Hops cones on a barrel.

Cascade Hops

Often considered one of the forefathers of American hops, Cascade has long been one of the quintessential hop varieties. It was the first hop to come out of the USDA hop breeding program, and it’s been a headliner ever since. Before Cascade came along, hops were only used for their bitterness. Cascade, however, changed all that and was largely responsible for the craft beer revolution. Until Citra hops surpassed it in 2018, Cascade had been the most used hop in the beer industry.

Hops cones on top of a barrel.

History and Origin of Cascade Hops

Cascade is a cultivar of hops developed in the USDA breeding program at Oregon State University by Dr. Stanley Nelson Brooks and Jack Horner. Developed during the 1960s, it was released as one of the first American aroma varieties in 1971. Cascade originated from an open seed collection in 1956 that included English Fuggle, Russian Serebrianker, and an unspecified male hop variety. Cascade is the best and most popular hop to come out of the open seed collection.

Cascade is named after the Cascade Mountain Range in Oregon in honor of the state of its creation. While it isn’t quite as popular as it once was, Cascade still represents around 10% of all hops grown worldwide.

Hops cones growing on a plant.

General Characteristics

Cascade develops large, green cones that are fairly high in alpha acid content. While originally grown only in the United States, Cascade is now grown in Canada, South America, Tasmania, and Australia. It’s considered a dual-purpose hop thanks to its combination of bitterness and outstanding flavor and aroma profile.

Flavor & Aroma Profile

Cascade is mostly defined by its citrusy and grapefruit flavors while imparting spicy and floral qualities. It also produces a medium bitterness that gives beers it’s added to a slight bite.

Overhead view of a glass container of dried hops pellets.

Brewing Values of Cascade Hops

Here are the brewing values for Cascade hops. Keep in mind that every year produces different quantities and qualities of Cascade, so these numbers are based on what is usually produced.

  • Alpha Acid – 5-8%

Alpha acids are the primary source of bitterness for beer, and the longer you boil Cascade hops, the more bitter it will be.

  • Beta Acid – 5-7.5%

Beta acid might have acid in the name, but it doesn’t contribute to a beer’s bitterness, unlike Alpha. Betas’ purpose is to contribute flavor and aroma profile to a beer.

  • Alpha-Beta Ratio – 1:1 – 2:1

The ratio you use for adding Alpha and beta acids will determine how bitter your brew is.

  • Co-humulone as % of Alpha – 30-40%

The lower the cohumulone % is, the less bitter your beer will be. Higher levels will result in a more bitter taste.

  • Total Oils 0.7-2.5 mL

Oils will also add flavor and aroma to the final product. Here are the different oils used with Cascade hops.

  • Myrcene – 45-60%
  • Humulene – 14-20%
  • Caryophyllene – 5-9%
  • Farnesene – 6-9%
  • All Other Oils – 2-30%

Beer Styles That Use Cascade Hops

Throughout its long and storied career, Cascade has been used in a variety of beer styles, including:

  • American Ale
  • IPA
  • Porter
  • Barleywine
  • Witbier
  • Pale Ale
  • Blonde, red, and amber ales
Glass of dark beer.  Cascade hops are used to make dark beer, such as porters.

Beers That You Can Buy That Use Cascade Hops

Cascade is most famously and widely used in Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale and historically in Coors Light. While it’s no longer used in Coors, it is still used in Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale and the following:

  • Mirror Pond Pale Ale from Deschutes Brewing Co.
  • Old Foghorn Barleywine from Anchor Brewing Co.
  • Sierra Nevada Pale Ale from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
  • Liberty Ale from Anchor Brewing Co.
  • Harpoon IPA from Harpoon Brewing Co.

Common Substitutions For Cascade Hops

While Cascade should be readily available no matter where you are or what you’re brewing, here are a few acceptable substitutions you can use in its place.

  • Centennial
  • Ahtanum
  • Summit
  • Amarillo

How to Grow Your Own Cascade Hops

Have we got you curious and thirsty enough to try to grow your own Cascade hops yet? If so, here is some crucial information that you’ll need.

Woman holding handfuls of large, fresh hops cones.

Water

Like all hops, Cascade needs plenty of water, especially in the first two years of growth. Water Cascade regularly so that the soil remains moist but not flooded. You should be able to stick your finger two inches into the ground at all times and feel moisture.

Light

Cascade requires 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day. Full sun is ideal unless you live in warmer climates with high temperatures. Where the temperature is consistently in the 80s and 90s, your plant will need a mixture of sun and shade.

Soil

Sandy, well-drained loam soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0 is best for growing Cascade hops. You’ll want to plant your rhizome at least four inches deep in the ground and allow enough space for your plant’s roots to spread. Planting each Cascade hop plant 3 to 5 feet apart should be sufficient.

Zones

Hops plants are hardy and can thrive in hardiness zones 3 through 8. It’s best to plant Cascade hops between February and April because they can withstand cold temperatures for the most part. However, you want to avoid planting them until after the last frost of the year.

Rows of hops plants.

Pruning

Keep your hop plants trimmed to maintain good growth and reduce pests and diseases. Trimming is also key to keeping hop plants growing vertically instead of horizontally. If needed, use a pole or post to help train your plants to grow in a vertical direction. At times, you may need to also introduce a fungicide or herbicide into the hop growth process to keep mildew and pests at bay.

Outdoor

Cascade will grow to a height of 20-25 feet tall, so you’ll want to plant them outdoors. You should also provide a trellace or support system to aid them as they grow tall.

Where To Purchase Cascade Hops

If you’re ready to give Cascade a shot and want to add it to your next homebrew, you can purchase the pellets here.

Final Thoughts About Cascade Hops

Hops cones growing on a plant in sunlight.

Cascade truly is one of the founding fathers of dual-purpose hops. Until it was cultivated, hops were reserved for bitterness rather than flavor and aroma. Even today, it’s still in the top two in terms of popularity. The only thing more remarkable than how widely it’s used is how many other hop varieties have Cascade to thank for their existence. For this reason, Cascade is considered one of the greatest American hops of all time.

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