Cascade Hops: The Quintessential American Brew

Cascade hops have become a cornerstone in the craft beer industry, renowned for their unmistakable floral and citrusy aroma that defines many American pale ales and IPAs. Developed in the 1950s and released to the public in 1972 by the USDA, Cascade quickly became a favorite among craft brewers for its unique flavor profile and versatility.

Flavor Profile of Cascade Hops

Cascade hops are best known for their vibrant grapefruit and floral notes, with a backdrop of spicy citrus. They provide a moderate bitterness that is both refreshing and well-rounded, making them an ideal choice for a variety of beer styles. The hop’s aroma is particularly noted for its lively floral characteristics with hints of citrus, especially grapefruit. When used in brewing, Cascade hops impart a clean and distinct flavor that can range from slightly spicy to richly grapefruity.

History of Cascade Hops

The development of Cascade hops was part of an ambitious breeding program aimed at creating new hop varieties that could thrive in the U.S. climate and provide brewers with more aromatic options. Released by the USDA breeding program at Oregon State University, Cascade was the first commercially successful American hop to emerge from this effort and has since shaped modern brewing trends significantly.

Originally developed as a substitute for traditional European hop varieties, which were difficult to obtain due to various trade restrictions, Cascade hops quickly became a staple in the burgeoning American craft beer scene. Their widespread adoption was driven by their robust flavor and dual-purpose application, making them both a bittering and a flavor/aroma hop.

Cascade Hops in Brewing

Cascade hops are a dual-purpose hop, meaning they can be used both for adding bitterness at the beginning of the boil and for imparting flavor and aroma when added later in the brewing process. Their balanced bittering properties and dynamic aromatic qualities make them exceptionally versatile in brewing a range of styles from Pale Ales to IPAs, and even Stouts and Porters where a subtle hop presence is desired.

When brewing with Cascade, many craft brewers prefer to use them in conjunction with other hop varieties to create a more complex or layered hop profile. However, they can also stand alone as the sole hop in a brew, showcasing their distinct character.

Characteristics of Cascade Hops

Cascade hops typically feature alpha acid levels ranging from 4.5% to 7%, making them a moderate choice for adding bitterness. Their beta acid contents are also well-balanced, contributing to their smooth bittering quality. The essential oil profile of Cascade is rich, with high levels of myrcene which contribute to its citrusy aroma.

In terms of brewing applications, Cascade hops are celebrated for their effectiveness in late hop additions or dry hopping, where their aromatic qualities can be fully realized without overwhelming the beer with bitterness. This method allows the hop’s floral and citrus notes to shine through, enhancing the beer’s overall sensory profile.

Substitutes for Cascade Hops 

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If Cascade hops are unavailable, several other varieties can provide similar characteristics. Amarillo or Centennial hops are often used as substitutes, offering comparable citrus and floral notes. Centennial, sometimes referred to as ‘Super Cascade’, has a higher alpha acid content and can deliver a more pronounced bitterness, which makes it suitable for more robust hop-forward styles.

Cascade Hop Flavor FAQs

What flavors can be expected from Cascade hops? Expect a floral aroma with prominent grapefruit and subtle spice notes. These are complemented by a clean, refreshing bitterness that is not overpowering.

What beers are best suited for Cascade hops? Cascade hops are a classic choice for American Pale Ales and IPAs but are also used in Blond Ales and various other styles where a hint of citrus and floral character is desired.

Can Cascade hops be used for both bittering and aroma? Yes, Cascade hops are dual-purpose. They can effectively contribute bitterness when added early in the boil and provide excellent aroma and flavor when used later in the brewing process or for dry hopping.

What are some effective substitutes for Cascade hops? Amarillo and Centennial hops are both excellent substitutes, providing similar citrus and floral characteristics with varying degrees of intensity.

How are Cascade hops typically grown? Cascade hops are predominantly grown in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, a region known for its ideal climate for hop cultivation. This variety thrives in the rich soil and temperate weather of areas like Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.


Cascade hops remain a beloved choice among craft brewers for their distinctive aromatic qualities and their foundational role in American craft brewing. Whether you’re a homebrew enthusiast or a professional brewer, incorporating Cascade hops can add a signature touch of classic American flavor to your beers. So, grab a bag of Cascade, start brewing, and taste a piece of brewing history!

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