Homebrewing can bring unparalleled rewards as you create fantastic and unique beers and ales. In our Citra hops guide, we will explore everything there is to know about this hop variety that certainly packs a powerful punch.
If you are just starting out in your homebrewing adventure, you might not be aware of all the different homebrewing terms that exist; however, hops are vital to the entire homebrewing process. As we’ll find out throughout this guide, Citra hops offer an intense flavor, and they are the most popular type of hops being used in the craft beer and ale market at the moment.
So, if you want to find out everything you need to know about Citra hops, including how they taste, their ingredients, and how to brew with them, read on.
What are Citra Hops?
Citra hops are defined by an intense floral and citrus aroma, and they are trendy in both homebrewing and some of the most well-known commercial beers. These hops are instantly recognizable with their fruity and acidic flavor, and they give pale ales and IPAs a very distinct edge to their taste.
Citra hops can trace their roots back to the early 1990s with Gene Probasco at John I. Haas. Known initially as X-114 or HBC 394, their parentage includes American Tettnanger, Brewer’s Gold, Hallertau Mittelfrüh, East Kent Goldings, and a wild-type American hop. The breeding program spanned over 12 years, and the plot was expanded to 21 plants in 2003.
The name ‘Ctira’ didn’t materialize until 2008, and the Widmer Brothers used the hop in a gold medal-winning beer at the 2008 World Beer Cup. Since then, it has become the largest hop grown in the United States, with an average of around 9,035 acres.
You will generally know if you have tasted a beer with citrus hops as the flavor is so unique. Its complex and intense flavors have become so popular and actually overtook Cascade as the most grown hop. Beers such as:
- A torpedo from Sierra Nevada Brewing
- Freshly Squeezed IPA from Deschutes Brewing Company
- Zombie Dust from Three Floyds Brewing Company
- Citra Session from Green Flash Brewing Company
These are all excellent examples of brews that utilize citrus hops well.
Citra hops do have a high alpha acid content while it is low in co-humolone. Even though it can make for a good bittering hop, using these hops for a bitter beer has created a harsh flavor in many cases.
Some of the strong flavors that you find with citrus hop beer and ales include:
- bright orange
Citra Hops – Ingredients
Citra hops contain a myriad of ingredients that help to make up its rich flavor. This is a relatively new hop that hasn’t been around as long as some other varieties. Although that doesn’t mean it lacks anything with its aroma.
Citra hops contain a high percentage of Myrcene which gives them citrus and fruit aroma (hence the name!), while there is also a high percentage of humulene (for a spicy and woody flavor).
How to brew beer with Citra Hops
Maintaining a citrus flavor in your brews is one of the more challenging aspects of homebrewing; however, that shouldn’t deter you from using Citra hops to create fantastic beers and ales.
Growing Citrus Hops
Citra hops are known as proprietary hops (so no rhizomes), so if you are intending on growing these hops yourself, there are a few things you should know.
Any climate is generally suitable for Citra Hops, and they are resilient, meaning that they defend themselves well against downy mildew, powdery mildew, as well as verticillium wilt. The yield is average with these hops, although they are susceptible to Aphids (common sap-sucking insects).
When to add Citra Hops
Citra hops are generally added at the end of the fermentation process.
These hops are known as flavoring or aroma boosting hop – as anyone who has tasted a Citra beer will know! However, many people also hold back on the Citra hops they put in, with some even only adding around two-thirds or a half due to their intense flavors.
It can be easy to overload ales and IPAs with Citra creating an overly bitter taste. However, the trial and error process is often the beauty of homebrewing and experimenting with different homebrewing ingredients.
Complimentary Hop Varieties
Citra and Cascade hops have been shown to work incredibly well together. When used in conjunction with each other, they help create a bright and fresh flavor without the added and intense bitterness.
Other hops you can use with Citra include Amarillo (a hop with a high Myrcene oil content) and Centennial (a popular dual-purpose hop). Simcoe is another hop which many homebrewers use to compliment Citra. Although there is some crossover with grapefruit and citrus zest hints, it doesn’t have the same intense citrusy flavor.
Like many parts of homebrewing science, it is all about experimenting and finding out which hops complement each other based on your own palette.
Acid & Oil Composition
|ALPHA ACID (%)||11 – 14%|
|BETA ACID (%)||3.0 – 4.5%|
|ALPHA-BETA RATIO||2:1 – 3:1|
|HOP STORAGE INDEX||24% (good)|
|CO-HUMULONE AS % OF ALPHA||20 – 24%|
|TOTAL OILS (mL/100g)||2.2 – 2.8 mL|
(flavors – citrus, fruit)
|60 – 65%|
(flavors – wood, spice)
|7 – 13%|
(flavors – pepper, herbs)
|6 – 8%|
(flavors – floral, fresh)
|ALL OTHERS (including linalool, β-pinene, geranoil & selinene)||13 – 26%|
Citra Hops – Alternatives
Citrus hops are relatively new onto the market, so it isn’t easy to find a natural alternative. They are almost unique in a way given the flavors they give off, but that isn’t to say that some other hops can be used instead. There are different hops available do that provide a citrus flavor, although perhaps not as direct.
These are some alternatives that you can use to Citra hops.
Amarillo does come with a citrus taste, and these hops are pretty intense in their own right. If you want a citrus aroma to compete with Citra hops, Amarillo isn’t quite up there, but it can be very close. You will find a spicy orange and lemon taste with Amarillo hops, and they are a quirky alternative.
If you have ever sunk an American Pale Ale, you will taste Cascade hops as an essential ingredient. Cascade hops do some with a fruity flavor, and they work well in conjunction with Citra hops. However, you can also use Cascade as an alternative, with the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale an excellent example of these hops in action.
Simcoe hops have a smooth flavor to them, and they offer an excellent alternative to Citra if you don’t want a taste that hits you too hard. Some of the aromas you will find with Simcoe hops include apricot, pine, passion fruit, citrus zest, and berry. These hops have been affectionately known as ‘Cascade on steroids.’
Lastly, we have Centennial. This is a versatile hop that can be used for both bittering and to add a unique aroma. Some of the flavors you find with Centennial hops include aromatic pine, citrus. In addition to various floral notes, these hops have a freshness that isn’t easy to find elsewhere.
Frequently Asked Questions
We have compiled some frequently asked questions about Citra hops that should help you decide if they are right for you.
Question: What do Citra hops taste like?
Answer: Citra hops are characterized by having very intense flavors of, you guessed it, citrus aromas. Some of the flavors that you can expect to find with this hop include lime, grapefruit, bright orange, mango, lychee, and gooseberry.
Question: Why are Citra Hops popular?
Answer: Because they taste great when brewed correctly! Citra hops allow homebrews to pack a serious punch, but they aren’t too overwhelming when used correctly and instead are evened out with a smooth taste. As a result, Citra hops are used in some of the most popular craft beers and ales in the world.
Question: What are Citra hops good for?
Answer: Citra hops are perfect for punchy American Pale Ales and IPAs. They have emerged as a popular single-hop beer ingredient as they not only provide an intense flavor but even this out by having a smooth profile. These hops do offer a kick, but not too much.
Question: What are some examples of beers that use Citra hops?
Answer: A lot of beers use Citra hops. Some of the best examples include Torpedo from Sierra Nevada Brewing, Freshly Squeezed IPA from Deschutes Brewing Compan, Zombie Dust from Three Floyds Brewing Company, and Citra Session from Green Flash Brewing Company.
Question: Where can you buy Citra hops?
Answer: Citra hops are one, if not the, most popular hop on the market. They overtook Cascade hops as the biggest grown hop, and locating these hops is quite straightforward. We recommend using the Home Brew Ohio Citra Hop Pellets.
Using Citra hops can take your homebrewing adventures to an entirely new level. If you are looking for hops to start making intense and incredibly flavorsome beers and ales, Citra hops are exactly what you need. While there can be a learning curve with these hops, the flavor packs quite a punch, and their popularity is a testament to how well-liked these hopes really are.