Best Hop Varieties for Brewing India Pale Ales

Want to know the best hop varieties for your next IPA? We cover some top choices and some tips and techniques to adapt the flavour profile.


Mat Stuckey

8/30/20235 min read

three filled glasses on gray surface
three filled glasses on gray surface

Best Hop Varieties for Brewing India Pale Ales

Crafting a flavourful India Pale Ale (IPA) is an art form that requires meticulous attention to detail, especially when it comes to selecting the ideal hop varieties. Given the plethora of hops available in the market, pinpointing the best types specifically for IPAs can be a daunting task.

This guide aims to simplify that process by exploring top-notch hop options tailored for each stage of the brewing process, from bittering to aroma and dry hopping.

Read on to uncover new and exciting hop varieties that will elevate your next IPA to new heights!

Key Takeaways

  • When brewing IPAs, select hops with aromatic intensity, sufficient alpha acids, smooth bitterness, and proven oil stability.

  • Hone in on top bittering choices like Columbus and Chinook for clean, smooth bitterness without flavour clash.

  • Find exciting flavour hop partners like Citra, Galaxy, Simcoe, and Mosaic to lend distinct aromas detectable in your final IPAs.

  • Maximise hop impact through heavy dry hopping with hardy, fruit-forward hops like Citra, Vic Secret, and Sabro.

  • Tailor IPA hop profiles using hops with pine, resinous, spicy, stone fruit or other specialty aromas.

  • Understand essential oil qualities of each addition. Bittering focuses on alphas, flavour on aroma without vegetal notes, and dry hopping spotlights stable, bright scents.

What Makes a Hop IPA-Worthy?

While it's true that almost any hop can find its place in an IPA recipe, there are certain characteristics that make some varieties particularly well-suited for this beer style. Understanding these traits can help you make informed decisions and ensure that the hops are the true stars of your IPA.

Key Traits for IPA-Suitable Hops:

  • Potent Aromas: One of the defining features of an IPA is its robust aroma. Hops with bold, fruit-forward, citrusy, piney, or resinous aromas are ideal. Subtler hops can easily get overpowered and lost in the mix.

  • High Alpha Acids: Alpha acid levels above 8% are generally recommended for IPAs. These higher levels allow for efficient, clean bittering without the need for large hop additions, making the brewing process more cost-effective.

  • Cohumulone Content: Lower cohumulone levels (below 30%) are desirable as they contribute to smoother bitterness perceptions. This also helps in reducing harsh polyphenols that can negatively impact the beer's taste.

  • Stability: The chosen hops should have a good stability profile, meaning they should retain their aromatic qualities even after exposure to boiling, high alcohol levels, and extended dry hopping durations.

  • Distinctiveness: The most sought-after hops for IPAs are those with unique aromas and flavours that make them stand out from the crowd. These hops add a signature touch to your brew, making it memorable.

Insight: While the IPA style allows for a great deal of creativity and experimentation, selecting hops with these specific attributes ensures that your IPA will have a hop character that is both potent and distinctive.

Best Hops for Bittering IPAs

Bittering hop additions provide the clean IPA backbone without introducing fragrant oils that will dissipate with extended boiling. Top bittering IPA hops feature:

  • High alpha acids - Above 12% AA provides bold bitterness efficiently using smaller quantities for better utilisation.

  • Low aromatics - Minimising aromatic oils prevents flavour and aroma clash with later hopping.

  • Smooth bitterness - Coarser bitterness and milder cohumulone levels help balance malt sweetness without harshness.

Recommended IPA Bittering Hops:

  • Columbus

  • Chinook

  • Simcoe

  • Centennial

  • Warrior

  • Nugget

  • Magnum

Stick to just one or two of these higher alpha varieties like Columbus or Chinook for clean, smooth bitterness in IPAs. A single 60 minute addition can sufficiently bitter full IPA batches.

Best Hop Choices for IPA Flavour

Added in the last 5-15 minutes of the boil, flavour hopping imparts aroma without much additional bitterness. Great IPA flavour hops include:

  • Citra - Passionfruit, mango and melon

  • Mosaic - Blueberry, tropical fruit punch

  • Galaxy - Citrus, passionfruit, peach

  • Simcoe - Piney, woodsy, catty

  • Centennial - Floral, citrus rind, grassy

These bold hops lend distinctive aromas detectable in the final beers. Blending 2-3 creates dimensions. Average alpha acids means judicious late boil usage provides flavour pop without overbittering.

Best Hops for IPA Aroma and Dry Hopping

Post-boil aroma and dry hop additions impart huge hop aromas. Vital IPA dry hop traits:

  • Intense fruit/citrus aromas - Mangos, pineapple, berries and other tropical scents are ideal.

  • Minimal vegetal qualities - Avoid onion/garlic notes.

  • Stability - IPA hops should keep aroma punch for weeks during dry hopping.

  • Low cohumulone levels - Ensures smooth bitterness despite minimal transformation during dry hopping.

Target hops for IPA aroma/dry hopping:

  • Citra

  • Vic Secret

  • Sabro

  • Galaxy

  • Mosaic

  • Idaho 7

  • El Dorado

Maximise juicy hop impact in IPAs by layering 2-3 of these heavy hitters during fermentation or conditioning.

Choosing IPA Hop Varieties by Flavour Profile

Beyond standard citrus and tropical aromas, IPA brewers can create unique recipes by selecting hops with notes of:

  • Pine - Simcoe, Chinook, Columbus, Summit, Nugget

  • Resinous - Summit, Apollo, Nugget, Sterling

  • Spicy/Herbal - Willamette, Crystal, Nugget

  • Stone Fruit - Eureka, Ekuanot, Experimental 08277

  • Melon - Topaz, Sterling

  • Berry - Mosaic, Experimental 07270

  • Floral - HBC 586, Bravo

  • Earthy - Glacier, Fuggle

Exploring less expected hop qualities creates novelty. But always pair daring hops with a complementary backbone. Overly odd aromas should be blended.

Tips for Maximising Hoppy IPA Potential

  • Adjust water - Target chloride levels over 100 ppm. Sulphate under 225 ppm. Calcium around 100 ppm. Lowers perceived bitterness.

  • Pick complementing malts - Choose base grains that don’t clash with hop flavours. Avoid caramel/crystal.

  • Boost ABV - Higher alcohol enhances hop aroma perception. Consider extra sugars to achieve 7-9% ABV.

  • Dry hop below 70F - Cooler temperatures prevent volatile oil loss.

  • Scale up late additions - Using more flavour/aroma hops offsets boil degradation.

  • Try double dry hop - Dosing two rounds of dry hops extracts every last bit of aroma.

Key Considerations When Selecting IPA Hops

  • Intended purpose - bittering, flavour or aroma/dry hopping

  • Alpha acid level for desired bitterness intensity

  • Timing of additions to extract what you want from each hop

  • Resulting beer style - East vs West Coast, Hazy vs Clear, etc.

  • Personal hop preferences and combinations

  • Preference for novelty vs proven varieties

The beauty of brewing with today's flourishing hop choices is the ability to reinvent IPA possibilities with each batch. But even with limitless options, remain mindful of how to obtain your desired results from each addition.

Sample Single Hop IPA Recipes

Highlighting one hop variety in the following simplified IPA recipes lets its unique character shine:

Tropical Citra IPA

Bittering - 0.5 oz Warrior @ 60 min Flavour - 0.5 oz Citra @ 5 min Aroma - 2 oz Citra Dry Hop 3 days

Piney Simcoe IPA

Bittering - 0.75 oz Magnum @ 60 min Flavour - 0.5 oz Simcoe @ 10 min Aroma - 2 oz Simcoe Dry Hop 5 days

Blueberry Mosaic IPA

Bittering - 0.5 oz Chinook @ 60 min
Flavour - 0.5 oz Mosaic @ 5 min Aroma - 2 oz Mosaic Dry Hop 4 days

Spicy Sterling IPA

Bittering - 0.75 oz Nugget @ 60 min Flavour - 0.5 oz Sterling @ 15 min Aroma - 2 oz Sterling Dry Hop 3 days

The beauty of single hop IPA recipes lies in distinctly experiencing what each variety contributes. Then start blending your favourites together in your next brews!

Recommended IPA Hop Combinations

Craft layered IPA hop complexity blending 2-3 varieties at each addition:


Chinook + Columbus

Nugget + Centennial

Warrior + Simcoe


Mosaic + Galaxy

Citra + Amarillo

Simcoe + Cascade

Aroma / Dry Hop

Citra + Mosaic

Vic Secret + Galaxy

Sabro + Idaho 7

You simply can't go wrong pairing up these hop superstars! IPA hop combos are limited only by your creativity as a brewer.

IPA hop selection offers limitless room for brewers to improvise and discover new favourites. Embrace hop research as a key part of the brewing journey!

Want more useful hints and tips for your homebrewing journey? Check out the Brewpedia blog for loads more!

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