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READING TIME - 7 MIN

Get to Know Your Favorite Hop | Citra

Discover the unique flavor, aroma, and origins of Citra hops to understand the full impact this variety has had on the craft brewing industry.  

Citra is arguably the most popular hop varietal in craft brewing today. You might say that’s a bold claim, but let’s look at the facts. 

Which hop variety currently takes up the largest percentage of US hop acreage? Citra. Did a brewery use it and win first place at the World Beer Cup just one year after getting their hands on it? Yes. Which variety took seventeen years of careful breeding and development before it was launched? CITRA!

Ok, that last one doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with how much people love this hop. It is, however, a testament to the years of artistry that went into cultivating this intensely aromatic plant. Rarely do new hop varietals have such a monumental impact on craft brewing, but with its uniquely tropical flavors, it’s easy to understand why brewers are so obsessed with it.

Discover Citra's origins and the bright, citrusy flavors and aromas that keep customers coming back for more.

Citra Flavor & Aroma

Yes, its moderate to high alpha acid content makes it a useful bittering agent. A hop variety with alpha acids ranging between 8-13% is considered high, but some new alpha varieties clock in at 16-20%. Still, Citra’s 11-13% is nothing to sneeze at. The majority of brewers, however, aren’t reaching for this varietal for its bittering potential. 

It’s that unique tropical citrus flavor and aroma that’s made Citra one of the most popular hop varieties in the world for craft beer. Common aroma descriptors include grapefruit, lime, orange, peach, melon, passionfruit, lychee, etc. This wide range of tropical citrus aromas allows brewers to get creative. 

While it can be used at multiple points in the brewing process, dry hopping with Citra creates a juicy base of tropical citrus flavors that’s useful for just about any American-style hop-forward brew.

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Citra Beyond Beer

Shifting consumer preferences are increasing the demand for alternative beverages, from NA beers and ready-to-drink mocktails to cannabis beverages and better-for-you seltzers. Citra's flavor and aroma are popular enough that it will easily transition into these emerging beverage categories.

Fair State Brewing Co-op has a line of non-alcoholic beverages that pair Citra with other hop varieties like Galaxy and Centennial. These deeply aromatic hop-infused sparkling waters were crafted as an alternative for those who wanted to abstain or reduce their alcohol consumption. Obviously, consumers still wanted the familiar juiciness of Citra, even without the alcohol. 

Brewers are even experimenting with the shared aroma profiles of hops and cannabis. Mountains Walking created their 2023 Sky Flowers Hybrid IPA with Pineapple Express BrewGas as well as Citra and two experimental hops (HBC 586 and Cryo 602). This led to a dank award-winning beer with an explosion of complex tropical flavors and aroma. 

Even outside of alcohol alternatives, Citra can bring its fruit-forward notes to a variety of beverages, from ciders and kombuchas to sports drinks and teas. Considering its widespread popularity among brewers and consumers, it’s safe to say that Citra won’t be entering the hop graveyard anytime soon. 

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Before Citra, It Was HBC 394

Citra officially hit the scene in 2008, but it took many years of development before it was released. Over the course of seventeen years, innovative hop breeder Gene Probasco bred Citra through Hop Breeding Company. While the direct parentage is unknown, his careful crossbreeding involved American Tettnanger, Brewer’s Gold, Hallertau Mittelfrüh, East Kent Goldings, and likely another unknown wild American hop.

For the first few years of its existence, Citra was known as HBC 394. In 1992, hops farmer Jason Perrault, VP of research and development at Select Botanicals and a fourth-generation hops farmer and breeder in Washington, initially selected just a single plant of HBC 394 for a test plot. One year later, he expanded this to four plants. By 2003, it was expanded to 21 plants, but it wouldn’t be commercially tested until 2007.

While some hop varieties don’t take as long to develop and evaluate, aroma hops simply need more time. The compounds that lead to their unique aromas and flavors are volatile, so breeders need that time for stabilization. In 2010, Jason Perrault explained this process,

It went through the typical selection process and was fully tested after 10 years. The balance of the time before it was released in 2008 went into the commercialization process—brew tests, marketing, and other steps we take for the hop to gain commercial acceptance. In other cases, such as super alpha varieties, this process can happen much quicker since acceptance is based more upon quantitative versus qualitative factors. But the Citra has such a unique citrusy tropical fruit aroma it took longer.

Jason Perrault

Q&A with Hops Farmer Jason Perrault

Imbibe

Citra Commercial Testing Led to Immediate Success

The three breweries who invested and received exclusive rights for commercial testing included Widmer Brothers, Sierra Nevada, and Deschutes.

In 2008, HBC 394 was renamed and began winning hearts and awards almost immediately. Widmer Brothers took home the gold medal at the World Beer Cup that year and quickly signed an agreement to continue their supply for another five years. Sierra Nevada used Citra in 2009 to craft their still-popular Torpedo IPA. And, of course, Deschutes launched its much-loved Fresh Squeezed IPA in 2009.

While the Fresh Squeezed IPA you can purchase from Deschutes today is brewed using a blend of Citra and Mosaic, it was originally brewed exclusively with Citra. In one interview, previous Deschutes brewer Veronica Vega explained that the positive response to Fresh Squeezed IPA actually became a major problem.

The demand was at least 50% over what we’d forecasted. We were limited on the raw material end. With seasonals or new products, we typically predict pretty conservatively. It was definitely a surprise to everyone. That’s when we started looking at Mosaic. It’s another juicy, fruity, citrusy hop, so we just played with percentages of Citra and Mosaic.

Veronica Vega

Unrated — Deschutes' Fresh Squeezed IPA and the Story of Hop #394

Good Beer Hunting

Unsurprisingly, the overwhelmingly positive response to Citra increased demand across the board. In 2018, Citra overtook Cascade as the hop with the most US acreage, and by 2019, it amounted to 15.4% of all US hop acreage. The 2023 Statistical Report from Hop Growers of America states that the top two hop varieties in 2022 were Citra and Mosaic, but Citra remains dominant, with 8,856 acres harvested.

Brew with the True Flavor and Aroma of Citra

We don’t know about you, but we’re suddenly craving a citrus-forward IPA. Maybe a nice hoppy sparkling water with juicy tropical flavors? Whatever the case, we definitely want a beverage that honors the classic flavors and aromas of Citra… and your customers are likely craving that, too.

That’s why we’ve made it easier than ever to harness the authentic characteristics of this beloved hop. 

Our Omni Hop Profiles are derived from both hop and botanical sources to create a true living record. That means it can be recreated forever thanks to our analytical mapping capabilities and botanical formulation expertise. Want profiles derived solely from hops? Our Quantum Series completely reflects the hops that go into the process in a way that no other hop extractions do.

Contact us today and get started brewing with the truest expression of Citra.

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