Centennial Hops: The Superstar of American Craft Brewing

Centennial hops, often hailed as the “Super Cascade,” have carved out a significant niche in the craft brewing world with their well-rounded aromatic and bittering qualities.

Developed in the 1970s and released in 1990 by the USDA, Centennial hops quickly gained a reputation for their versatility and dynamic flavor profile, making them a favorite among brewers seeking a reliable and potent hop.

Flavor Profile of Centennial Hops

Centennial hops are celebrated for their balanced blend of floral, citrus, and earthy tones. They impart a pronounced bitterness that is clean and pleasing to the palate, making them an excellent choice for crafting robust and flavorful beers.

The hop’s aromatic qualities are particularly noted for their complex mix of floral notes alongside hints of lemon and pine. When used in brewing, Centennial hops deliver a potent yet harmonious flavor that can stand alone or blend well with other hop varieties.

History of Centennial Hops

The introduction of Centennial hops was part of a broader initiative by the USDA to develop new varieties that could thrive in the American climate and meet the growing demand from brewers for more diverse flavor profiles.

Released to the public in 1990, Centennial was bred to combine the desirable qualities of several hop varieties, aiming to create a high-yielding, disease-resistant plant with superior brewing properties.

Centennial quickly became a staple in the American craft beer scene, revered for its robust flavor and dual-purpose application. It is a testament to the successful breeding efforts that sought to produce a versatile hop that could enhance the depth and complexity of craft beers across various styles.

Centennial Hops in Brewing

As a dual-purpose hop, Centennial is suitable for both bittering and for flavor and aroma additions in the brewing process. Its alpha acid content ranges from 9.5% to 11.5%, providing a strong but not overpowering bitterness.

This makes it an ideal candidate for beers where a more pronounced hop character is desired without veering into excessive bitterness.

In brewing, Centennial hops are particularly effective in American IPAs, where their depth of flavor can be showcased.

However, their flexibility also allows them to be used in Pale Ales, Stouts, Barleywines, and more, contributing to their popularity as a go-to hop for many brewers.

Characteristics of Centennial Hops

With their high alpha acid percentages, Centennial hops are excellent for imparting a clean and crisp bitterness. They also boast a substantial amount of essential oils, which include myrcene, caryophyllene, and farnesene, contributing to their aromatic complexity.

The combination of these oils yields a bouquet of floral and citrus aromas that are both intense and inviting.

When used in late additions or dry hopping, Centennial hops express their full range of aromatic qualities, making the beer’s flavor profile more layered and nuanced.

Their balanced nature makes them an excellent choice for brewers looking to achieve a harmonious blend of bitterness, flavor, and aroma.

Substitutes for Centennial Hops

If Centennial hops are unavailable, there are several other hop varieties that can serve as suitable substitutes. Cascade hops share some of the citrus and floral characteristics, though they are milder in comparison.

Chinook and Columbus hops can also be used, offering similar bittering qualities and a slightly different but complementary flavor profile.

Brewing with Centennial Hops

Centennial hops are not just celebrated for their flavor and aroma; their brewing versatility is equally appreciated. They work excellently in both single-hop recipes, where they can shine independently, and in complex hop bills, where they play a pivotal role in balancing other hop profiles.

Here are a few tips for brewing with Centennial hops:

  1. Hop Pairing: Centennial pairs well with other American hops like Amarillo for a citrusy profile, or with Simcoe for a more earthy and piney note. This versatility makes it an excellent candidate for experimental and traditional recipes alike.
  2. Brewing Techniques: For an IPA, consider using Centennial for both bittering and late additions. This will impart a significant hop presence without overwhelming bitterness, thanks to its well-rounded alpha acid profile.
  3. Dry Hopping: To fully capture the aromatic potential of Centennial hops, dry hopping is highly recommended. This technique allows the volatile oils to infuse the beer with their full floral and citrus bouquet without contributing to the bitterness.

Impact on Craft Brewing

The introduction of Centennial hops marked a significant evolution in the craft brewing industry. Its ability to impart a complex array of flavors and aromas while providing a solid bittering foundation has made it a beloved choice in the creation of many now-iconic American craft beers.

Recipe Ideas Using Centennial Hops

To showcase the versatility of Centennial hops, here are a couple of recipe ideas that highlight their unique characteristics:

  1. Centennial Single-Hop IPA: This recipe focuses on Centennial to demonstrate its full potential. Use Centennial hops at various points during the boil to create a depth of bitterness and flavor, and finish with a generous dry hop addition for an aromatic punch.
  2. American Pale Ale with Centennial and Cascade: Combine Centennial with Cascade hops for a classic American Pale Ale. This pairing offers a perfect balance between the floral and citrus notes of Centennial and the grapefruit character of Cascade, providing a refreshing and flavorful ale.

Centennial Hops and Home Brewing

For homebrewers, Centennial hops offer an accessible entry point into crafting beers with professional-level complexity. They are forgiving in nature, making them suitable for brewers at various levels of experience.

Here’s why Centennial should be a staple in your homebrew repertoire:

  • Versatility: Whether you’re brewing a light session ale or a heavy-hitting IPA, Centennial can adapt to your brewing needs.
  • Flavor Consistency: They provide a reliable flavor profile that can help new brewers achieve desired results without unpredictable variations.
  • Availability: As a popular hop, Centennial is readily available in most homebrew shops, both in pellet and whole leaf forms.

The Legacy of Centennial Hops 

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As craft brewing continues to evolve, the role of Centennial hops remains significant. The qualities that made it a pioneering hop in the craft beer revolution continue to influence new generations of brewers and beer enthusiasts.

Its legacy is not just in the beers it has shaped but in the brewing culture it has helped foster.

Centennial Hop Flavor FAQs

What flavors can be expected from Centennial hops? Expect a vibrant mix of floral and citrus notes, predominantly lemon and pine, along with a clean and balanced bitterness that enhances the beer’s overall taste.

What beers are best suited for Centennial hops? Centennial hops are particularly well-suited for American IPAs and Pale Ales but are versatile enough to be used effectively in Stouts, Barleywines, and other ale styles that benefit from a strong hop presence.

Can Centennial hops be used for both bittering and aroma? Yes, Centennial is an excellent dual-purpose hop. It is effective for adding both bitterness and aromatic qualities to beers, depending on the timing of the addition during the brewing process.

What are some effective substitutes for Centennial hops? Cascade, Chinook, and Columbus hops can serve as substitutes, each offering a unique twist on the flavor profile while maintaining a similar level of bitterness.

How are Centennial hops typically grown? Centennial hops are primarily grown in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, where the climate and soil conditions are ideal for cultivating robust and flavorful hops.


Centennial hops are a testament to the innovation and enduring nature of the craft brewing industry. With their perfect blend of aromatic charm and robust bitterness, they continue to inspire brewers worldwide.

As you explore the possibilities that Centennial hops offer, remember that each batch you brew contributes to a tradition of crafting flavorful, memorable beers.

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