What are the 3 C’s of hops?

Answered by Vince Keith

The “Three Cs” of refer to a trio of hop varieties that share similar characteristics and are widely used in . These hops are Centennial, Cascade, and Columbus, although some brewers also include Chinook in this group.

Centennial hops, as the name suggests, are one of the three Cs. They were first bred in the late 1970s and released in 1990. Centennial hops are known for their versatility and are often used for both bittering and aroma in a wide variety of styles. They have a moderate alpha acid content, typically ranging from 9% to 12%, making them suitable for both early and late hop additions in the brewing process.

In terms of flavor and aroma, Centennial hops are characterized by their citrusy, floral, and slightly spicy notes. They can contribute a pleasant grapefruit-like aroma and a balanced bitterness to the finished beer. I have personally used Centennial hops in several pale ales and IPAs, and they have always added a delightful citrus punch to the beer.

Cascade hops, another member of the Three Cs, are perhaps the most well-known and widely used hop variety in craft brewing. They were first developed in the 1970s and released in 1972. Cascade hops are most commonly associated with American-style pale ales and IPAs, but they can also be used in other beer styles to add a unique character.

Cascade hops have a lower alpha acid content compared to Centennial, usually ranging from 4% to 7%. This makes them more suitable for late hop additions and dry hopping, where they can impart their distinctive floral, spicy, and citrusy aroma. The aroma of Cascade hops is often described as reminiscent of grapefruit or floral perfume. I have used Cascade hops extensively in my brewing, and they never fail to add a bright and refreshing aroma to the finished beer.

Columbus hops, sometimes referred to as Tomahawk or Zeus, complete the trio of the Three Cs. Developed in the early 2000s, Columbus hops are known for their high alpha acid content, typically ranging from 14% to 18%. This makes them primarily used for bittering purposes, especially in hop-forward beer styles like IPAs and double IPAs.

In terms of flavor and aroma, Columbus hops can contribute a pungent, resinous, and slightly spicy character. They are often described as having a “dank” or “earthy” quality, which can add a unique depth to the hop profile of a beer. While Columbus hops are not as widely used for their aroma as Centennial or Cascade, they can still add some complexity when used in smaller quantities in late hop additions.

To summarize, the “Three Cs” of hops are Centennial, Cascade, and Columbus. These hops share similar characteristics and are widely used in the brewing industry. Centennial hops offer versatility with their citrusy and floral notes, Cascade hops bring a distinctive floral and citrus aroma, and Columbus hops provide a pungent and resinous character. Each hop variety contributes its own unique flavors and aromas, making them beloved choices for brewers looking to create a wide range of beer styles.