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I was going to try a hop tasting in an attempt to get a handle on the main varieties of hops. I already have some US Fuggles left over from the ESB that is currently fermenting. I note the same supplier also has UK Fuggles. Is this going to be a useful comparison? Ie. is there a real difference for different locations but the same variety?

Or is it all marketing? I.e. I'm going to mainly brew English beers so I should use UK East Kent Goldings, UK Fuggles, etc so that I can boast that it is made from Real English Hops even though it will taste the same?

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There absolutely is a difference. You can see it in the natural variability of hop crops from year to year. Growing conditions (moisture, soil composition, nitrogen, sun, pests) can all have a great effect on hop flavor, aroma, bitterness, storability, etc., even with the same hop plant in the same field.

Look at German varieties for a good example. Most grow very poorly outside their home-turf. Some are adapted to US/UK/Chinese/wherever conditions, but mostly don't share the qualities of authentic German-grown specimens, even though they may be genetically identical. Most often they are crossed/modified to make something more suitable for local conditions.

So yes, hop terroir is very real.

Edit- Or at least people who grow them think so. From the paper presenting the results of the 3rd year of the hop variety trial at UVM:

"Hops, like grapes, have terroir. Their brewing characteristics and oil content are reflective of their microclimate. Hop varieties grown on the East coast, even though genetically the exact same as varieties grown elsewhere, will not be like hops in the Pacific Northwest or Europe due to different soils and different climates."

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    The people who buy them think so, too. I've heard interviews on the Brewing Network from brewers who are adamant about getting to their hop growers to get the right lots and ensure quality. Citra as "amazaballs" vs. "cat piss", for example. – jsled Mar 5 '15 at 22:30
  • True that. I imagine a good deal of this really reflects the quality and skill of the hop grower to adapt to local conditions, as opposed to saying the quality of hops is just blind climatological luck. As with most things agricultural, I think it's all about having thoughtful, quality management of the process. – Franklin P Combs Mar 6 '15 at 14:16

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