THE BEER HOP GUIDE

 

 

This is a guide primarily for beer drinkers and not brewers, however some homebrewers may find this guide useful.

Hops are cultivated flowers of the genus Humulus. The common hop is a dioecious (plants are usually either male or female) perennial with rough stems that can grow over twenty five feet long and penetrate the soil ten feet or more. Hops are grown all over the world and are most popular in moist, but well drained climates. Hops in the United States are typically grown in the summer months and are irrigated, while hops in England have sufficient waterduring the growing season.

Hops have not always been added to beer - they've only been part of the standard recipe for about 1200 years. Hops were added to beer to not only provide a bitter flavor, but to also act as a preservative. The bitter flavor is extracted from the hop during the boiling process, it is at this time which insoluble alpha acids are isomerized into more soluble iso-alpha acids. The hop cone also produces a volatile oil which brewers use to add hop aroma. Brewers will add aromatic hops to the brewing kettle anywhere from one to fifteen minutes before cooling to maximize flavor and aroma. Because the aromatic principles are more fragile than the bittering principles and are damaged by heat, aromatic yield decreases as boil time increases.

Many different beers use different types of hops, and some brewers combine different hops at different stages of the brewing process. Even the most casual beer drinker will have at some point heard of a hop name mentioned. You may have also heard of hops alpha acid percentage; alpha acid contributes to the bitter flavor of the beer. The higher the alpha acide percentage, the more bitter the hop and beer. Below are a list of hops with their alpha acid percentage and a description of their usage and flavor.

Cascade

Probably the first hop you will learn. This aroma variety is piney, citrusy, and quite assertive. Heritage is Fuggle and Serebrianker (a Russian variety). The most widely available Cascade beers are Anchor Liberty, Sierra Nevada Pale, Great Lakes Burning River.

Centennial

Similar to Cascade, perhaps with sweeter fruit notes and a slightly chunkier bitterness. Works brilliantly with Cascade and Chinook to form the Three Cs, a very effective combination. Examples include New River Pale Ale (Three Cs),

Challenger

Soft mixed use English hop with a spicy character.

Chinook

Big, rich, robust bitterness, with woody aroma characteristics that are best used in a blend with other American hops. Examples include Fish Leviathan (bittering only),

Crystal

Mixed use hop that is a hybrid of German and American varieties. Quite aromatic, fruity. Examples include Rogue Brutal Bitter & Honey Cream Ale.

Nugget

Bittering variety. Nuggets generally have a poor reputation as being cheap and unrefined, but do have a pronounced herbal aroma. Examples include Sierra Nevada Bigfoot (bittering only),

Willamette

Mild aroma hop, with a herbal, sometimes gently fruity character. Widely used, but not bombastic enough to be recognized by most tasters. Sniff some fresh ones at the homebrew store to help you learn the Willamette signature. Common in those brewpub golden ales we all know and love.