What are Hops? A Guide to Adding Hops to your Beer

Hops in beer“I said a hip, HOP…”

Today, we’re talking about hops, and it’s not the kind Rapper’s Delight told us about.

Hops are a popular ingredient used to give the beer a certain smell and taste. You might have heard people refer to a beer as “hoppy” before, but what does that really mean?

The Hop Plant
A hop is a flower used for bittering, flavoring, and adding aromas to your beer.

Each hop has elements that can intensify smell, sweeten, or strengthen the bitterness of beer. There are different types of essential oils that control the aroma and flavoring of a hop, and different levels of alpha acids that control the bitterness.

You can use a variety of hops to achieve the smell and flavor of your choice!

Hoppy Strains

There are 3 main types of hops: Noble, American, and English. And each type offers a variety of options for your brew.

Noble Hops

Noble hops are found in Germany and the Czech Republic. They have a high amount of essential oils that intensify flavors and aromas, and a low alpha acid level that reduces bittering. Here are some of the classic Noble hops:

Saaz
­          Acid level: 3-5%
­          Style: Traditional Noble hop
­          Flavor Profile: Earthy, spicy, herbal

Lubelski
­          Acid level: 3-5%
­          Style: Substitution to Saaz
­          Flavor Profile: Floral, magnolia, lavender

Tettnanger
­          Acid level: 3-6%
­          Style: Traditional Noble hop
­          Flavor Profile: Spicy, floral

American Hops

American hops are grown right here in the U.S. They’re known for having high levels of myrcene that create stronger aromas. Here are some of our favorites:

Brewer’s Gold
­          Acid level: 6-10%
­          Style: Bittering hop
­          Flavor Profile: Spicy, blackberry currant

Cascade
­          Acid level: 4.5-7%
­          Style: Strong bittering and intense aroma
­          Flavor Profile: Citrus, grapefruit

Amarillo
­          Acid level: 8-11%
­          Style: Substitution to Cascade
­          Flavor Profile: Orange citrus

English Hops

English hops are found in (drumroll please) England. They have a low level of myrcene oil which makes their aroma milder. Here are three of the most popular English hops:

Sovereign
­        ­  Acid level: 4.5-6.5%
­          Style: Balancing hop
­          Flavor Profile: Fruity, floral, earthy

Sussex
­          Acid level: 4.3-5.8%
­          Style: Tropical
­          Flavor Profile: Citrus

Target
­          Acid level: 8-13%
­          Style: Strong bittering and intense aroma
­          Flavor Profile: Sage, floral, spice, citrus

Now that you know the types of hops, let’s talk about how to use them.

Hoppy Brewing

There are a variety of ways to achieve your perfect hoppy brew. So whether you’re a first timer or a seasoned brewer, there are multiple methods to get you hoppin’ along.

Dry Hopping

Dry hopping is best used with hops with strong flavors or aromas that are added after fermentation.

This method can take up to 10 days, but we promise it’s worth the wait. We recommend using a Sussex hop for this method.

First Wort Hopping

First Wort Hopping relies on hops with low acid-levels to achieve a balanced taste and smell. It produces a smooth bitterness that compliments the smell of the beer. Brewers should toss 30-50% of the hops into the kettle before boiling the wort.

Though not as common, we suggest trying this method using Tettnanger hops.

Randall

Hoppy brews can also be achieved using a Randall device. This device filters the beer through the hops, allowing the strong flavors to seep into the beer – similar to a water filter! Randall devices are a no-stress, no-mess way to brew the perfect hoppy beer.

*CAUTION*

This method brews large quantities. So throw a party to share the amazing beer you just made!

Cascade is a great hop to use in your first batch.

Remember, there are more hops and methods to try than what we’ve shared… So HOP on over to Adventures in Homebrewing and learn more about different tools, methods, recipes and more.

Hoppy brewing!

The Anatomy Of A Hop Cone

Look at anatomy of hop conePrized by brewers far and wide for its bittering, flavor, and aroma qualities, the hop is an integral part of beer. But what is a hop? What’s inside the hops? What’s the anatomy of a hop cone?
Hops come from a perennial plant called Humulus lupulus (lupulus as in wolf, so named for the voraciousness of the plant’s growth), which sends vines up from a rhizome in the ground. These vines (a.k.a. bines) have been known to climb to 20 feet or higher in a commercial hop field. Hops, the part of the plant used in brewing, are the flowers of the plant. It is the hop flowers’ essential oils and resins that make it so valuable as a beer brewing ingredient.
A hop flower looks like a miniature green pine cone. The resins, commonly referred to as alpha acids, are contained at the base of the hop cone in the lupulin glands. When boiled, these alpha acids are isomerized, a quick shift in molecular structure that makes them soluble in wort.
The alpha acids are what make beer bitter. A simple calculation allows brewers to figure out the IBUs (international bittering units) of their beer and compare their beer to others using a universally accepted scale. The two primary chemicals within the alpha acids are called humulone and cohumulone.
But also within the anatomy of a hop cone are other components that contribute to flavor and aroma. These characteristics are derived from hop oils. Because they’re more delicate than the alpha acids, the hop oils will evaporate if they’re boiled for too long. For this reason, they’re added to the wort late in the boil or afterwards. Commercial brewers may use a hop back, but homebrewers will usually put the hops directly in the secondary fermenter (this practice is called dry hopping).
There are several different types of essential oils within the hop cone, each contributing different flavor and aroma characteristics:

  • Myrcene – floral, citrus, and piney
  • Humulene – spicy, herbal, European
  • Caryophyllene – herbal, European
  • Farnesene & other oils

(If you’re interested, Ray Daniels’ book, Designing Great Beers, is a great source for more info on the different hop oils.)Shop Hops
After being harvested from the hop plant, hop cones are usually processed into pellets. Specialized machinery removes the extraneous vegetative material, preserving the resins and oils. The processing results in higher hops utilization (a measure of how many alpha acids are dissolved in the wort) and makes for easier storage. Some brewers, like Sierra Nevada, still use whole hops, but hop pellets have become the industry standard.
When buying hops for home brewing, fresher is always better (unless brewing a lambic, which is made with aged hops). It’s best to purchase your hops right before you use them. If you will be using the hops within a few days, store them sealed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Otherwise, keep them in the freezer, preferably vacuum-sealed, until you’re ready to brew.
This is the basic anatomy of a hop cone and why it is used in beer. Here’s where you can find more information about hops: (Nearly) Everything You Need To Know About Hops.
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David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He is a graduate of the Oskar Blues Brew School in Brevard, NC and founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Homegrown Hops for Homebrewed Beer?

Image Courtesy of botanical.com


Due to the growing environmental changes and the desire to feature “farm to table” edibles and drinks today, more and more farmers and beer breweries are looking into growing their own hops. These farmers aren’t only selling their hops but they are also doing their own home beer brewing.
Interested in growing your own hops and brewing your own beer? Here is a complete guide to everything you will need to know about growing your own hops, so start your planning now!
A hop plant is a perennial that will flower during the summer months. Hop cones will begin to grow from the sidearms of the plant causing the flowering process to occur. In order for the flowering process to occur properly there needs to be at least 120 days which are frost free, there must be ample moisture and there must be plenty of lengthy sunny days.
First, you will need to order your own Rhizomes (a piece of root taken from a larger hop plant), which are only available about once a year, typically in March or April. Next you will want to decide where to plant your own Rhizome. The best place to plant will be in a southern light exposure area with well-drained soil. Make sure to plant your root about a foot deep and begin to think about what you will use to help strengthen the plant as it grows.
Typically, late August or September is when you will want to harvest your hops. Once you begin harvesting make sure to lay everything down flat so it can dry and you can begin to pick off your hop cones for further drying. Don’t forget to research the general alpha acid range of the hops you grew to determine how much to use in your own brew.
Remember that hops have a minimal root system so the production will only get better and better as the years go on! And, don’t forget you’ll need a beer brewing kit to actually brew your creation!