Sterling Hops Guide

Sterling Hops Guide

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Adored for its prominent aromas and promising bitter properties, the Sterling Hop is a delightful hop variety created by Dr. Cal Skotland. Sterling is a versatile all-American dual-purpose hop with roots tracing back to Europe, particularly Germany and Czechoslovakia. 

Sterling is prized and sought-after for its complex essential oil composition, which is unique and unlike no other. This variety contains low levels of caryophyllene oil and high levels of farnesene oil. These delicate oils are responsible for the bold aromas released late in the boiling process.

Sterling Hops feature in numerous beer styles and is becoming increasingly popular among craft and home brewers. Sterling Cones and pellets are available for home brewers, and Sterling rhizomes are obtainable for home growers to grow and cultivate at home.

This Sterling Hops guide will explore all you need to know about Sterling Hops, including history, genealogy, hop substitutes, and beer styles and types that feature Sterling Hops in the brewing process.

Bottom Line Upfront

The Sterling Hop is a unique and prized dual-purpose hop variety notorious for imparting bold aromas to beer. Additionally, high alpha acid content allows for promising bittering qualities when added as an early addition. Sterling features an array of popular beer styles and is popular amongst craft and home brewers.

Sterling is an ideal hop for all home brewers and can feature throughout the boil, allowing you to be creative with various aromas and bitterness. Sterling Hop cones and pellets are available, and Sterling rhizomes are obtainable for all green-fingered beer lovers.

I am a fan of this variety and find the citrus levels are perfect and well-balanced, with a trace of sharp and refreshing hop bitterness.

Pros and Cons of Sterling Hops


  • Unique Dual-Purpose Hop Variety 
  • Excellent Bittering and Aromatic Hop Qualities
  • Intense Citrus notes are Well-Balanced by Aromas of Spice, Pepper, Floral, and Herbal.
  • Can be Used Throughout The Boil
  • Best-Suited for Late additions and Dry-hopping
  • Ideal Hop for All Home Brewers
  • Sterling Cones and Pellets are Available
  • Sterling Rhizomes are Available for Home Growers
  • Accessible
  • Well-Priced


  • Sterling Hop Seeds are Not Available
  • No Lupulin Powder Version of Sterling Hops

The History of Sterling Hops

Sterling Hops History

Creating the Sterling Hop Variety took around eight years to accomplish. The concept initially arose in 1990, when Dr. Cal Skotland discovered uninfected Saaz stock that arrived on US shores from Czechoslovakia in the early 1980s. 

This discovery was massive because, at the time, the noble Saaz Hop was extremely popular. This popularity resulted in low stock levels and subsequently greatly inflated prices. Dr. Cal Skotland decided to breed the American Sterling Hop variety as an alternative to Saaz, displaying similar characteristics and qualities.

The Sterling Hop has a complex genealogy derived from numerous hop strains. The composition consists of:

  • 50% Saaz
  • 25% American Cascade
  • 25% combination of Early Green, Brewers Gold, and other European varieties. 

This unique heritage resulted in a hop like no other, and today, Sterling Hops are used all over the planet and feature in more than 14 different delicious and refreshing beer styles.

Acid and Oil Composition

Acid Composition

  • Alpha Acids = 5.5%-8.5%
  • Beta Acids = 4.5%-6%
  • Cohumulone = 22%-23%

Oil Composition

  • Myrcene Oil = 35%-45%
  • Humulene Oil = 16%-18%
  • Caryophyllene Oil = 5%-8%
  • Farnesene Oil = 15%-19%
  • Linalool Oil = 05%-0.9%
  • Geraniol Oil = 02%-0.4%
  • Β-Pinene Oil = 0.5%-0.6%

Total Oil Composition = 0.2ml/100g-1.2ml/100g

General Characteristics of Sterling Hops

Best Climate

sterling hops best climate

Sterling Hops thrive in conditions where the winters are mild and the summers warm. The variety performs well when the soil condition is dry. The climate in the SouthWestern Regions of the United States is ideally suited to produce world-class hops. The average temperatures in the SouthWest hover around 11 degrees Celsius (51.8 degrees F), with an average rainfall of 37cm (14.56 inches)

How Do Sterling Hops Look

Sterling Hops grow tall but are narrow in diameter. They do not appear bushy but rather look like uniformed pine trees. The leaves on the tall bines are large, green, and luscious. The hop cones are medium-sized, tightly compacted, and grow in large grape-like bunches.

What is Sterling Hops Used For

What is Sterling Hops Used For

The Sterling Hop is a versatile and dual-purpose hop. This quality variety imparts bold aromas and moderate bitterness to beer. Sterling can be used throughout the boiling process and releases a refreshing bitterness when used as an early addition. When used as a late addition, it imparts delightful fruity, earthy, and spicy aromas to beer. Sterling Hops are ideal for dry-hopping, whereby the aromas are greatly enhanced.

Disease Resistance

Like most hop varieties, Sterling Hops are not resistant but tolerant to Downy and Powdery Mildew. They are susceptible to Chlorosis. Chlorosis contributes to low chlorophyll production resulting in pale, yellow-white, and dying leaves.

Growing Sterling Hops

Thankfully, Sterling Hops are available in rhizome form. Rhizomes are part of the root system and can be re-planted at home. Remember that hop does not like a saturated root system, so well-drained soil is imperative. Inspect the rhizomes and identify the roots and white buds on either side.

Plant the rhizome with the tiny rootlets facing downwards and the white buds facing upwards. Erect a structure that will encourage your hop to creep and expand. Ensure your plant gets 6-8 hours of glorious sunlight each day. You will need to practice patience, as it takes around two years before your plant starts to produce.

Sterling Hop Alternatives

Sterling Hop Alternatives

Below are three quality hops varieties that are excellent substitutions for Sterling Hops:

  • Mt. Hood Hop: The Mt. Hood Hop is a German variety with a strong lineage tracing back to the world-renowned Hallertau region. Today, Mt. Hood Hops cultivate in Yakima Valley, where a mild climate allows the hop to thrive. Mt. Hood is an aroma hop offering a delicate trace of hop bitterness. Mt.Hood imparts mild tastes and aromas of floral and spice, with a hint of natural honey. The profile of Mt. Hood is simple yet effective and features popular beer-style such as Golden Ale, Pale Ale, Bock, Doppelbock, Russian Imperial Stout, Holiday lager, and many more.
  • Saaz: Saaz is probably the most famous hop of all time, originating in the Czech Republic. Saaz is an exceptional hop with a noble-pedigree and fine heritage that dates back more than 700 years. Saaz is the staple hop variety for brewers across the globe, imparting delightful herbal, spicy, and floral notes. Everything about this hop is mild, including tastes, aromas, and hop bitterness. Saaz Hops are a common feature in Pilsner and Bohemian-style Lagers. 
  • Lublin: Lublin (also known as Lubelska or Lubelski) is a less popular hop variety originating in Zatec, Czechia. Zatec is another region that is famed for producing exceptional hop varieties. Lublin is a unique aroma hop displaying an unfamiliar oil composition. Lublin contains high levels of farnesene and humulene oil. The composition is rare and results in potent floral and earthy aromas, especially spice, magnolia, and lavender. Lublin Hops are used to make Blonde Ale, Porters, Golden Ale, Lagers, and Pilsners.   

Best Sterling Hop Pairing Options

Cascade Hop

Due to their versatility, Sterling Hop’s pair well with other varieties. The most popular hop pairings for Sterling are: 

  • Cascade: The Cascade Hop is an iconic American Hop Variety, flavoring beer since the 1970s. It took eleven years of gentle tweaking before the USDA Hop Breeding Program at Oregon State University released it commercially. Cascade is an aroma hop, delivering characteristic grapefruit, citrus, and floral notes, but can be used as an early edition to add a moderate hop bitterness to beer. Cascade is one of America’s most popular hop varieties and is commonly used to make IPA (India Pale Ale) and Pale Ale.
  • Chinook: The Chinook Hop is an all-American variety created by the USDA Hop Breeding Program at Washington State University. Chinook is an ingenious cross between a USDA Male and Petham Golding. The result is a bold dual-purpose hop with high Geraniol Oils, delivering fresh fruity, spice, and pine aromas with a trace of intense hop bitterness. Chinook is facing a welcomed resurgence, with craft and home brewers using it as a late edition to crank up their bold fruity IPAs.
  • Centennial: The Centennial is an exceptional dual-purpose hop created by USDA Hop Breeding Program at Washington State University. Centennial was first bred in 1974 but only released commercially in 1990. Centennial is a complex cross between East kent Goldings, Brewers Gold, Fuggle, and Bavarian hops, imparting delicate aromas of earthy pine, floral, and citrus zest. High Alpha Acids contribute to a sharp and refreshing hop bitterness, which balances this hop perfectly. Centennial Hops feature numerous delicious beer styles, including American Stout, American Wheat, American IPA, Double IPA, Amber Ale, and Pale Ale.

Popular Beer Styles that Feature Sterling Hops

sterling hop beer styles popular

Below is a list of three quality beer styles that feature Sterling Hops in the Brewing process:

  • Cream Ale: Cream Ale is a delightful American beer that has been quenching thirst since the mid-1800s. The recipe can be top or bottom fermented before undergoing a chilled lagering process. Essentially this beer is a Lager even though it’s referred to as an Ale, and no, there is no cream in it. American Cream Ale is mild, pale, and light-bodied. ACA imparts balanced notes of fruit, creamy malt, and bold hoppiness. 
  • Cream Ale is famed for its bold hop bitterness and smooth thirst-quenching finish. Cream Ale offers an ABV of 4.2% and 5.6%.
  • Piwo Grodziskie: Grodziskie is a historical easy-drinking low alcoholic Polish beer that dates back to the 14th century. The recipe originated in the small town of Grodzisk and became the preferred beer amongst the Polish for centuries. Piwo Grodziskie is as authentic as they come, delivering delicate smokey tastes and aromas. A mild trace of hop bitterness results in a clean and dry finish. Piwo Grodziskie offers an ABV of between 2.5% and 5%.
  • Saison: Saison is a delicious easy-drinking Ale-style beer created in Southern Belgium in the early 19th century. Also known as Farmhouse Beer, this traditional Ale is rustic and authentic, often brewed with wild-grown top-fermenting yeast strains and locally sourced ingredients. This ununiformed process results in an ever-changing and evolving beer, depending on the season. Saisons is a beer like no other, offering natural tastes and aromas of earth, spice, and fruit, with a trace of mild hop bitterness. Saison-Style Ale offers an ABV of between 6% and 8%.

Commercial Brands Made Using only Sterling Hops

Below are two exceptional single-hop beers that feature Sterling Hops:

Sterling Single Hop IPA by Square One Brewing

Situated in St. Louis, United States, Square One Brewery is a quality brewery and winery servicing parched customers since 2006. The brewery boasts a vintage bar with great food, good music, and exceptional craft beers.

The Sterling Single Hop IPA is an excellent example of its brewing pedigree. This IPA pours a gorgeous hazy golden color with moderate carbonation and a small creamy head. 

This beer personifies the perfect balance between fruit and hops, with a hint of rich caramel malt. The finish is long and lingering, with a mild trace of hop bitterness. Sterling Single Hop IPA by Square One Brewery offers an ABV of 6.5%.

Sterling Single Hop Ale by Chomout Brewery

The Chomout Brewery (Pivovar) is a gorgeous Czechoslovakian microbrewery in Olomouc, Czechia. Chomout is a modern microbrewery using modern styles alongside traditional techniques to create all-natural and great-tasting beers.

The Sterling Single Hop Ale version produced by this brewery is remarkable, totally satisfying, and ticks all the boxes. It pours a golden copper color, with low carbonation and a smallish white head. All-natural earthy and herbal notes are well-balanced by soft undertones of caramel malt. The finish is crisp, bitter, and refreshing. Sterling Single Hop Ale by Chomout Brewery offers an ABV of 5.1%.

Commercial Beer Brands Made using Sterling Hops and other Hop Varieties.

sterling hops commercial beer brands

Below are two popular commercial brands that feature Sterling Hops in the brewing process:

  • Ale Storm: NBC Ale Storm is a must-drink and thirst-quenching beer produced by the Nebraska Brewing Company, Papillion, Nebraska. The award-winning brewery has been brewing quality craft beer since 2007 and services most of the Midwest. NBC Ale Storm is easy-drinking and refreshing, expertly made with caramel, 2-row, and Pilsner Malt. It looks enticing and pours a rich golden color, with medium carbonation and a medium-sized head. Upfront, you encounter subtle notes of sweet pilsner malt complemented by aromas and tastes of citrus zest and spice. The finish is thirst-quenching and keeps you wanting more. Ale Storm by Nebraska Brewing Company offers an ABV of 5.1%.
  • Tangerine Express Hazy IPA: Tangerine Express IPA is a bold India Pale Ale masterfully brewed by Stone Brewing in Escondido, California. Founded in 1996, the brewery is the largest in California. These guys embrace the IPA culture and consistently fuel the craft beer revolution. Tangerine Express Hazy IPA gets in your face before you even get going, displaying graphic branding and bold colors. It pours a golden orange color, with medium carbonation and a thick meaty white head. The aromas are out of this world and force you to take a moment to appreciate them before taking your first sip.  The tastes and aromas of citrus zest and fresh fruits are well-balanced by bold hop characters. Eight different hop varieties are used in this recipe, resulting in bold hop tastes, aromas, and bitterness. The finish is thirst-quenching and memorable. Tangerine Express Hazy IPA offers an ABV of 6.7%.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Question: How does Sterling Hops Smell?

Answer: Sterling Hops have a unique and unusual essential oil composition. With low levels of caryophyllene and high levels of farnesene Oil. The unique oil content results in a hop variety with exceptional aromatic properties, delivering delightful earthy fruit and spice aromas.

Intense Citrus notes are well-balanced by spice, pepper, floral, and herbal aromas.

Question: How do you grow Sterling Hops?   

Answer: Sterling Hops (and almost all hop varieties) do not perform well when exposed to saturated soil and stagnant water for extended periods. This environment is the leading cause of hop disease and will spoil your crops. Plant your hops in well-drained soil with 6-8 hours of exposure to the sun each day. 

Hop Plants are creepers, so install or erect a structure that will allow your hops to creep towards the sun. Installing tresses is a simple solution. 

Hops take around two years of maturing before they begin to produce cones.

Question: What Beer Styles use Sterling Hops?    

Answer: Sterling Hops has grown in popularity with a massive following amongst craft brewers. This dual-purpose hop features an assortment of delicious beer styles. Popular Styles include American Amber, American Lager, Pilsner, German Pilsner, American Blonde, Czech Lager, Cream Ale, Belgian Lager, Saison, Kölsch, American IPA, and Piwo Grodziskie.

Question: Can Sterling Hops be used for Dry-Hopping?    

Answer: Yes, they can. Sterling Hops are aroma hops that contain delicate essential oils. Aroma Hops are typically added as late additions and are ideal for dry-hopping. The later stage of the boil significantly enhances the aromatic properties and delivers wonderful smells with delicate flavors.

Question: Are Sterling Hops from Czechoslovakia?

Answer: No, they are not from Czechoslovakia. Sterling Hops is an all-American Hop Variety created by Dr.Cal Skotland. The strain does have Czechoslovakian heritage originating from the infamous Saaz Hop. 

Final Thoughts: Sterling Hops Guide

The Sterling Hop is a unique and prized dual-purpose hop variety notorious for imparting bold aromas to beer. Intense Citrus notes are Well-Balanced by Aromas of Spice, Pepper, Floral, and Herbal. This variety simultaneously contains high alpha acids, which allows for promising bittering qualities when added as an early addition. Sterling features an assortment of popular beer styles and is popular amongst craft and home brewers.

Sterling is an ideal hop for all home brewers. It can be used throughout the boil, allowing you to be creative with aromas and bitterness. 

Sterling Hop cones and pellets are available, and Sterling rhizomes are also obtainable for home growers. I am a fan of this variety. I find the citrus levels are perfect and well-balanced, with a trace of sharp and refreshing hop bitterness.

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