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There's tons of hops out there, but I don't have the time or space to try them all, and I like to bounce between English and American ales. What's a good, balanced bittering hop that will let me keep just one bittering hop on hand? For later additions, I'd like to be able to go toward the Goldings and Fuggles (English), or toward the Cascades and Amarillos (American), without any clash of flavor from the bittering hop.

Columbus has a reputation as a "clean" bittering hop, and I've used it to good effect in a stout, but there's so much going on in a stout that it's hard to say whether there was a lingering flavor there.

I'd love to do a series of 30 IBU cream ales with only a 60 minute addition of a single hop each to see if I can detect the differences.

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This is a great question. Your final statement alludes to what one might have to do to answer it. Hopefully you get an answer from someone who has done such and experiment. – JackSmith Apr 5 '11 at 12:14
up vote 6 down vote accepted

I'd vote for either Galena or Magnum. Both are high-alpha bittering hops that have a very clean, neutral flavor profile. Just good clean bitterness, not the American twang of, say Chinook or Simcoe, nor the "noble" flavor of the German hops. Think of them as the "US-05 of hops".

I've used both in bittering additions for English and American ales, although I've never done a side by side experiment.

And since they are high alpha, you can buy a few ounces at a time and use them across multiple batches. Galena especially can be stored at home for a long time before it starts to lose its alphas. It was bred to be a long-lasting hops, supposedly even when stored at room temps (but I wouldn't do that just to be safe).

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Extra points for solving my freezer space problem! – Rich Armstrong Apr 6 '11 at 1:12
FWIW I've also been using a lot of Palisades in the year since I posted this as well. Typically 9% AA or so, and a nice, clean hop flavor. Not citrusy at all. – Graham Mar 22 '12 at 12:30
Thanks! I've been using Galena for a while and I gotta say I don't prefer it to Columbus. – Rich Armstrong Mar 22 '12 at 13:18
I often hear Columbus described as "dank" hop flavor, without the grapefruit flavor of Centennial. – Graham Mar 22 '12 at 14:36
Interesting. I find it adds more of a brightness to the flavor. – Rich Armstrong Mar 22 '12 at 19:21

I always have 1 lb of Magnum hops in the freezer. I second buying Magnum a bittering hop suitable for MOST beers.

For most beers, the bittering hop does not matter much. All that matters is the correct IBUs for the recipe. So when I follow a recipe that called for say Willamette bittering and say Willamette flavoring hops, I will usually replace the bittering hop with Magnum. (A little Magnum goes a lot further than most hops, so do not substitute at a 1:1 ratio by weight!).

For dual purpose bittering AND flavor/aroma in US and British beers, Willamette/Fuggles is a good one to have. It's not as high alpha as Magnum though so you'll need more for bittering.

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