Aroma Profile: Earthy, Resinous, Black Pepper, Spicy
Alpha Acids: 14-20%
Beta Acids: 4.5-6%
Total Oils: 1.5-4.5 mL/100g
The history of Columbus is just as interesting as the earthy, resinous, black pepper, spicy aroma characteristics it has and just as varied and strange. It all begins with Charles Zimmermann, a legendary hop breeder who worked for the USDA’s hop breeding program:
In 1979 Zimmermann retired with no one set to take over his position. Zimmermann grew many hop varieties at his home, so Columbus was likely one of these hops although its origins aren’t exactly clear.
So Zimmermann worked at Hop Union after his retirement. Hop Union later tried to patent the Columbus hop, but Zimmermann, now working at Yakima Chief patented the exact same hop under the name of Tomahawk. This began some legal battles as to who actually owned the hop, but they eventually agreed on a set of terms. The hop would be jointly marketed with each company using its own name. Zeus is similarly genetically identical to both Columbus and Tomahawk – which means that the hop is sometimes called CTZ.
Of course, with a chequered past like this, Columbus’ pedigree is not given in the patent, possibly because it isn’t really known, but the license for the hop does state that it was wind-pollinated. There is no way of knowing the male parent, but many believe that Brewer's Gold (an English variety) played a role somewhere.
What is not controversial is that Columbus makes an exceptional beer. It features a deep and punchy hoppiness and some beautiful tones of citrus and earthy notes.
When used as a bittering hop, you can find yourself enjoy some lovely earthy and spicy tones. Yet when used as an aroma hop in the final stages of the brew, citrus floats around the palette along with a subtle herbal flavour.
Columbus is increasingly being used later in the boil. With simple changes to the timings of the addition of this hop, the brewer can create an amazingly different beer. This is an inspiring hop to use, the flavours are relatively easy to control during the brew, but it does take some skill. We’d like to forget about Columbus’ slightly strange past and focus on its incredible future in the craft brewing world!