Cascade hops truly kickstarted the modern craft brewing revolution. They were the first hop to come out of the United States Department of Agriculture’s breeding program that was started in 1933 following the end of prohibition.
At the time, 96% of all hop growing land in the US was dedicated to Cluster, which is primarily used as a bittering hop. The USDA development program was started to fight the downy mildew problem that was plaguing the Cluster crops, by seeking to breed a strain resistant to it.
Dr. Stanley Nelson Brooks and Jack Horner developed Cascade at Oregon State University by combining English Fuggle hops, Russian Serebrianka, and an unknown wild male hop.
Cascade were first released to the public in 1972, as the first American aroma hops. The name ‘Cascade’ was taken from the mountain range that extends along the west coast from Oregon up to British Columbia.
Initially, no one wanted the new hop. They were harvested, dried, and stored for three years without any takers and were very close to being rejected entirely.
At the time, breweries were still importing their aroma and flavouring hops from Europe. Hops like Hallertauer Mittelfrueh, Saaz, and Tettnang were very popular.
However, by the late 1960s the European hops crop had been hit by another devastating disease, Verticillium Wilt, driving their price up dramatically. As a result, US brewers began looking for a way to reduce their dependence on Europe for their hop supplies.
Adolph Coors and his Coors Brewing company decided to give Cascade a try as a replacement for the German hops they had been using. They agreed to a price of $1 per pound, which was around double what other US hops (predominantly Cluster) were fetching at the time.
The prospect of being able to charge a significant premium for Cascade, spurred many growers into replacing much of their crops with the new hop variety. At the same time, the dependence American brewers had previously had on European hops began to wane as they shifted their attention to Cascade hops.
Coors’ use of Cascade didn’t last long, however. On the plus side, their alpha was significantly higher than the European hops, making them cost effective, however for the light lagers that Coors was making, the Cascade hops flavour was just too intense. They were a poor flavour and aroma substitute for the subtle noble hops that they were supposed to be replacing.
However, at the same time, Fritz Maytag, who is largely considered the father of modern craft brewing, was planning to brew a beer to commemorate the bicentennial of Paul Revere’s ride to alert the local colonial militia of the impending attack of the invading British forces.
He sampled some Cascade hops and decided they would be great in his new beer. That beer, which he dubbed Liberty Ale, was single-hopped with Cascade. Liberty Ale has been acknowledged as the first post-Prohibition IPA and the first single-hopped American beer, making it an ideal showcase for the new hops.
Following the success of that classic beer, other brewers quickly jumped on the bandwagon and began brewing with Cascade. Cascade has climbed to be the top hop used and grown in the US with a huge majority of craft beers utilizing them and their production representing around 10% of all hops grown in the country.
Cascade Hops Flavour & Characteristics
Cascade Hops Facts:
- Purpose: Bittering and flavour
- Country of origin: USA
- Alpha Acids: 4.5-8.9%
- Beta Acids: 3.6-7.5%
- Co-Humulone: 33-37.5%
- Myrcene: 45-60%
- Humulene: 8-16%
- Farnesene: 4.5-8.5%
- Flavour: Floral, spice, citrus, esp. grapefruit
- Substitutions: Amarillo, Centennial, Columbus, Summit, Ahtanum
The Cascade hops flavour profile is a unique one, however its success has led to a lot of newer hops being bred to have intentionally similar characteristics.
Though the Cascade hops taste can be described as floral and somewhat spicy, sometimes with mild hints of pine, the overriding flavour tends to be of citrus, in particular grapefruit.
It’s not a perfect substitute, however Centennial hops may be one of the best for a Cascade substitute. When it was first introduced, Centennial was often referred to as “Super Cascade”, owing to its strong grapefruit flavour and aroma, and a much higher alpha rating than Cascade.
The most desirable Cascade hops come from the Pacific Northwest area of the US. Their popularity, however, has led to them being grown around the world and the terroir of its growing region does affect its flavour, aroma, as well as well as the subsequent oils, such as co-humulone and myrcene.
For example, Cascade hops from the UK tend to be more subtle than the US version, while the New Zealand varieties tend to be a bit more intense. In 2016, New Zealand Cascade was renamed to Taiheke, to reflect the difference in its terroir.
Since the introduction of Cascade, many other hops have been bred with grapefruit and citrus qualities that are in the same ballpark, however with a much higher alpha. For that reason, hose hops are usually chosen for bittering before Cascade. Cascade is therefore primarily considered a flavour and aroma hop. It does, however, make a solid bittering hop as well, especially during seasons when its percentage of alpha acids comes out on the higher end of the scale.
Beers that Use Cascade Hops
It is certainly not hard to find beers that use Cascade, as the vast majority of American craft beers contain them.
The obvious style to brew using Cascade are West Coast IPAs, however they are used in many other styles, from brown ales, to bitters, to blondes, and even stouts and porters.
Here are a few examples of beers with Cascade hops:
Liberty Ale – Anchor Brewing (single-hopped)
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
Hop Head – Dark Star Brewing
Pale Ale – Wild Card Brewery
Pale Ale – Founders Brewing Company (single-hopped)
Brewing with Cascade Hops
If you are looking for a recipe with Cascade hops, the obvious choice would again be a SMASH. Try 4.5 or 5 kg of pale malt with 15-25g of Cascade for bittering and 50-60g for finishing and another 60g or so for a dry-hop. Use US-05 yeast to ferment it for a clean fermentation that lets the hops shine through.
Where to Buy Cascade Hops?
If you’re looking to buy Cascade hops, we have them here in our shop.
Just remember however, we don’t currently ship products, so you’ll have to come in and pay us a visit!