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Which Hops have the Most Humulene?

Humulene Hops

Humulene, also known as α-humulene or α-caryophyllene, is one of the components of the essential oil from the flowering cone of the hops plant. It’s a naturally occurring terpene, first found in hops (Humulus lulupus) from which it derives its name. It’s an isomer of β-caryophyllene, and the two are often found together as a mixture in many aromatic plants including pine trees, orange trees, marsh elders, tobacco, and sunflower plants. Humulene is also found in sage, basil, cloves, Japanese spicebush, ginseng, mint, ginger, Vietnamese coriander and cannabis.

The concentration of humulene varies among different varieties of hops but can be up to 40% of the essential oil. Humulene and its reaction products in the brewing process of beer gives many beers their earthy, woody, piney, “hoppy” aroma. It has been said that noble hop varieties have been found to have higher levels of humulene, while other bitter hop varieties contain low levels.

The ratio of humulene to caryophyllene varies from one hop variety to another, but many brewers consider a good aroma to be one that has a ratio of greater than 3:1. Such hops tend to be floral, herbal, and spicy in character.

Some varieties, such as Hallertauer Mittelfrüh and U.K. Kent Golding, may contain 30% or more of their essential oils in humulene, but, because humulene is highly volatile and hydrophobic, only trace quantities of it may actually reach the final beer. Oxidation products of humulene, on the other hand, especially humulene mono-and di-epoxides, can impart significant amounts of aroma to beer. Humulene epoxide III is one of the most potent flavor compounds in Hallertauer Mittelfrüh, for instance, a variety that is high in humulene but relatively low in total oils.

Allowing hops that are high in humulene to age in bales for several weeks prior to pelletizing will result in greater amounts of humulene epoxides, as well as other hop oil oxidation products, which some brewers believe can significantly increase the hops’s aroma potential.

Which hops have the most humulene? Below is a table which ranks hops in terms of their humulene content as a percentage of the total oil content.

VarietyHumulene %Aroma Wheel PlacementDescription
Vanguard51.1Floral, HerbalHerbal and floral tones
Admiral (UK)46.87Citrus, Tobacco/Earthy, HerbalPleasant, resinous hop aroma with hints of citrus (orange) and herbal flavors
EKG (UK)45.95Floral, Spicy, Tobacco/EarthySmooth and delicate with floral, lavender, spice, honey, earth, lemon and thyme overtones
Perle (GR)40.38Fruity, Floral, SpicyDelicate floral, fruit, spice and mint tones
WGV (UK)40.36Floral, Tobacco/Earthy, HerbalFresh earthy, botanical and floral flavors
Golding39.84Floral, SpicyMild and delicate with sweet floral characteristics
Liberty37.86Citrus, SpicyMild and spicy with subtle lemon and citrus characteristics
Fuggle36.37Fruity, Tobacco/EarthyMild wood and fruit characteristics
Hallertau (GR)36.18Mild, yet spicy, with floral and citrus tones
Perle35.28Floral, Spicy, HerbalSlightly spicy with herbal and floral characteristics
Tettnang33.59SpicyNoble aroma that is pleasant and spicy
Willamette33.03Floral, SpicyMild and pleasant, with slightly spicy and floral tones
Northern Brewer (GR)32.41Floral, HerbalMedium intense herbal and floral tones
Hallertau32.39Floral, Spicy, HerbalMild and pleasant, yet spicy, with herbal and floral characteristics
Styrian Celeia32.13FloralPleasant and hoppy, similar to traditional European varieties
Magnum31.21No distinct aroma characteristics
Brewers Gold (GR)30.48Fruity, SpicyBlack currant, fruit and spice characteristics
Northern Brewer29.44Tobacco/Earthy, PineMedium intensity, pine and mint characteristics
Glacier29.08HerbalPleasant hop aroma
Saaz28.18Spicy, Tobacco/EarthyMild spice and earth tones
Tettnang (GR)27.12Floral, Tobacco/Earthy, HerbalMild and pleasant with balanced earthy, herbal and floral aroma impressions
Mt. Hood26.8Spicy, Tobacco/Earthy, HerbalMild, herbal and somewhat pungent or spicy
Crystal26.58SpicyMild, spicy and floral
Santiam25.81Floral, Spicy, HerbalSlightly spicy with herbal and floral characteristics
Herkules (GR)25.62FloralSpicy, floral and hop notes with hints of pine, black pepper and melon
Styrian Aurora24.16Floral, PineIntense and pleasant displaying floral, pine and hoppy characteristics
Sorachi Ace22.62Citrus, Herbal, GrassyUnique lemon and dill characteristics
Yakima Gold22.62Mild and pleasant
Millenium22.2Floral, Tobacco/Earthy, HerbalMild and resinous with floral and herbal tones
Ahtanum20.69Citrus, Floral, Tobacco/EarthyFloral, earthy, citrus and grapefruit tones
Sterling19.33Citrus, SpicyHerbal and spicy, with a hint of floral, citrus (lemon/pineapple) characteristics
Summit19.21Citrus, Spicy, Tobacco/EarthyDistinct spice, earthy, onion, garlic and citrus (pink grapefruit, orange and tangerine) tones
Equinox19.07Citrus, Herbal, Tropical FruitA pronounced aroma profile with citrus, tropical fruit, floral and herbal characteristics. Specific descriptors include lemon, lime, papaya, apple, and green pepper.
Bullion18.84FruityStrong and zesty blackcurrant characteristics
Cluster18.82Floral, SpicyStrong floral and spicy characteristics
Nugget18.8Spicy, HerbalMild and pleasant with spicy, herbal tones
Chinook18.35Citrus, Spicy, PineDistinct, medium intensity spice and pine characteristics with subtle notes of grapefruit
Mt. Rainier17.92Citrus, Floral, SpicyFloral and noble aromas, with citrus and licorice overtones
Amarillo17.9Citrus, Floral, Tropical FruitFloral, tropical, and citrus (lemon, orange and grapefruit) characteristics
Simcoe17.42Citrus, Tobacco/Earthy, PineUnique passionfruit, pine, earth and citrus characteristics
Horizon16.36Floral, SpicyPleasant and spicy, with floral characteristics
Warrior16.03Citrus, Herbal, PineMild and resinous with subtle citrus, pine and herbal characteristics
Brewers Gold15.65Fruity, SpicySpicy, fruity characteristics, black currant
Brewers Delight15.22
Palisade14.89Stone Fruit, Herbal, GrassyApricot, grass and clean floral charcteristics
Cascade14.19Fruity, Citrus, FloralMedium intense floral, citrus and grapefruit tones
Galena13.53Citrus, Stone Fruit, SpicySpicy, blackcurrant and citrus (grapefruit) tones
Bitter Gold13.49No specific aroma characteristics
Chelan12.66Citrus, FloralMild floral and citrus characteristics
Ultra12.53Floral, SpicyMild and pleasant with spicy, floral tones
Columbus11.99Citrus, SpicyPungent, black pepper, licorice characteristics with subtle citrus overtones
Tahoma11.68Citrus, Cedar, PinePredominate citrus and lemon notes with cedar, pine, floral, pepper and subtle green melon notes.
Centennial10.68Citrus, FloralMedium intensity floral and citrus (lemon) tones
Mosaic10.62Citrus, Floral, GrassyA complex array of tropical fruit, citrus, berry, herbal, earthy and pine characteristics
Bravo8.97Fruity, FloralPleasant fruity and floral aroma characteristics
Citra8.73Fruity, Citrus, Tropical FruitStrong citrus and tropical tones of grapefruit, melon, lime, gooseberry, passion fruit and lychee
Triplepearl7.2Pleasant and balanced with notes of melon, orange citrus, resin, spice and pepper