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Picking Apart the Hop: Centennial

For some fans of craft beer, the most exciting part of the industry is the sheer number of combinations the ingredients malt, water, yeast and hops can create. This is thanks, in part, due to the variety of hops available to brewers now-a-days.

While each ingredient is integral to the taste of the final product, hops can often be attributed to creating the more noticeable flavors.

But, sometimes consumers don’t always know what flavors are attributed to the hop, or which kind of hop in particular.

Well, we’re here to break that down. We’ve already looked at Fuggle hops found in our flagship Summit Extra Pale Ale. Next, we’re going to look at Centennial. Read on to see which of our beers that can be found in!

First, A Little Background

Hops are the flower, or cone, of the female hop plant – humulus lupulus. They contain alpha acids and essential oils that bring bitterness, flavor and stability to beer. Their flavor can range from fruity to floral to funky.

They are generally separated into two categories: bittering and aroma.

Hops used primarily for bittering generally have higher alpha acids and are added during the beginning of the boil stage, as it takes a long time to release these flavors. The increased time at high temperatures tends to lead to a higher conversion rate of the hop alpha acids to isomerized alpha acids, thus providing a more efficient bitter in the final beer.

Hops used for aromatics generally have more essential oils and are added later in the brew, so the oils don’t boil off. Hops added just for flavor are added in between the two.

As with many plants, each variety of hop varies in flavor, aroma, bitterness and intensity level of any or all three of these characteristics.

Summit Sága IPA, brewed with Centennial hops, sitting in Hops
(credit: Summit Brewing Company)

Make-Up of the Centennial Hop

 The next hop we’re looking into is centennial.

Centennial happens to be related to the Fuggle hop we last explored! According to Hoplist, Centennial hops were first bred in 1974 at Washington State University. The plant was a cross-breed between Brewer’s Gold, Fuggle, East Kent Golding and Bavarian hops. The new variety, which was not released to the public until 16 years later, was named after the Washington State Centennial Celebration that occurred the year prior to its arrival on the market.

Due to its cross-breeding Centennial hops are quite high in alpha acids, which we know contributes to bitterness. Its levels are often between 8 – 11 percent, so it is known to be strong and resinous. For this reason, they are often used for bittering.

However, one of the characteristics that many brewers love about centennial is its versatility. Centennial hops also have bright flavors of citrus, primarily lemon and orange. It also has light pine and floral, almost rose-like, aromas, which make it great for aromatics as well.

Centennial is often referred to as a Super-Cascade due to its higher bittering potential but similar aroma properties to the Cascade variety. Although challenging to grow and lower in yield than more modern varieties, it remains one of the most beloved varieties grown in the U.S.

Centennial can be found in just one Summit beer – Summit Sága IPA! Knowing what we know now about the bitterness level of Centennial, it makes sense this pungent hop would be in our bright, tropical IPA. In this beer, Centennial helps add bitterness and citrus to the overall flavor, while also giving soft floral notes to the aroma.

Now knowing what to look for, see if you can pick out the centennial in your next Sága IPA!

Summit Saga IPA, brewed with Centennial hops, in 12oz can by lake

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