Hops Glossary – Farnesene: The Aromatic VIP of Craft Beer Secrets

Reading Time: around 7 min

Farnesene, that elusive magician lurking within the bines of hops, is something of a hidden gem in the brewing world. Think of it as the secret sauce, the unsung hero that imparts an aromatic whisper to your favorite brews. 

It’s a compound that shows up to the party, but not everyone notices. 

Unless it’s absent, then people start searching for it like a lost lottery ticket. 

You see, farnesene is one of the many essential oils that gives beer its character. Uniquely tailoring the taste and aroma profile. It varies wildly across different hop varieties, from virtually nonexistent to popping up like a bold statement. 

Just like you wouldn’t wear flip-flops to a black-tie event…

…brewers have to know which hops to invite to the brewing process.

They want to get the dress code of their beer just right.

Key Takeaways

  • Farnesene is a key aroma compound in hops that impacts beer flavor.
  • The presence of farnesene can vary significantly among hop varieties.
  • Brewers must select the right hops with farnesene to create specific beer styles.


The Essentials of Farnesene in Hops

If you’re a fan of craft beer, get ready because we’re diving into the hoppy world where farnesene plays a starring role. Fasten your seatbelts!

Hops: The Spice of Beer

Think of hops as the secret sauce that turns your beer from just fermented grain-water into a symphony of taste and aroma. Each hop variety is like a band member contributing its own flair. Farnesene is like a cool bass guitarist.

Bringing a groovy background note to the mix.

Unique Compounds and Contributions

Hop oils like myrcene, humulene, and caryophyllene are the usual suspects when it comes to flavor, but farnesene? The undercover agent adds a twist of aroma.

It’s like the ninja of hop oils, sneaking in complexity.

Main Compounds in Hops:

  • Alpha acids: The heavy hitters for bitterness.
  • Beta acids: The subtle sidekicks of bitterness.
  • Myrcene, Humulene, Caryophyllene: Big flex on aroma and flavor.


Fundamentals of Farnesene

Farnesene is that background character in hops you’ve probably overlooked. Not as prominent as myrcene but trust me. It’s essential for that crisp, green apple or grassy note in some of your favorite brews. 

It helps transform the final hop oil profile that tickles your fancy. 

Farnesene Value in Brewing

When you’re diving into the hoppy world of brewing…

…farnesene is like that lesser-known indie band that totally deserves the spotlight.

The Aroma Profile

Farnesene, my friend, is one of those silent heroes in the world of hop aromas. It’s like that thing in the background you never knew you needed, but now can’t live without. 

For craft brewers, a dash of farnesene-rich hops adds a fresh, grassy, and pleasantly floral note to their brew. Homebrewers, take note. If you’re aiming for a bouquet that whispers sophistication, farnesene’s your wingman.

  • Floral
  • Grassy
  • Fresh
  • Green


Bitterness and Brewing Chemistry

Alright, let’s talk turkey. Or bitterness, really. 

In the alchemy of brewing, farnesene does not go Hulk on the bitterness like some of its hop compound brothers. So, don’t expect it to raise your beer’s IBUs through the roof.

It’s more about flavor and aroma than making your face implode with bitterness. When you boil your wort, those farnesene levels will chill out, so keep an eye on your hop back or dry hopping for the real aroma action.

  • Bitterness: Low impact on IBU
  • Boiling: Reduces farnesene content
  • Dry Hopping: Maintains aroma contributions


Science in Suds: Extraction and Evaluation

Let’s geek out on some beer science! Farnesene gets cozy in your brew during fermentation, like a hermit crab in a shiny new shell. Yeast gets friendly with it and can help boost some of the derived ester compounds that make the signature scents in your heady brew. 

Want to extract max value from those farnesene vibes? Opt for hop extracts or go for a dry hopping spree post-fermentation. You’ll get the full concert, not just the soundcheck.

  • Fermentation: Boosts ester formation
  • Extracts: Concentrated source of farnesene
  • Dry Hopping: Best method for farnesene expression


Farnesene vs. Growing and Varieties

Farnesene, that elusive, fragrant compound in hops, can make or break your brew’s aroma profile. Choose the right hop variety. Know its characteristics. Understand terroir’s impact. 

These are your brewmaster detective tools to track it down. 

Varieties and Vernacular

You might have heard names like Citra or Simcoe being thrown around in your local taproom. These hops are like celebrities on the red carpet of brewing due to their unique flavors, but they’re not famous for their farnesene content.

You see, it’s like searching for a needle in a haystack with these varieties.

However, when it comes to German varieties like Spalt, Tettnang, and especially Noble hops, you’re looking at the A-listers for farnesene. These hops have the kind of aromatic qualities that can make you swoon. Think spicy, woody, and floral notes.

Another prominent example is Lublin Hops (Lubelski).

Hop Anatomy and Agriculture

Here’s a fun fact. Farnesene is in the essential oils in the lupulin glands of the female flower of hops. Which science geeks officially call the flower Humulus lupulus. Whole hops and pellet hops – your choices as a homebrewer – hold this treasure. 

It’s like they’re gatekeepers of flavor, and the farnesene is their precious.

Terroir and Types

You know how wines have all that jazz about regions and taste notes? Hops have their own version: terroir. Take the Czech Saaz, for example. Grown in the Czech Republic, it whispers of ‘tradition’ with its farnesene notes. 

Yet, the Yakima valley’s Citra hops shout tropical and citrus.

With only minuscule farnesene whispers. Two different stories, right?

On the other hand you’ve got Motueka and Santiam, so it’s more down to variety.

Good to Grow: Cultivation and Selection

So, let’s say you want to put your green thumb to the test and grow your hops. Keep an eye out for Sterling, Willamette, and Vanguard. They are like the understudies, ready for their farnesene-rich moment. 

Hallertau Mittelfrüh? She’s the queen of German hops with just enough farnesene to give your IPA or Lager that regal touch. If you want to avoid high-farnesene hops for a more subdued note, consider varieties like Mosaic or Perle. 

They might just fit perfectly into your botanical cast.

Farnesene and Beer Styles

When you’re sipping your favorite brew, the mysterious farnesene often plays the secret agent role in the background. It tweaks the smell and taste in ways you might not even notice. 

Beer Styles and Sensory Science

Ale and Lager. You’d expect these two to be as different as chalk and cheese, and you’d be right. But farnesene? It’s like the chameleon of hop compounds, adding that subtle twist.

And works well with both.

Ah, the India Pale Ale. The craft beer lover’s dream. More hops mean more room for farnesene to show off its aroma skills. No wonder your nose is in heaven every time you pop open a bottle.

Flavor Factors: Processing and Pairing

Dry Hopping. Here’s where farnesene enters like a celebrity at a party. Dry hopping amps up the flavor without the bitterness. Think of it as the life of the beer party. 

Pairing. You wouldn’t wear socks with sandals, right? Well, I would, but that’s not the point. Farnesene-rich ales go best with foods that complement their nuance. Like a pro chef matching a fine wine with the perfect appetizer.

The Connoisseur’s Corner

Taste and Aroma. So, if you fancy yourself a beer connoisseur, pay attention to the subtle hints of farnesene. It’s less about the “hoppy slap to the face” and more about the “gentle caress on your taste buds.” 

Bittering Hops vs. Blending. Not all hops are out to get you with bitterness. In fact, some like to play nice. Farnesene usually lingers in the background, whispering:

“Try me with a little something else”.

It promotes harmony in your fermented potion. 

Picture of Damian


A lifelong learner, hop enthusiast and a lover of the state of extreme exhaustion.

Finance Analyst in the Investment Bank and co-founder of hopsmatcher.com