What Are Simcoe Hops?

Over a year ago I thought, “you know what people want to learn about? Hops.”

I really have no idea if most people are actually interested in hops. You might not be. Maybe you already left this blog post. If you did, you wouldn’t even know that I’m talking about you right now.

But hey, I’m interested in hops, so that must mean you’re all interested, right? Right?

Simcoe. Simcoe hops. These are the little guys that have probably been involved in at least half of the beers you drank this past year. That’s a total guesstimate, especially because I have no clue what your drinking habits are, but I think I’m right.

How about this? If you’ve had an IPA in the past, I don’t know, 15 years, you’ve probably had Simcoe hops.

For the rest of this post I’ll talk about some of the Simcoe’s traits, as well as some of the history behind the hop variety. While I don’t love Simcoe the same way I love Citra, I think this hop variety is important enough to discuss.

Lastly: I don’t care about alpha acids enough to write about them, but if you really care then the alpha acid content is Simcoe 12-14%.


What are Simcoe hops?

For those who don’t know, Washington State is the home of roughly 77% of the nation’s hops. Many hops are not only grown in Washington, but were born in Washington, too.

Back in the Lord’s year of 2000, post Y2K scare and the beginning of the decade referred to as the “aughts,” Yakima Chief Ranch released this beauty of a hop.

I assume this Washington-based hop farm knew that the next 18 years would be heavily dominated by ultra-bitter IPAs, and that brewers needed an absolute monster of a hop to work with. Enter Simcoe.

There are tons of different uses for Simcoe, but the hop has widely been used for brewing bitter pale ales and IPAs. This is why you can find Simcoe in…well, pretty much every craft brewery in the nation.

What do Simcoe hops taste like?

I’m not really a taste/scent connoisseur, but it’s pretty clear that Simcoe adds flavor to beers that tend to be more bitter (ales, IPAs). According to my new favorite wiki, it’s fairly similar to Cascade hops.

I’m sure you’re all dying to learn more about Cascade hops. Well, that’s for a “Let’s Learn! Cascade Hops” post that’s TBD. So, another time.

You’re distracting me from the point of this. The point is, when you think Simcoe, think bitter and piney.

What’s a Simcoe Beer?

Unless your local brewer is totally pulling your tail, a Simcoe Beer is any beer with Simcoe hops. Yup, it’s that easy.

In fact, you can follow pretty much the exact same logic for beers made with Citra hops, Mosaic hops, or other hop varietals.

And God bless brewers because they often will call a beer “Simcoe IPA” or something so simple and clean that you can’t even mistake that yes, there are Simcoe hops in this beer.

Why do brewers use Simcoe?

If I had to guess I would say…because they can?

There’s no denying that the IPA is the face of craft brewing. Love it or hate it, that’s what it is.

While Hazy IPAs are moving away from the trend, many brewers in the late aughts and early 2010’s (tens?) wanted to make the bitterest bad boys they could brew.

Looking at you, Sierra Nevada.

Simcoe is often considered a more bitter, woody Cascade hop, which is another popular hop to use for IPAs. So, to get a more bitter blend, brewers started leaning on Simcoe.

But Simcoe is no one trick pony. No, Simcoe also adds a wonderful woody aroma to beers. That’s why it’s possible to make a delicious single-hopped IPA using only Simcoe. Simcoe tickles all your olfactory sensors.

Thomas Short
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