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Apparently, Cascade is commonly used for bittering, and I'm not sure I understand why someone would choose that over the very similar Amarillo, which I think is less common for bittering.

Cascade has higher levels of cohumulone (which is thought to provide a harsher bitterness -- Amarillo has an average of 22.5 and Cascade has an average of 36.5) and has almost half the average Alpha Acids as Amarillo hops (9.5 compared to 5.75).

It seems like Amarillo would be the more economical and tastier option of the two ... unless perhaps you're looking for a harsher hop bitterness.

Any thoughts?

EDIT: I'm sort of looking for reasoning besides personal preference.

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I just recently did an all cascade brown ale, and was planning to something like you just described (low cohumulone). You just did my research for me thanks. –  brewchez Jun 7 '11 at 15:27
    
Glad you found it helpful, all Amarillo sounds delicious! –  JasonStoltz Jun 7 '11 at 20:10
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4 Answers 4

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Probably comes down to reputation. Cascade has been really popular in the homebrew community for 20 (30?) years.

Also... just saw this in Wikipedia...

Unlike most varieties of hops, which may be acquired and propagated by the purchase of rhizomes, Amarillo hops are privately grown only by Virgil Gamache Farms; the organization holds a trademark on the name "Amarillo."

(also checked in the Hop Union Variety Databook to confirm)

All things equal, I think a private variety will have a tougher time competing against a big player like Cascade, because the private one has limited distribution (can only buy through the owner).

Think I'll try out Amarillo next time. See how I like it.

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OK, so good point, availability could definitely be part of it. And as if to prove your point i was just at the local home brew store today and they were out of Amarillo :/ Very helpful perspective, thank you. –  JasonStoltz Jun 7 '11 at 20:05
    
So I'm actually marking this as the correct answer, simply because i was sort of looking for a reasoning BESIDES personal preference. This seems to be the most practical explanation. –  JasonStoltz Jun 9 '11 at 17:12
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Bittering is almost entirely about alpha acids. You could use some cascade, or a LITTLE bit of Magnum, or a TON of a low-bittering hop and they will all produce (more or less) the same bittering result.

But this is a broad generalization and it's not always true, so don't learn this as a simple answer.

Every hop is made up of 4 or more hop oils, including alpha acids but also beta acids, cohumuline, etc. These all affect the hop experience... less so if they were used for bittering, but it can add up.

For example, for any beer I make which has later hop additions (flavor or aroma, 30 mins or less) I will bitter with good old Magnum hops. Buy a POUND of this hop when you can! But I have made beers with large amounts of magnum and I got an unintended "citrus/grapefruit" characteristic. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not. Magnum, Northern Brewer, and Cascade tend to be some of the most popular bittering hops.

Most hops can be grouped as "citrus, piney, earthy" etc. and having a chart of this will allow you to easily substitute hops.

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Thanks ScottInNH, good write up, though, it doesn't really answer my question. –  JasonStoltz Sep 13 '11 at 12:22
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In my experience,the bittering hops do contribute to hop flavor outside of bittering. Amarillo has different characteristics and as such would depend on what the brewer wants for their beer.

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How long is a piece of string? What I'm getting at is that it just comes down to personal preference. For instance, for a lot of styles I prefer a higher cohumulone hop for bittering. In a Munich heavy IPA that high cohumulone helps balance out the maltiness. ANY hop can be used for ANY purpose if you like the results. I don't care for Magnum as a finishing hop, but others do. That doesn't say anything about Magnum, it speaks to people's preferences.

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Good point Denny. I was thinking that cohumulone was generally considered undesirable... but then again, the flavor imparted by wild yeast is generally considered undesirable, yet people still purposely brew delicious beer using wild yeast. For me my preference is definitely low cohumulone though. –  JasonStoltz Jun 7 '11 at 20:07
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