Citra Hops Growing

Citra Hops: A Comprehensive Guide to Flavor and Brewing Techniques

Citra Hops has taken the craft beer world by storm, with its unique flavor and aroma profiles. This high-alpha acid hop variety has a strong yet smooth blend of floral and citrus characteristics. Specific aroma descriptors for Citra include grapefruit, citrus, peach, melon, lime, gooseberry, passion fruit, and lychee. With these tropical fruit flavors, Citra has become a popular choice for craft brewers worldwide.

Hops cones on plant.

Bred by the Hop Breeding Company, Citra owes its success to the explosion of craft breweries and the resurgence of craft beer culture. Its citrus-forward and deliciously floral aroma has made it a favorite among both brewers and beer lovers alike. Whether used as a bittering or aroma hop, Citra has proven its versatility and its ability to elevate various beer styles.

Key Takeaways

  • Citra Hops is a popular high-alpha acid hop with a unique blend of floral and citrus characteristics
  • Owing to its diverse aroma profile, Citra has become a favorite among craft brewers and beer lovers
  • Citra Hops can be used effectively for both bittering and aroma to create distinct beer styles

Citra Hops Overview

Citra Hops Growing
Citra hop farming in Canyon County, Idaho, USA

Citra hops, patented as Citra® Brand HBC 394 CV, were developed by the Hop Breeding Company (HBC) as a response to the growing demand from craft brewers for unique hop flavors and aromas. The Citra hops were first introduced in 2008 and quickly gained popularity because of their distinctive citrus flavor profile.

The Hop Breeding Company is a joint venture between John I. Haas and Select Botanicals Group. HBC came into existence with the aim to develop new, innovative hop varieties in response to evolving brewer needs. The Citra hop was born as a result of the collaboration between hop farmer Jason Perrault and breeder Gene Probasco.

Citra hops, also known by their specific cultivar HBC 394, were created through a cross-pollination of three different hops: Brewer’s Gold, East Kent Golding, and Hallertau Mittelfrüh. The unique combination resulted in a hop that boasts flavors and aromas of grapefruit, lime, and tropical fruits.

In recent years, Citra hops have become the most popular hop used in American craft beers. With a significant growth rate, they now account for nearly 20% of hop production in the United States. The trend is driven by the increasing demand from craft breweries that seek distinct hop varieties to enhance the taste and aroma of the beer.

The Citra hop is not only sought after for its unique flavor profile but also for its versatility in the brewing process. Despite its high alpha acids, many brewers advise against using this particular hop variety for bittering, as it can result in a harsh and undesirable flavor.

Craft brewers have found countless ways to incorporate Citra hops into beer recipes, ranging from IPAs to pale ales, stouts, and lagers. The continued growth of Citra hops shows the ongoing innovation and experimentation in the world of craft brewing, as well as the importance of hop breeding and development in supporting the industry.

Aroma and Flavor Profile

Citra hops are a popular dual-purpose hop variety, known for their distinct aroma and flavor profile. These hops offer a strong yet smooth citrus and floral aroma, making them a sought-after choice for brewers. Characterized by an impressive range of citrus, berry, and tropical fruit flavors, Citra hops are widely used to enhance the taste and fragrance of various beer styles.

The prominent aroma descriptors include grapefruit, citrus, peach, melon, lime, gooseberry, passion fruit, and lychee. This multifaceted aroma profile is attributed to the high myrcene content in Citra hops, providing a delightful bouquet infused into the finished beer. Alongside the refreshing citrus notes, these hops also deliver more subtle berry tones, such as blackberry and gooseberry.

In terms of flavor, Citra hops contribute a unique combination of tropical fruit flavors like mango and pineapple, as well as the more pronounced grapefruit and lime undertones. The versatile nature of Citra hops is not just limited to their aroma and flavor – they can also be used in all hop additions during the brewing process.

Despite their high alpha acids content (11-13%), it is essential to exercise caution when using Citra hops for bittering. Some brewers find the bitterness too harsh and undesirable, and might opt to use other hop varieties for this purpose. Nevertheless, the exceptional aroma and flavor profile of Citra hops make them an irresistible choice for brewers crafting aromatic and flavorful beers with a citra-centric character.

Bittering and Brewing Values

Citra Hops are widely known for their unique flavor and aroma characteristics, which include grapefruit, melon, lime, gooseberry, passion fruit, and lychee. Despite being classified as an “aroma hop,” Citra can also serve as a bittering hop due to its alpha acid content, which usually ranges from 11% to 13%. The relatively low cohumulone content (22%-24% of alpha acids) further supports its use as a bittering hop.

In comparison to noble hops, which typically have low alpha acids and high beta acids, Citra hops have a higher alpha acid content and lower beta acids, making them more suitable for bittering. They also have a total oil content that is considerably higher than that of most noble hops, which contributes to their strong aroma and flavor profile. The oil composition in Citra hops includes myrcene, caryophyllene, farnesene, and humulene. These compounds give rise to the hop’s unique fruity and citrusy aroma, setting it apart from other aroma varieties.

Other popular hops used in brewing, such as Centennial, Mosaic®, and Simcoe®, have their distinct brewing values and flavor profiles. For instance, Centennial hops are known for their floral and citrusy notes, whereas Mosaic hops impart tropical and fruity flavors. Simcoe hops, on the other hand, are known for their piney and earthy characteristics. These hops can be used for both bittering and aroma, similar to Citra hops, but each with their unique characteristics.

Citra hops also contain two important aroma compounds: linalool and geraniol. Linalool is a terpene alcohol that contributes to the hop’s floral and citrusy aroma, while geraniol, a monoterpene, adds to the fruity and floral notes. These compounds, along with the other oils present in Citra hops, play a crucial role in determining the hop’s overall flavor and aroma profile.

Citra Hops in Beer Styles

Citra hops have made a significant impact on the craft brewing scene, particularly in IPAs and American Ales. Known for their intense citrus flavors and fruity aromas, Citra hops have become a go-to choice for many craft brewers seeking to create a unique and refreshing beer.

One notable example of Citra hops in an IPA is Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo Extra IPA, which features a blend of Citra, East Kent Goldings, and Crystal hops. This bold American IPA showcases Citra’s distinctive citrus and tropical fruit character. Another popular IPA featuring Citra hops is Deschutes Brewery’s Fresh Squeezed IPA. Balancing the bitterness with fruity, citrus notes from the Citra and Amarillo hops, Deschutes has crafted an easy-drinking yet flavorful IPA.

Citra hops have also found their way into other beer styles, such as American Pale Ales and Double IPAs. In the world of American Pale Ales, Three Floyds’ Zombie Dust stands out for its exclusive use of Citra hops, offering bright citrus and tropical fruit flavors accompanied by a moderate, pleasing bitterness. Similarly, Widmer Brothers Brewing has utilized Citra hops in their experimental X-114 IPA, bringing out strong citrus, pine, and tropical fruit notes.

Aside from IPAs and American Ales, Citra hops have been increasingly used in various beer styles, such as Amber Ales, American Wild Ales, and even Imperial IPAs. Citra hops’ versatility allows brewers to experiment with various combinations and blends with other hop varieties like CTZ and Yakima Valley hops, resulting in unique and exciting new flavors.

Washington State is known for producing quality hops, with Citra being a prime example grown in the Yakima Valley region. Their high alpha acid content—typically ranging between 11-15%—allows them to be used effectively in bittering, flavor, and aroma additions during the brewing process. Craft breweries have embraced Citra hops as a staple in their beer recipes, leading to a surge in demand and continued innovation in the craft brewing scene.

Growing and Harvesting Citra Hops

Citra hops, known for their citrusy aroma and flavor, have gained popularity in the craft beer industry. These hops are relatively easy to grow and harvest, with specific care required to ensure high-quality yield and resistance to diseases.

To cultivate Citra hops, start by selecting a location with well-draining soil and access to full sun exposure for optimal growth. Hops are vigorous perennials and can grow up to a foot per day during their peak season. It’s essential to provide a robust trellis system to support the bines as they grow and climb.

When it comes to diseases, Citra hops can be susceptible to powdery mildew and verticillium wilt. To minimize these risks, regularly prune the lower leaves and maintain good air circulation around the plants. Additionally, monitor the soil’s moisture levels to prevent excessive wetness, which can promote disease growth. Apart from these concerns, Citra is generally resistant to common pests.

Harvesting Citra hops is relatively straightforward. The maturity of the cones is the primary indicator of when to harvest. Look for signs such as a slight browning of the cone tips, a strong, pleasing aroma, and a dry, papery texture. Upon maturity, cones should be hand-picked or mechanically harvested for commercial production.

One noteworthy aroma characteristic of Citra hops is their mango-like scent, a unique and desirable feature in the world of beer. To preserve this quality, proper storage is crucial. After harvesting, the hops should be dried quickly and stored in a cool, dark environment in vacuum-sealed bags to retain their aroma, flavor, and brewing potential.

Other Hop Varieties and Comparisons

Citra hops have gained significant popularity in recent years due to their intensely citrusy aroma and flavor. There are, however, other hop varieties that exhibit different characteristics and can be used in combination with or as alternatives to Citra hops.

Galaxy hops, for instance, are a popular Australian variety known for possessing a tropical fruit profile with notes of passion fruit, peach, and citrus. While they can be used alongside Citra hops for a more pronounced fruitiness in the beer, they also work well as a standalone hop, providing a unique flavor profile that differentiates them from Citra.

Melissa Golden hops are another variety that brewers might consider when exploring alternatives or complements to Citra hops. These hops feature a combination of herbal, spicy, and woody characteristics, giving beer a more earthy and complex flavor profile. They may not be as citrus-forward as their Citra counterparts, but they can add an interesting depth to the overall taste of a beer when used strategically.

Herbal hops, as the name suggests, provide an herbal and sometimes spicy quality to beer. These varieties can be an excellent addition to Citra hops when looking for a more balanced flavor profile. By combining the citrusy notes of Citra with the herbal and spicy characteristics of these hops, brewers can create a harmonious blend of flavors that cater to a wider range of palates.

In contrast, sweet and aromatic hops can enhance the fruitiness and aromatic qualities of a Citra-hopped beer. These hop varieties contribute gentle sweetness and subtle floral notes that complement the fruity nature of Citra hops without overpowering the beer’s flavor profile.

Lastly, hops with melon profiles, such as Huell Melon or Belma, bring a different kind of fruitiness to the table. With flavors reminiscent of cantaloupe, honeydew, or even strawberry, these melon-like hops can be combined with or used in place of Citra to create a more diverse and surprisingly refreshing fruit-forward beer experience.


Citra hops have become a popular choice for brewers, especially in the crafting of IPAs. Originating from the United States, Citra hops are now among the most grown hop varieties in the country1. Their popularity stems from their distinct flavor and aroma profiles, which are characterized by notes of grapefruit, lime, tropical fruit, and lychee2.

The successful development and growing interest in craft breweries have led to a surge in demand for new aroma and flavor hops3. Citra hops stand out in this category, earning a reputation as one of the most citrusy aroma hops in the world of beer. Their unique tropical fruit flavors and strong, yet smooth floral and citrus aroma make them a favored ingredient among craft brewers4.

As a dual-purpose hop, Citra’s oil breakdown varies from year to year and farm to farm. However, based on research, typical values include a high alpha acid content, which contributes to both the bitterness and the aroma of the beer5. This versatility, combined with their appealing flavor profile, has earned Citra a special place in the hearts of brewers and beer enthusiasts alike.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the flavor profile of Citra hops?

Citra hops are known for their intense floral and citrus aroma, bringing a distinct fruity and acidic flavor to the beers. They are popular in various beer styles, particularly in pale ales and IPAs, where they give a unique edge to their taste. Citra hops can impart flavors of tropical fruits, stone fruits, and citrus notes, making them a highly sought-after variety.

How are Citra hops utilized in brewing?

Brewers commonly use Citra hops for both flavor and aroma additions during the brewing process. They can be added during the boil or used for dry hopping to enhance the beer’s aroma and taste. Citra hops are particularly effective in late boil additions or whirlpool additions, where their high alpha acid and oil content contribute to distinct tropical and citrus notes.

What sets Citra hops apart from other hop varieties?

Citra hops, released in 2007, have quickly become one of the most popular hop varieties, especially for craft brewers. What sets them apart is their high alpha acid and total oil content, accompanied by a low percentage of co-humulone, which results in a smooth bitterness. Their distinct citrus, stone fruit, tropical, and woody aroma profile makes them a favorite among brewers and beer lovers alike.

What are some common beer styles featuring Citra hops?

Citra hops are primarily featured in pale ales, IPAs, and New England IPAs, where their fruity and acidic flavors shine. Additionally, they are sometimes used in other styles like lagers, sours, or wheat beers to add a tropical twist or a hint of citrus character. Their versatility and unique flavor profile make them an excellent choice for various beer styles.

Can you recommend a substitute for Citra hops?

Although Citra hops have a distinct flavor profile, some alternatives can be used if they are unavailable. Substitutes like Mosaic, Simcoe, or Galaxy hops can provide similar tropical and citrus notes. However, the specific flavor characteristics of each substitute might vary, so it’s essential to consider the desired outcome when choosing a replacement.

How do Citra hops impact the aroma of a beer?

Citra hops have a strong influence on a beer’s aroma due to their high oil content and unique combination of citrus, tropical, and stone fruit notes. When used for dry hopping or late boil additions, they can impart a pleasant and vibrant aroma that is instantly recognizable and highly sought after in many beer styles. The rich, fruity character provided by Citra hops is often associated with freshness and can significantly enhance a beer’s overall sensory experience.

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