.
  • Chinook: You can use it at the beginning of the boil to take advantage of its bittering characteristics, but you must take into account its intense pine and resin profile which is extracted during this stage. If you prefer to take advantage of its citric side you should use it in late additions.

El Dorado and Mosaic

This is an excellent combination to use in new world IPAs as both varieties have an intensely fruity and citrus profile which makes them perfect for a NEIPA, for example.

  • El Dorado: This hop variety is characterized by having a very slight resin, pine, and herbal flavor to it, with the aroma profile being predominantly of pineapple and citrus notes. 
  • Mosaic: It is one of the most intense hops in terms of aroma and also one of the highest yielding ones. It should be used in small proportions with respect to other hops because it is very invasive. In terms of flavor and aroma, it is dominated by resin, citrus, and fruity notes and is ideal for homebrewing because it withstands oxidation quite well.

How to use

  • El Dorado: This hop variety has very high aromatic characteristics due to its large amount of essential oils. That’s why it is mostly used during the fermentation stages either in cold or hot dry hopping.
  • Mosaic: Usually used in hot and cold dry hopping but should not be added in whirlpool as it will add too much of a resin flavor.

Chinook and Cascade

These hops combine very well for styles such as American IPAs where we seek to highlight flavors such as resin and pine, as well as citrus and fruit aromas.

  • Chinook: This variety offers a unique balance between resin, pine, and citrus, like grapefruit and lemon. At first, it was used only for introducing bitterness, but recently a lot of brewers have been using it for aroma as well.
  • Cascade: Up until 2018, Cascade was the most cultivated hop in the world. It has a very similar profile to Centennial but is a little less intense and not so high-yielding, so it is used in beers of malty character when we are not looking for the hops to be predominant

How to use

  • Chinook: You can use it at the beginning of the boil to take advantage of its bittering characteristics, but you must take into account its intense pine and resin profile which is extracted during this stage. If you prefer to take advantage of its citric side you should use it in late additions.
  • Cascade: This variety is not very high-yielding during the boil and whirlpool so it is used mostly in dry hopping for its characteristic citrus aroma of grapefruit.

Galaxy and Mosaic

These hops combine very well with styles from the west coast IPA and American ale family.

  • Galaxy: This hop variety is characterized for having a high amount of essential oils. Its profile is mostly fruity (passion fruit, peach). In terms of flavor and aroma, it is usually intense when the beer is fresh but tends to fade when maturing for long periods of time
  • Mosaic: It is one of the most intense hops in terms of aroma and also one of the highest yielding ones. It should be used in small proportions with respect to other hops because it is very invasive. In terms of flavor and aroma, it is dominated by resin, citrus, and fruity notes and is ideal for homebrewing because it withstands oxidation quite well.

How to use

  • Galaxy: It can be used at any time during the brewing process, although it is best to add it during the whirlpool or during fermentation to take advantage of its high content of essential oils.
  • Mosaic: Usually used in hot and cold dry hopping but should not be added in whirlpool as it will add too much of a resin flavor.

Chinook and Simcoe

This combination is widely used in West Coast IPAs as both varieties share the characteristic citrus and resinous profile that is sought after in these styles.

  • Chinook: This variety offers a unique balance between resin, pine, and citrus, like grapefruit and lemon. At first, it was used only for introducing bitterness, but recently a lot of brewers have been using it for aroma as well.
  • Simcoe: It is the main hop used when brewing west coast IPAs. It adds predominantly citrus, tropical fruit (apricot, peach), and resin notes in both flavor and aroma.

How to use

  • Chinook: You can use it at the beginning of the boil to take advantage of its bittering characteristics, but you must take into account its intense pine and resin profile which is extracted during this stage. If you prefer to take advantage of its citric side you should use it in late additions.
  • Simcoe: It can be added at any time: Using it at the end of the boil gives us a resin and pine profile without so much of the tropical fruit aroma. Whirlpool additions provide a citrus and pine profile, and in dry hop, it gives us a mainly fruity profile.

Cascade and Simcoe

By combining these hop varieties we will get a flavor and aroma profile that we look for in styles like American and West Coast IPAs.

  • Cascade: Up until 2018, Cascade was the most cultivated hop in the world. It has a very similar profile to Centennial but is a little less intense and not so high-yielding, so it is used in beers of malty character when we are not looking for the hops to be predominant
  • Simcoe: It is the main hop used when brewing west coast IPAs. It adds predominantly citrus, tropical fruit (apricot, peach), and resin notes in both flavor and aroma.

How to use

  • Cascade: This variety is not very high-yielding during the boil and whirlpool so it is used mostly in dry hopping for its characteristic citrus aroma of grapefruit.
  • Simcoe: It can be added at any time: Using it at the end of the boil gives us a resin and pine profile without so much of the tropical fruit aroma. Whirlpool additions provide a citrus and pine profile, and in dry hop, it gives us a mainly fruity profile.

Centennial and Citra

These hop varieties when put together in dry hopping additions leave us with a fruity and citric profile that combine very well in styles such as NEIPA, hazy IPA, juicy IPA, etc.

  • Centennial: This type of hop is used in almost all beer styles. Its profile is predominantly floral, resinous, earthy, and citric, the latter being much more intense in aroma than in flavor.
  • Citra: Nowadays it is the most cultivated hop variety in the world, surpassing even Cascade. Its profile is mainly citrus, resin, and tropical fruits, and overall has a very balanced profile: in terms of flavor, citrus and resin predominate. In terms of aroma, tropical fruit is more predominant. It is also a very high-yielding hop due to its high content of linalool, a very soluble essential oil.

How to use

  • Centennial: When added during the whirlpool, the floral, earthy, and spicy characteristics will be better exploited, whereas dry hopping makes the citrus aroma stand out more.
  • Citra: If added during the boil, whirlpool, or hopstand, citrus notes of lime and grapefruit will predominate, whereas if added when cold (dry hopping, for example) the profile will be more on the side of tropical fruit, mainly mango and passion fruit.

What is IBU and what does it represent?

The IBU (International Bitterness Unit) is a value that quantifies the bitterness of beer. It represents the amount of dissolved alpha-acids, so 1 IBU is equivalent to 1 milligram of alpha-acid per liter of beer.

Something very important to take into account when calculating this is the moment to add the hops, since the optimum moment to extract all the possible bitterness is 60 minutes before the end of the boil, on the other hand if what we want is to take advantage of the aromas, the addition should be done 10 minutes before the end of the boil.

That said, how do you calculate IBU? It would be very simple if you just take into account the Alpha Acids that a hop variety has and how much of it is added to the beer. Then, at the final liters of boil, calculate the grams of AA according to the percentage of AA.

Now, if we want to make a more accurate calculation, we must calculate the amount of AA that is isomerized in the must, for this we must add to the equation the utilization coefficient. To measure this coefficient the most used method is the one created by Randy Mosher.

It is a graph formed by curves that relates the minutes of boiling with the characteristics of the hops used.

Conclusion

As I said before, all the information provided throughout the article is based on my experience and that of colleagues who have been in the field for a long time testing and analyzing the sensory profile of each hop and its combinations. Although this can be of great help, it is always recommended to experiment for yourself as there are many variables that will modify the hop profiles in your beer.

For example, the year and place of harvest, the time the bag has been open, the moment in which we add the hops, since the same variety can give us different profiles in boiling, whirlpool or dry hopping.

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