If you’re a lover of beer and of producing your own homebrews, you’ve come to the right place. As you well know, hops are one of the most essential ingredients to making a delicious homebrew with the perfect ratio of bitterness to sweetness. Comet hops are rarely used in the commercial production of beer, but it’s a favorite of homebrewers. It features a strong grapefruit flavor and is extremely high in alpha content.
In this article, we’re going to look more in-depth at Comet hops, how it’s used, and how you can even grow it yourself.
Comet Hops History
Comet hops was first released in 1974 by the USDA with a goal to address the need for higher alpha hops. Due to the high alpha content, Comet was traditionally used as a bittering hop, which is primarily what led to its downfall. While it’s rarely used in commercial production and hard to get a hold of, it’s recently become a favorite for brewing lagers, dry ales, and IPA’s.
Comet is most noteworthy for its grapefruit and citrus flavors, along with some uniquely grassy flavors. It’s become known as having a “wild American” aroma and flavor, which leads most to either love or hate Comet. It’s also considered a dual-purpose hop that can be used in all aspects of brewing.
Brewing Values of Comet Hops
Here are a few of the noteworthy brewing values possessed by comet hops.
- Alpha Acid: 8-12.4%
Alpha acid is the main source of bitterness found in beer, and you must boil longer if you want to decrease bitterness.
- Beta Acid: 3-6.1%
Although it’s an acid like alpha, beta doesn’t contribute to bitterness. Rather it produces aromatic and flavorful properties essential to creating a tasty brew.
- Alpha to Beta Ratio 1:1 – 4:1
This ratio determines how bitter your homebrew will be. The more alpha you have, the more bitter it will be. The more beta you have, the less bitter it will be. 1:1 ratios are the most common for producing an aromatic beer.
- Hop Storage Index: 33%
The HSI shows what percent of alpha and beta you can expect to lose after storing Comet at room temperature for six months.
- Co-Humolone as % of Alpha: 34-45%
The more co-humulone you add during the boiling process, the sharper the bitterness of your beer.
- It also contains many different oils.
The oils contained in Comet are highly volatile and easily boiled off if desired. However, before you get carried away with the boiling process, the oils add dynamic flavor and aroma if you add them late in the boiling or fermentation process. Myrcene, humulene, caryophyllene, and farnesene are the main oils in Comet.
Beer Styles That Use Comet Hops
Traditionally, Comet was only used in ales and lagers. However, they’ve recently become popular for use in IPAs.
Beers That You Can Buy That Use Comet Hops
If you want to try a few samples that contain Comet hops before taking the plunge yourself, here’s some homework for you. (It’s extremely tasty homework, I might add.)
- Frenchies the Forgotten Hops Pale Ale
- Industrial Arts Impact Wrench Imperial IPA
- Crafted Thru Hops: An IPA Mixed Pack
It’s always best to sample a few products before committing to a new breed of hops.
Common Substitutions For Comet Hops
Because Comet was mostly phased out in the 1980s and 90s, it can be difficult to get a hold of. If you’ve searched high and low and can’t seem to locate Comet, here are a few substitutions that are commonly used in its place.
Comet is also available in lupulin powder form if you’re unable to locate the pellets and don’t want a substitution. It’s recommended that you only use half as much powder as you would pellets.
Tips For Growing Your Own Comet Hops
For those of you who are adventurous to take on the challenge of growing your own hops, this is the section for you. Hops are noteworthy plants that grow up to 20 feet tall, which means that you need to plan carefully. Here are some tips and tricks, as well as some valuable information for growing Comet hops at home.
Hops are plants that are even thirstier than you will be while you’re concocting your first batch with Comet. They require large amounts of water, especially in the first several years of growth. You should provide enough water so that your plant is never dry, but not so much that there will be standing water. The last thing you want to do is drown your brand new Comet hops.
Hops of all kinds also need sunlight in order to grow. You should plant them in an area that gets 4-6 hours of sunlight per day.
Soil is one of the most important elements to producing healthy Comet hops. They should be planted in soil with a pH level of 6 to 7.5. The soil should have excellent drainage. It’s also a good idea to add a shovelful of compost for every spot that you plant a Comet rhizome. You should also add several handfuls of mycorrhizal inoculum, a blend of fungi and plant roots designed to increase nutrient uptake and help your plant grow tall and strong.
Hardiness zones 3-8 are the best zones for growing most types of hops. Comet is no exception.
Unless you have a greenhouse with 20-30 foot tall ceilings, hops have to be grown outdoors. They might start small, but they grow upwards of 20 feet tall and can live for 25 to 50 years.
Where To Purchase Comet Hops
Comet hops went out of style for a time, but it’s back with a vengeance. As a result, most growers run out of stock fairly early because there simply aren’t enough growers for the demand. However, there’s a fair chance that you can find it at Yakima Chief.
Why Comet hops went out of style in the 80s and 90s is difficult to fathom. It’s one of the most popular hop choices as of late, and it’s only gaining in popularity. If you’re new to home brewing or a veteran at the art, you will do well to give Comet hops a try for your next IPA, pale ale, lager, or ale. Good luck and happy brewing!