Aroma Profile: Blackcurrant, Floral, Spicy, Black Pepper
Alpha Acids: 4-7%
Beta Acids: 3-4.5%
Total Oils 1-1.5 mL/100g
Willamette is a pillar of the American hop industry. It was first selected in 1967 and was released to the public brewing world in 1976. With aromas of blackcurrant and blackberry, it also gives floral and spicy notes in a brew.
Willamette is one of the most grown hop varieties in the US, first developed as an alternative to UK Fuggles. This was because Fuggles in the UK didn’t have a very high yield and USDA wanted to create a high yielding hop that retained the earthy and spicy aroma of Fuggles.
After several years of testing, six hops were given to a panel to try and unanimously, the committee chose a hop called Columbia. However, the odd part of this story is that their decision was overturned by the chief of brewing who said that Willamette was a closer match to Fuggles.
Before the acceptance of Cascade and the growth of US hop-forward beer styles (helped by Sierra Nevada and others), US hop breeders concentrated on replicating traditional ‘noble’ hop flavours in their beers. Willamette was the culmination of this effort.
When Willamette was released, it became a massive player in the brewing world for both the big brewers and the smaller craft breweries.
Willamette is an extremely versatile hop that has been used in many different big brewery beers over the years, especially Budweiser. Willamette is mostly used as an aroma and flavour hop. There is a range of beers that you can use Willamette to make including stouts, brown ales, pale ales, amber ales, British ales and lots more.
Although most craft brewers use Willamette as an aroma addition, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t an excellent bittering hop. The aroma tones of the hop are lovely and have produced some beautiful beers when used as a late addition, but it has also produced some excellent beers when used in the bittering stages too.
It is worth experimenting with Willamette to find out the perfect time for its addition into your brew. This all depends on the flavours you want, of course. Willamette has lots of characters to add, but they are indeed quite subtle. This can suit some craft beers exceptionally well, but others may need a little fruit and spice which can be added in the form of another aroma hop.