challenger hops guide

Challenger Hop Guide: A Unique and Versatile Hop

Challenger is a unique British hop variety first introduced to the public in the 1970s. It is a dual-purpose hop and is sought after and enjoyed for its aromatic and bittering properties.

Challenger Hops deliver delicate earthy and herbal aromas of sweet fruits, fresh green tea, and freshly cut Cedar Wood. These initial aromas precede soft undertones of citrus, resin, and spice.

Challenger is an ideal option for all homebrewers and a forgiving type of hop variety that can be utilized throughout the boiling process. By adding Challenger Hops to the beginning of the boil, you allow the gentle release of the refreshing and mild bitterness.

By adding the hops to the end of the boiling process, you license the release of the sweet and earthy aromas.

The Challenger Hop is versatile and well-rounded, a hop that stands strong on its own but also pairs well with other British hop varieties for an inequivalent British-Style Beer. Let’s begin our Challenger Hop Guide by looking at the pros and cons of homebrewing with Challenger hops.

Pros and Cons of Challenger Hops

Pros

  • Versatile Dual Hop Variety from The United Kingdom
  • Prized for Both its Bittering and Aromatic Properties
  • Moderate Levels of Alpha Acid Results in a Mild and Refreshing Bitterness
  • A Versatile Hop Variety that can be used throughout the Boiling Process
  • Lovely Earthy and Herbal Aromas of Sweet Fruits, Fresh Green Tea, and Freshly Cut Cedar Wood
  • Gentle Undertones of Citrus, Spice, and Resin
  • Excellent Yields
  • Excellent Storage Capabilities
  • Good Resistance to Downy Mildew
  • Easily Accessible

Cons

  • Low Beta Acid Levels
  • Susceptible to Wilt and Powdery Mildew

The History and Evolution of Challenger Hops

Challenger Hops

The Challenger Hop was created in 1961 by Dr. Ray Neve at the Wye College, Kent, United Kingdom. The Challenger Hop is a cross-breed between German Zattler (Male) and Northern Brewer (Female).

The Challenger Hop was first released to the public for growing in 1972, it soon gained popularity, and in the 1990s, it evolved into one of the most used hop varieties in the United Kingdom. 

The popularity of the Challenger Hop has slowly declined in recent decades, but the global increase in micro, nano, home, and craft brewers are starting to reflect a positive trend once again. The strain is becoming especially popular amongst IPA, Imperial Stout, and traditional Stout aficionados. 

Acid and Oil Composition

Acid Composition

  • Co-Humulone = 20%-25%
  • Alpha Acid = 6.5%-9%
  • Beta Acid = 3.0%-4%

Oil Composition

  • Farnesene Oil = 0%-1%
  • Caryophyllene Oil = 9%-10%
  • Humulene Oil = 24%-26%
  • Myrcene Oil = 30%-42%
  • Geraniol Oil, Linalool Oil, and B-Pinene Oil = 21% – 37%
  • Total Oil Composition = 1.0ml – 1.7ml/100g

General Characteristics of Challenger Hops

Hop

What is the Best Climate?

Challenger Hops are best suited to a cooler and moist climate. The United Kingdom is well-known for its healthy rainfall and mild temperatures, making it the perfect environment to grow this excellent hop variety. Most hop varieties thrive in cooler climates with sufficient sunlight and well-drained soil.

How do тhey Look?

Challenger Hops grow tall and produce medium to large hop cones with moderate to compact density.

How do тhey Smell?

Challenger Hops have wonderful earthy aromas of juicy fruits, fresh green tea, and freshly cut Cedarwood. 

What аre Challenger Hops Used For?

The Challenger Hop is a dual-purpose variety utilized for its bittering and aromatic properties, a versatile hop variety that can be used throughout the boiling process. 

How do You Grow Challenger Hops?

You can purchase Challenger Hop Rhizomes or seeds from numerous online companies. Hops love well-drained soil, so prepare the land or garden bed before purchase.

Your hop plant must get between six to eight hours of sun each day, and the vines or bines need a structure that will encourage them to grow vertically and horizontally, for example, fencing or trellis. Never over-water your precious hops.

Where can You Purchase Challenger Hops?

You can purchase Challenger Hops online from reputable companies such as Yakima Valley Hops, Hop Alliance, Amazon, and Great Fermentations.

Challenger Hops Alternatives

Hops

Below is a list of hop varieties that offer similar characteristics to that of the Challenger Hop:

East Kent Goldings

East Kent Goldings is a hop variety that has flavored British lagers and ales since the late 1700s. East Kent Goldings was developed from the elegant Canterbury white bine variety, and its make-up consists of numerous clonal variants.

Initially, these colonel variants were known by the name of the village they originated from, or in some cases, named after the original grower. Since 1838 they have been branded and sold as East Kent Goldings.

East Kent Goldings is best known for its bittering qualities. It does deliver sweet earthy aromas of honey, floral, and spice, with delicate notes of lemon, lavender, and thyme. East Kent Goldings is an outstanding hop variety for homebrewers to mess around with and allows you to crank the bitterness to another level.

Phoenix

Phoenix Hops is another strain created at the Wye College, Kent, United Kingdom. It is a relatively young variety that originated from a Yeoman Seedling. Phoenix Hops were introduced to the public in 1996.

Coincidentally, the Phoenix strain was created as a replacement for the Challenger Hop in an effort to fabricate a more disease-resistant hop variety with similar descriptors and brewing qualities. 

Phoenix Hops are dual-purpose and offer both bittering and aromatic qualities. They offer moderate to high levels of bitterness, accompanied by lovely tastes of ripe fruits and citrus with soft herbal notes of pepper and floral.

These bold flavors precede the aromas of earthy pine, dark chocolate, and rich molasses. Unfortunately, the Phoenix Hop does not give good yields, but it is becoming increasingly popular amongst craft and home brewers.

Styrian Goldings

hops

Styrian Goldings are also known as Savinja Goldings or Sannthaler Goldings. The Styrian Goldings variety originated in Slovenia and the southern Austrian province of Styria.

Although all the names indicate it is a Golding, the strain comes from the clonal selection of the Fuggle hop family and displays similar descriptors and properties. 

Styrian Goldings is prized for its bold aromatic properties, delivering outstanding earthy aromas of sweet citrus, ground white pepper, resin, and spice. Styrian Goldings is in high demand globally by craft brewers, homebrewers, and all who enjoy drinking Belgian Ale, Lager, Ale, and Extra Special Bitter.

British Columbian Goldings

As the name suggests, this hop variety originated in British Columbia, Canada. British Columbia Golding was the only North American grown Golding until the hop industry established itself in the Pacific Northwest. Today most British Columbia Hops are grown down South in Washington and Oregon.

British Columbia Goldings are typically utilized for their aromatic properties but offer a mild and well-rounded bitterness. In addition to the mild bitterness, they deliver earthy aromas and tastes with a hint of sweet honey and spice.

British Columbia Goldings is typically used when making British Style Ales, Barley Wines, and Belgian Ales but has also been successful in making Porters and Stout. 

Popular Beer Styles Made With Challenger Hops

Below is a list of beer styles produced using Challenger Hops:

Imperial Stout

Imperial Stout

Imperial Stout is a bold beer first brewed by Thrale’s Anchor Brewery in London, UK. In the 18th century, this strong and dark beer was called Russian Imperial Stout and was created and brewed for export to the court of Catherine ll of Russia.

In 1781 the brewery changed ownership and re-named the beer Barclay Perkins Imperial Brown Stout. Today there are numerous variations of this authentic beer, and they are all simply known as Imperial Stouts.

Imperial Stout is dark, intense, and full-bodied, with lovely tastes and aromas of fruit, hops, and roasted malt. Soft undertones of dark chocolate, coffee, and ripe fruits balance the beer out perfectly. Imperial Stout offers an ABV of between 8 – 12%.

Brown Ale

Brown Ale is a delicious low to medium-bodied beer that originated in England and traces back to the early 1700s. During this period, brewers produced authentic beer for local or home consumption.

Brown Ale is brewed with significantly more malt than hops. Roasted malts give the ale its distinct brown color and flavors. 

Brown Ale is an easy-drinking beer that offers bold tastes and aromas of creamy toffee, caramel, chocolate, and slightly charred toast. The mouthfeel is soft and velvety with a sweet and refreshing finish.

Brown Ale typically offers a moderate ABV of between 3.3% and 5.0%. I enjoy a brown ale with my dinner. It pairs well with most food, especially roasted meats or a medium-rare steak.

Barley Wines

Barley Wine is 100% beer made from natural barley and is not wine in any way or form. Barley Wine is one of the oldest and most authentic beer recipes, with records indicating that it dates way back to the 15th century, possibly earlier.

Some enthusiasts believe the recipe originated in England, while some believe the recipe originated in Ancient Armenia. Barley Wine had an ABV of between 8% and 12% in the 18th century.

This ABV was almost identical to the ABV of wine of the time. For this reason, barley wine was drunk as an alternative to wine, which is how this fine beer got its rather strange name.

Authentic Barley Wine offers a low level of hop bitterness and high levels of rich malty aromas and flavors. Barley Wine is traditionally dark, with a soft and elegant mouthfeel.

American Style Barley Wines usually contain more hops, adding bitterness and a delicate citrus flavor and aroma. Barley Wine offers an ABV of between 6% and 12%.

Golden Ale

Golden Ale

Golden Ale is an easy-drinking, refreshing, and thirst-quenching beer introduced to American shores by German migrants in the 1800s. They aimed to create a Pilsner-style beer, but the result was a gorgeous straw-colored Ale with high carbonation, medium maltiness, and medium hop bitterness.

Golden Ale delivers refreshing tastes and aromas of malt, hops, and gentle fruitiness. Today Golden Ale is mainly consumed in South America, the United Kingdom, and Europe. Golden Ale is balanced, crisp, clean, and refreshing, with an ABV of between 3.8% and 5.5%.

Commercial Beer Brands Made Using Only Challenger Hops

Below is a list of three quality commercial beer brands made using only Challenger Hops: 

BrewDog Challenger Single Hop IPA

The BrewDog Brewery is based in Ellon, Scotland, producing quality craft beer since 2007. Owned and operated by award-winning brewers James Watt and Martin Dickie, the brewery has evolved into a multinational brewery and pub chain.

The company has recently set up a brewery in North America and is planning to expand to Africa in the foreseeable future.

The Challenger Single Hop from BrewDog Breweries is an excellent example of a single-hop IPA. Challenger Single Hop from BrewDog delivers aromas of floral, citrus zest, and juicy fruits.

The aromas are proceeded by earthy flavors of fresh pine, citrus zest, and freshly cut grass. The finish is fruity and refreshing, with a trace of mild hop bitterness. 

The Challenger Single Hop IPA from BrewDog is copper/gold in color, medium-bodied, with a medium-sized white head. It offers an ABV of 6.7%.

Mikkeller Challenger Single Hop IPA

ipa beer

Mikkeller is a Danish Brewery based in Copenhagen. The microbrewery has been producing exceptional craft beer since 2006. Mikkeller became popular by collaborating with other brewers to fabricate their beer and experimental one-off beers.

They use only the finest all-natural ingredients when making their brew, including some of the purest water on the planet.

The Challenger Single Hop IPA is an American Style Indian Pale Ale with lovely notes of fresh yeast and orange with soft undertones of juicy pineapple.

The finish is long and lingering, with moderate to high levels of bitterness from the Challenger Hops. It is orange/yellow, has low carbonation, and has a small creamy white head. Mikkeller Challenger Single Hop IPA offers an ABV of 6.8%. 

Challenger Single Hop Ale by Chomout

The Chomout Brewery is located in the spectacular Czech Republic. Chomout is possibly one of the most creative breweries around, with a comprehensive range of beer types and styles on offer.

The brewery is fortunate enough to access the finest all-natural ingredients, resulting in world-class beer.

Challenger Single Hop Ale by Chamout is a refreshing and easy-drinking Pale Ale that is top-fermented, just like it was in the 18th century. The brewing process is the same, using the same recipe and ingredients. This exceptional pale ale is made from light malts, which gently balance the bitterness and aromas.

There is a lovely fruitiness with a hint of yeast, which results in a dry, crisp, and refreshing finish. Challenger Single Hop Ale by Chomout offers an ABV of 5.1%.

What Commercial Beer Brands Combine Challenger Hops with Other Hop Varieties?

Below is a list of three quality commercial beer brands that combine Challenger Hops with other hop varieties when brewing their beer: 

Uiltje Sgt. Night Vision

Uiltje Sgt. Night Vision

The Uiltje Brewery is located in the Dutch region of Haarlem, and the brewery has been producing exceptional craft beer since 2012. Although it is a relatively young brewery, it has already put itself on the global map by making superb aged barrel beers and ridiculous IPAs.

They are also well known for their experimental character and are pretty much up for trying anything — some of the results are impressive. The company motto is simple, strive to make the best beers in the Netherlands. 

Sgt. Night Vision is a dark Double Stout expertly brewed using Challenger, Simcoe, and East Kent Goldings Hops. These hop varieties work well together and balance the high levels of malt and moderate notes of chocolate and peat.

The Sgt. Night Vision is barrel-aged, adding a new dimension to the beer, including lovely earthy peat notes. This fine Double Stout offers an ABV of 10.5%.

Elland 1872 Porter

The Elland Brewery is located in Elland, West Yorkshire, England, the country that first created the Porter Style Beer. The company was founded in 2002 and is proud to be a traditional, proper, and independent microbrewery specializing in fine Ales. 

The 1872 Porter from the Elland Brewery is an award-winning beer, including the Supreme Champion Beer of Britain Award in 2013. It is a Deep Ruby Style dark Ale with a rich and complex profile. Three types of hops and four types of quality malts are combined in the brewing process, including Maris Otter.

Upfront, you encounter bold flavors of dark chocolate, coffee, and malt, followed by a bitter, crisp, and refreshing finish. Multi-award-winning Elland 1872 Porter offers an ABV of 6.5%.

Shipyard Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout

Shipyard Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout

The Shipyard Brewing Company is an all-American family-owned brewery based in Portland, Maine, USA. The brewery is rooted in tradition producing award-winning hand-crafted beers under the watchful eye of world-renowned master brewer Alan Pugsly. 

The Shipyard Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout is a beer that every beer lover should try at least once. It is an outstanding American Imperial Stout that delivers tastes and aromas of fresh vanilla, rich caramel, smooth chocolate, and authentic American Bourbon Whiskey.

These delightful flavors are followed by soft earthy notes and a smooth and thirst-quenching bourbon-infused finish. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

Question: Where did Challenger Hops Originate?

Answer: The Challenger Hop is a unique hop variety that originated in Kent, United Kingdom. A cross between German Zattler and Northern Brewer, it was first bred in 1961 and later released to the public in 1972. 

Question: Can You Grow Challenger Hops at Home?

Answer: Yes, you can. Challenger Hops are easy to grow, providing they are in an ideal environment. Hops prefer cool, slightly moist areas where they can get between six to eight hours of sun each day.

They thrive in well-drained soil and should never be over-watered or have the root system exposed to stagnant water for an extended time. Hops are part of the vine family and need structure to encourage them to grow horizontally and vertically.

Question: Do Hops Grow Better in the Sun or Shade?

Answer: Hops are hardy and will grow just about anywhere. Hops are also attractive plants and can be used to add some greenery or cover fences and trellis.

However, if you are trying to grow hops for brewing and want to maximize your harvest, your hops must get between 6 – 8 hours of sun each day.

Conclusion: Challenger Hops Guide

The Challenger Hop is an excellent dual-hop variety prized for its bittering and aromatic properties. It contains moderate levels of Alpha Acid and results in mild and refreshing bitterness.

The Challenger Hop is not as popular as it once was, but with a radical increase in micro, nano, craft, and home breweries, it is again gaining popularity. It also indicates that it is an ideal variety for you to try at home in your next brew.

When added to the beginning of the boil, you allow the release of the mild bitterness. When added to the end of the boiling process, you allow for the release of the lovely aromas.

Challenger Hops deliver delightful earthy and herbal notes of sweet fruits, fresh green tea, and freshly cut Cedarwood, with delicate undertones of citrus spice and resin.

Challenger Hops is a great hop variety that anybody can grow at home in their garden. The seeds and rhizomes are easily accessible. They are hardy and offer excellent yields, storage capabilities, and resistance to Downy Mildew. Unfortunately, they are susceptible to Powdery Mildew and Wilt.

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