Closeup of hops cones on a plant.

Nugget Hops

The one aspect of a brew that many beer drinkers learn to appreciate is its bitterness. I think many of us can remember the sour face we made when we had our first sip of beer. But over time, you come to appreciate bitterness as a vital part of the overall beer experience. All beers have some degree of bitterness, which serves to balance out the other flavors in the brew. And for over 50 years, Nugget Hops are generally viewed as one of the best bittering hops.

But, these hops also provide a pleasant aroma giving the beer a very earthy, floral, and herbal finish. While this may sound a bit confusing for some, once you take your first sip of a Nugget hops beer, it all makes perfect sense.

Pint glasses of beer on a pub or bar table.

History of Nugget Hops

Nugget is one of the earliest “super-alpha” hops in the U.S. It was first bred in 1970 in Oregon hopyards, and its lineage includes some Early Green, Brewers Gold, and Canterbury Goldings. Nugget was released commercially via a 1983 USDA breeding program. While it was initially developed to serve as a bittering hop, it found its place among today’s craft brewers as a dual-purpose hop.

Where Nugget hops are grown

Most commercial hops production in the U.S. takes place in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. However, home growers can grow these varieties in USDA Hardiness zones 3-8.

Flavor and Aroma Profile

The aroma profile for Nugget is very sweet and mild with a low-key, fruity herbal quality with a bit of fresh oregano, ginger, and rosemary.

Flavorwise, it has a resiny, woody, and bitter taste that’s good for balancing out the citrus and floral notes in other hops.

Closeup of hops cones growing on a plant.

Brewing Values of Nugget Hops

Here are the common ranges observed in Nugget hops over the last few years. Every year’s crop will yield slightly different results, so these ranges are purely based on history and may not reflect numbers found in future crops.

Alpha Acid Percentage

  • Range: 9.5-16 percent
  • Average: 12.8 percent

Beta Acid Percentage

  • Range: 3.0-5.8 percent
  • Average: 4.4 percent

Alpha-Beta Acid Ratio

  • Range: 2:1-5:1
  • Average: 3:1

Co-Humulone as Percentage of Alpha Acid

  • Range: 22-30 percent
  • Average: 26 percent

Total Oils (milliliter per 100 grams or mL/100g)

  • Range: 0.9-3.3 milliliter
  • Average: 2.1 milliliter

Complete Oil Breakdown

Humulene

  • Range: 12-22 percent
  • Average: 17 percent

Myrcene

  • Range: 48-59 percent
  • Average: 53.5 percent

Farnesene

  • Range: 0-1 percent
  • Average: 0.5 percent

Caryophyllene

  • Range: 7-10 percent
  • Average: 8.5 percent

All Others (Linalool, selinene, B-pinene, and geraniol)

  • Range: 8-33 percent

Beer Styles That Use Nugget Hops

Popular beer styles that use Nugget hops include Barleywine, Stout, Ale, Biere de Garde, Saison, and IPA.

Beers That You Can Buy That Use Nugget Hops

Here are a few American single-hop IPAs that use Nugget hops.

  • Tartastic by New Belgium Brewing Company
  • Golden Nugget IPA by Toppling Goliath Brewing Company
  • Autumn Nugget by Black Hog Brewing Company
  • Apricot Ale by Pyramid Brewing Company
Closeup of bottles of Pyramid Hefeweizen and Apricot Ale.  Nugget hops are used to make Pyramid's Apricot Ale beer.

Common Substitutions For Nugget Hops

Here are a few good substitute hops experienced brewers use in place of Nugget.

Tips For Growing Your Own Nugget Hops

Hops need deep, sandy, loam soil that has pH levels between 6-7.5. They thrive in full sun and are typically planted using rhizomes gathered during the root cutting process. By growing hops this way, you are guaranteed a female cone-bearing plant that will be a clone of a plant that’s a proven performer.

However, if you choose to grow from seed, you’ll grow a few male plants that will not bar cones and will also impact the female cones making them seedy, which isn’t a good thing for brewing.

You’ll need to plant your rhizomes in the Spring season after the last frost or when you can work your soil. You can also plant hops as late as June if you live in an area with cooler climates.

During planting, you want to ensure that the rhizomes’ bud eyes are pointing up, not down.

The first step is building a mound about six inches tall. Next, create a trench on the top of the mound and place the rhizome on its side. Then, cover it with one to two inches of soil and two to three inches of mulch.

The mulch will assist your soil in retaining needed moisture. But, while you do not want your hops to dry out, you also do not want them to have too much water. Overwatering can cause root rot.

Hops generally don’t require much fertilizer, but using some that contain higher concentrations of nitrogen and low phosphorus may benefit your hops plant. Many fruit tree fertilizer also has beneficial properties as well.

Trellising

Hops may grow up to 20 feet in a single season, meaning they require something sturdy to grow on. Something to keep in mind is that hops are not actually vines despite appearances. They are “bines.” Vines climb things using tendrils that reach out to grab onto an object. But, bines climb by wrapping around an object in a clockwise direction when growing in the northern hemisphere, and they grow counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere.

A sturdy and effective trellis consists of a ten-foot poll fitted with a few heavy-duty strings attached and stapled to the base of the rhizome.

It’s best to use rough twine such as hemp, as this material makes it much easier for bines to climb. Once the bines grow to one foot tall, start training them to grow on your trellis. To do this, wrap the vigorous shoots clockwise around your trellis or twine while allowing two bines per string. Finally, repeat the training at least three times about two weeks apart.

Hops bines twisting around a cord.

Pruning

During the winter season, usually around January or February, start brushing away dirt from your mound to prune your roots. These rootlets are how your hops spread. To best control them, you need to prune them back annually. The cuttings can also be used to propagate more hops further. Cut back the surface roots using a shape pruner or knife and leave the crown.

Harvesting

Before you begin harvesting, first, you’ll want to cut off any other shoots you can find and snip off low lateral branching. The hop bines always grow lateral branches, and this is where the cones will grow. Air circulation is crucial because it helps prevent the hops from catching Downy mildew.

It’s best to harvest in the months of August and September. You’ll know your cones are ready to harvest if they feel dry, springy, and a bit sticky to the touch. You’ll also be able to see yellow lupin. Now, an immature cone will have a moist feel and no strong aroma. It will also not bounce back into shape when you poke or squeeze it.

Person picking hops from a plant.

Where To Purchase Nugget Hops:

You can find Nugget hops pellets on Amazon, and you can find the plant hops on sites such as Starkbros or check your local nurseries.

Final Thoughts on Nugget Hops

Closeup of hops cones on a plant.

Nugget hops are great for adding a complex bitter flavor to balance out your more fruity and floral hops. But it also has its own sweet, herbal notes that have a woody quality with subtle ginger notes that are slightly spicy. These are great hops to add layers of flavors to your brew.

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