Amarillo Hops Flavor: A Comprehensive Guide to Characteristics and Pairings

Amarillo hops flavor has become a favorite among craft beer enthusiasts and brewers alike, offering a delightfully sweet and fruity profile that enhances a wide range of beer styles. Discovered by Virgil Gamache Farms in Washington, these hops are known for their bold orange and tangerine-like characteristics, often drawing comparisons to other citrus flavors such as lemon, peach, apricot, and melon.

As you explore more about Amarillo hops, you’ll find they are incredibly versatile in brewing. They are often used in American Pale Ales and IPAs, where they shine in both bittering and dry-hopping applications. Amarillo hops not only lend their enticing aroma and flavor to the brew but also provide balance in combination with other popular hop varieties such as Citra, Simcoe, and Mosaic.

In addition to the captivating citrus notes, Amarillo hops exhibit a floral and slightly pungent or dank aroma profile, making them a great option for adding depth and complexity to your brew.

Origin of Amarillo Hops

Amarillo hops were first developed in the United States by a family-owned hop farm, Virgil Gamache Farms. This farm, located in Yakima Valley, Washington State, is known for its innovation and dedication to providing unique hop varieties to the brewing industry. Amarillo hops, originally named VGXP01 cv, were introduced in 2000 as a result of crossing two proprietary cultivars, Simcoe® and Fuggle, with an unknown seedling.

Yakima Valley, where Virgil Gamache Farms is situated, is a prime region for hop cultivation. The favorable climate, fertile soil, and abundant water supply in this area allow for the growth of high-quality hops that impart unique flavors and aromas to beers. As a result, Amarillo hops quickly gained popularity among brewers, particularly for crafting American Pale Ales and IPAs.

The Amarillo hop variety exhibits a distinct flavor and aroma profile characterized by flowery, spicy, tropical, and citrus-like notes, with a strong emphasis on orange and lemon characteristics. This complex profile is what sets Amarillo hops apart from other varieties and makes them a popular choice for adding depth to beer’s flavor and aroma.

Characteristics of Amarillo Hops

Alpha, Beta, and Co-Humulone Content

Amarillo hops are known for their distinct flavor and aroma profile. The alpha and beta acid percentages in Amarillo hops contribute to their overall characteristics. Typically, Amarillo hops have an alpha acid content ranging between 7-11% and a beta acid content of 5.5-8%. These percentages result in these being hops that can be used as both bittering and aroma hops in beer recipes.

One notable element of Amarillo hops is their relatively low co-humulone content, often ranging between 20-24%. Co-humulone, as a part of the alpha acids, impacts the perceived bitterness in beer. A lower co-humulone percentage can contribute to a smoother bitterness, making Amarillo hops a desirable choice for many hop-forward beer styles.

Oil Content and Constituents

Oil content is another significant aspect that influences the flavor and aroma of Amarillo hops. The total oil content in Amarillo hops falls within the range of 1-2.3 mL/100g. This oil breaks down into various constituents, which provide characteristic flavors and aromas:

– Myrcene: Amarillo hops have a relatively high myrcene content, often making up 40-50% of the total oil content. Myrcene gives Amarillo hops a fruity, citrusy, and tropical aroma.

– Humulene: Lesser in concentration, humulene contributes to the earthy, woody, and spicy elements in Amarillo hops. Humulene typically accounts for 9-11% of the total oil content.

– Caryophyllene: At around 5-6% of the total oil content, caryophyllene imparts a peppery and spicy characteristic to Amarillo hops.

– Farnesene: While present in smaller amounts, farnesene adds a floral essence to the hops’ profile.

In addition to these essential oils, Amarillo hops showcase a variety of citrus, stone fruit, and floral characteristics. The hops are frequently used in late boil additions or dry hopping, which further enhances the prominent flavors and aromas.

Lastly, the hop storage index (HSI) is another essential factor in retaining Amarillo hops’ flavors and aromas over time. A lower HSI indicates a higher stability and longer-lasting freshness in the hops. Ideally, storing Amarillo hops in a cool, dry environment will help maintain their quality and unique characteristics.

Amarillo Hops Flavor

Citrus and Fruit Notes

Amarillo hops are well-known for their delightful citrus flavor and aroma that is reminiscent of oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, and lemons. Moreover, this hops variety is rich in myrcene oil contents, resulting in a strong citrus character. Additionally, you will find hints of tropical fruit that often include melon, peaches, and stone fruits. As you incorporate Amarillo hops in beer, expect a fruity and complex, yet balanced, flavor profile.

Floral and Herbal Notes

Apart from the distinctive citrus notes, Amarillo hops also offer subtle floral and herbal nuances. These floral notes provide a secondary layer to the aroma profile, enhancing the overall sensory experience. The pleasant herbal undertones contribute a mild, earthy character to your beer, complementing the more prominent citrus and fruity aspects.

Pine and Earthy Notes

While not as pronounced as the citrus and fruit flavors, Amarillo hops do exhibit some pine and earthy attributes. Although they are not at the forefront of the aroma profile, these characteristics add depth to the beer and create a well-rounded flavor experience. The hints of pine and woody notes nicely ground the more dominant fruit and citrus elements, yielding a harmonious balance in your beer.

Amarillo Hops in Brewing

Use in Different Beer Styles

Amarillo hops are highly versatile and can be found in various beer styles. They are particularly popular in American Pale Ales and IPAs, where their distinct citrusy and floral characteristics shine through. You may also find Amarillo hops utilized in wheat beers and other hop-forward styles.

Some notable examples include Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale and Ale Asylum’s Ballistic IPA. In these styles, Amarillo works in harmony with other hop varieties like Cascade, Centennial, and Chinook to create a complex flavor profile.

Contribution to Bitterness and Flavor

Amarillo hops bring a unique balance of bitterness and flavor to the brewing process. While they can be used for bittering, they are more commonly employed for their aroma and taste contributions. These hops have a moderate Alpha Acid content (between 7-11%), which contributes to the overall bitterness of a beer.

The flavor profile of Amarillo hops is characterized by its spicy, tropical, and citrus-like qualities, with strong notes of orange and lemon. The citrus aspects are similar to Cascade hops, but Amarillo offers a more intense flavor. Some other nuances you might detect include hints of peach, apricot, and melon.

Dry-Hopping with Amarillo

Dry-hopping is a brewing technique where hops are added during or after fermentation, allowing their aromatic oils to infuse the beer without imparting additional bitterness. Amarillo hops are well-suited for dry-hopping, enhancing the beer’s aroma and adding a fresh, fragrant quality to the final product.

When you choose to dry-hop with Amarillo, you can expect it to contribute a burst of vivid citrus and floral notes.  Experiment with different combinations of hop varieties to achieve your desired flavor and aroma profile.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the flavor profile of Amarillo hops?

Amarillo hops are known for their citrusy and floral characteristics, offering a soft and fruity flavor profile. You’ll often notice notes of orange peel, apricot, grapefruit, pine, lemon, tangerine, and tropical fruit in beers brewed with this hop variety.

How do Amarillo hops compare to Citra hops?

Both Amarillo and Citra hops boast citrus and tropical fruit flavors, with Citra leaning more towards a stronger grapefruit and mango presence. Amarillo hops are often described as having a more balanced, slightly softer citrus profile in comparison to the bright, bold citrus flavors of Citra hops.

What styles of beer can benefit from Amarillo hops?

Amarillo hops are commonly used in American Pale Ales and IPAs, lending their distinct fruity and citrusy characteristics to these styles. They also work well in various other styles, such as Pale Ales, Blonde Ales, and Amber Ales, where their distinctive aroma and flavor can shine through.

What hops pair well with Amarillo for brewing?

While Amarillo hops can be used on their own, they also pair well with other hop varieties to create a more complex flavor profile. Some popular hop pairings with Amarillo include Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe. Experimenting with different hop combinations can lead to unique and exciting beer styles.

How does the taste of Amarillo hops differ from Cascade?

Amarillo hops showcase a fruity, citrusy profile with notes of orange peel, apricot, and tropical fruit, whereas Cascade hops feature a more prominent grapefruit character with hints of floral and spicy tones. While both hops can contribute a citrus element to beer, Amarillo tends to be slightly sweeter and fruitier, making it a softer option compared to the more assertive citrus qualities of Cascade.

Can Amarillo hops be used for bittering or aroma?

Amarillo hops can be utilized for both bittering and aroma, thanks to their high alpha acid content, which typically ranges from 8-11%. This versatility makes them an excellent choice for brewers looking to add a punch of bitterness or enhance the aroma of their beer with the unique Amarillo hop profile.

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