What Are Citra Hops? Find Out Here!

Discover what Citra hops are, their origin, where they are grown and why they're so popular in beer brewing.

BREWING INGREDIENTS

Mat Stuckey

9/14/20237 min read

What Are Citra Hops? The Complete Guide to This Popular Brewing Variety

Citra hop is a versatile, dual-purpose brewing ingredient known for its high alpha acid content and distinct floral and citrus aroma and flavour.

With their explosive tropical fruit flavours and aromas, Citra hops have become a favourite among craft brewers and beer enthusiasts alike. But what exactly are Citra hops and what makes them so popular in modern brewing?

This comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know about Citra hops, from their background and genetics to common usage in beer styles and commercial examples showcasing them best. Read on to gain full understanding of this coveted superstar brewing variety.

What Is the History and Origin of Citra Hops?

Citra hops were first bred in 1990 by Gene Probasco and John I. Haas. It was publicly released in 2008. However, Jason Perrault is credited with releasing Citra in 2007.

The research team at Anheuser-Busch and Bartlett Nursery crossed several hop varieties over a multi-year period before finally landing on Citra. Its pedigree includes Hallertauer mittelfrueh, U.S. Tettnanger, East Kent Golding, Bavarian, Brewers Gold, and unknown wild American hops.

Once cultivated, hop samples were distributed to craft breweries for feedback and testing. The overwhelming positive response led to Citra's commercial release in 2007 when rhizomes became publicly available.

Citra was an immediate hit with small and independent brewers looking for big hop flavour. Its popularity exploded from there.

What Flavour and Aroma Properties Does Citra Have?

The Calling card of Citra hops is intense tropical fruit characters, especially mango, lychee, pineapple, coconut, and citrus. These make Citra an ideal variety for modern hop-forward styles.

Beyond robust fruitiness, Citra exhibits medium bitterness (11-13% AA) and low cohumulone composition around 22-25%. This delivers a smooth bitterness profile.

In brewing, Citra lends these primary characteristics:

  • Bursts of mango, pineapple, lychee, and citrus flavour and aroma

  • Moderate bitterness and low coarseness when used as bittering hop

  • Perceived softness and smoothness from reduced cohumulone levels

  • Medium spice and citrus rind notes

  • Powerful hoppiness when used in dry hopping or whirlpool additions

  • Enhanced fruit expression and tropical juiciness when paired with other hops like Mosaic.

This vibrant fruit and citrus profile with restrained bitterness makes Citra extremely versatile for Ale brewing. It's a potent flavour variety either on its own or when blended with new-world fruity hops.

What Are the Main Uses and Applications of Citra in Brewing?

Thanks to its fruit-forward character, Citra finds extensive use in nearly all stages of the brewing process:

As Bittering Hop

Citra is sometimes employed as a bittering hop addition thanks to its smooth bitterness and lower cohumulone levels. However, its volatile oils are best preserved when used in late kettle additions and dry hopping.

As Flavour and Aroma Hop

This is where Citra truly shines. Its tropical and citrus flavours explode when used as a late boil addition, whirlpool hop, or dry hop. Just a small amount can impart massive fruity hoppiness.

Single Hop Showcase

Citra has enough complexity to stand on its own in single hop beers. This allows its signature mango, pineapple, lychee notes to take the starring role.

For Hop Accents

Just a dash of Citra in the whirlpool or dry hop can lend supporting fruity notes when paired with other hops. A little goes a long way.

Blending With New World Hops

Citra combines exceptionally well with other juicy American hops like Mosaic, Galaxy, Vic Secret, and El Dorado. These blends create a symphony of fruit hoppiness.

What Beer Styles Work Best With Citra Hops?

While originally envisioned for American-style IPAs, Citra's versatility makes it suitable for numerous modern beer styles where prominent fruit and citrus flavours are desirable.

American IPA

This quintessential hop-forward style highlights Citra's tropical fruit essence. It's commonly blended with Centennial, Cascade, Mosaic and others for IPA bliss.

Hazy and Juicy IPAs

Citra's perceived softness suits the low bitterness and pillowy body of trendy New England and West Coast IPAs. Mango bomb!

Double IPAs

The intense fruitiness of Citra balances higher alcohol warmth and malt backbone in Imperial IPAs.

Pale Ales

From American to Session to Brut IPAs, Citra brightens with fruit and moderates bitterness.

Wheat Beers

In American and tropical wheat beers, Citra adds succulent mango and citrus vibrancy.

Saisons and Farmhouse Ales

When used judiciously, Citra can provide counterpoint to Belgian yeast strains.

Kettle Sours

Citra lends tangy tropical dimensions to American kettle sour Ale styles.

Fruity Cider

Citra dry hopping gives ciders a pleasant fruity lift.

What are Some Notable Commercial Beers Showcasing Citra Hops?

Scores of innovative craft breweries have featured Citra prominently, but these beers are particularly renowned:

  • Heady Topper - The Alchemist

  • Fuzzy Baby Ducks - New England Brewing

  • Citradellic IPA - Alpine Beer Company

  • Duet IPA - Alpine Beer Company

  • Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ale - Sweetwater Brewing

  • Citra Ass Down - Against the Grain Brewery

  • Trending Pale Ale- Union Craft Brewing

  • Tropicalia - Creature Comforts Brewing

  • Gone A-Rye - Surly Brewing

  • Stone & Wood Pacific Ale - Stone & Wood

Trying several of these award winners will let your palate experience Citra's tropical magic directly from the source.

When Are Citra Hops Harvested and Available?

Citra hops have a relatively short harvest window compared to traditional Noble hops. The harvest season for Citra runs from mid-August through late September.

Peak harvest time is mid-September when the hops reach their juicy flavour apex. Too early and the oils haven't fully developed. Too late and quality deteriorates.

Citra is available in most forms year round, but the freshest Citra dry hop and pellet products will come from the new season's harvest.

Where is Citra Commercially Grown and Produced?

As a proprietary hop variety, Citra is exclusively grown in the Yakima Valley of Washington state in the U.S. A limited amount is grown in Idaho as well.

The Yakima Valley's dry climate, fertile volcanic soil, and position between the Cascade and Rocky Mountain ranges make it ideal terroir for Citra cultivation.

While Washington state produces the vast majority of U.S. hops, German and Czech noble hops generally don't thrive there. But Citra and other new hybrids flourish.

Citra production is tightly controlled through contracts between Anheuser-Busch, Bartlett Nursery, and select local hop farms located around the Yakima area.

What Are the Storage and Shelf Life Characteristics of Citra?

Like most hop varieties, Citra is available in whole cone, Type 90 pellets, T-45 pellets, and extract form. Pellet and extract are most popular for brewing.

When stored properly in cold temperatures below 20°F, vacuum sealed Citra hop pellets maintain peak quality for up to 2 years before slowly deteriorating. Whole cone hops last around a year with cool storage.

After extensive storage, older Citra pellets will lose some intensity but still lend signature tropical notes when freshness is less critical.

Using Citra within a year ensures maximum oil content and the bold aromas brewers desire. Take care to limit oxygen exposure as well during use.

What Are Some Similar Tropical Fruit Forward Hop Varieties to Citra?

Craft brewers have embraced many new tropical fruit hop cultivars alongside Citra in recent years. If you enjoy Citra, also try these kindred varieties:

  • Mosaic - Blueberry, mango, and stone fruit notes

  • Galaxy - Passionfruit, peach, and tropical richness

  • Idaho 7 - Pineapple and stone fruit with herbal spice

  • Vic Secret - Pure passionfruit and pineapple juice

  • El Dorado - Intense candied orange and watermelon

  • Sabro - Coconut, pineapple, and tangerine

  • Azacca - Mango, citrus, and melon

Blending these exotic hops creates beautifully complex hop flavour profiles.

What Diseases Are Citra Hops Susceptible To?

Disease resistance was a key priority for Citra's breeders when selecting parents and crossing hop varieties. As a result, Citra demonstrates good all-around disease resistance under typical growing conditions.

It shows no susceptibility to downy mildew and moderate resistance to powdery mildew when managed properly. Any bittering loss from powdery mildew is minimal.

Like most hops, Citra is still vulnerable to the major diseases if infected:

  • Powdery Mildew - White/grey lesions on cones, reduced yields and potency.

  • Downy Mildew - Yellow lesions with dark edges on cones and leaves.

  • Verticillium Wilt - Leaves wilt and curl, entire bines can die.

  • Hop Stunt Viroid - Dwarfing, reduced cone yields and bitterness.

Careful integrated pest management of pests like spider mites and timely harvests help prevent issues.

What Are the Main Cultivation Requirements of Citra Plants?

While new hybrids, Citra retains key traits of traditional European hops making it suitable for major hop farming regions like those found in the Pacific Northwest. Ideal growing conditions include:

  • Climate - Temperate with warm days and cool nights during summer

  • Soil - Well-drained, sandy loam soil or silt with good fertility and drainage

  • Sun - At least 8 hours direct sunlight daily during growing season

  • Water - Abundant through vegetation stage, reduced as cones mature

  • Support - 18 to 20 foot trellis infrastructure for vines to climb

  • Pruning/training - Lower laterals trimmed to encourage bine height

Providing these parameters, and using propagated rhizomes suited for local daylength, Citra thrives under standard hop cultivation techniques.

How Is Citra Propagated for Commercial Farming and Home Growing?

For commercial farms, nurseries propagate Citra via tried-and-true rhizome division. Rhizomes are root-like underground stems used to generate new plants.

In early spring, healthy rhizomes are divided, then replanted in fields for the growing season. They send up new bines (vines) that produce hop cones by late summer.

Home growers can also obtain Citra rhizomes to grow smaller yields. Rhizomes planted in loose soil beside a tall trellis or structure will provide enough flowers for home brewing experiments.

What Are Some Key Takeaways on Citra's Usage and Flavour Profile?

  • Potent tropical fruitiness like mango, pineapple, and lychee

  • Also citrus, melon, and coconut notes

  • High oil content amplifies aroma and flavour

  • Shines when dry hopped or used in late kettle additions

  • Smooth bitterness from lower cohumulone levels

  • Widely used in American and juicy IPAs or wheat beers

  • Great for single-hop beers or blending with new world hops

Conclusion

Boasting bold and juicy flavours of mango, pineapple, and lychee, it's easy to see why Citra has become a darling of the craft beer and homebrewing world.

When used judiciously its big tropical fruit essence transforms the hop character of beers, complementing pale ales, IPAs, and more.

Thanks to careful breeding and selection by hop scientists, Citra offers a unique flavour profile that continues to energise the craft brewing industry.

So for beer aficionados everywhere, raise a pint of something hopped with Citra and enjoy those succulent fruity aromas cascading from each sip!


Citra hops hanging
Citra hops hanging
Citra hops in the sun
Citra hops in the sun