All About Hops
Humulus Lupulus, commonly known as hops is the one of the three in the trinity of what we call beer. It is curious to note that use of hops is a recent phenomenon when compared to the ancient history of beer itself. First use of hops has been traced back to 12th and 13th century in Germany it was another 2 centuries before hops became a mainstay in brews in UK.
How do you distinguish hops in a beer?
The tell tale bitterness of a beer has that many find off putting is also the result of hops. It helps create balance with the sweetness of the malt. Apart from the balance, other reasons for popularity include its antibacterial properties along with it flavoring capabilities. Before hops various other herbs were used in brews as flavoring agents. They also help in retaining head of the beer as well as work as a natural filter to clear up the liquid.
Where do hops grow?
Hops are the female flowers of the hop plant and need a set environment to grow – moist and temperate climate. It is said that hops and potatoes need the same type of climates to grow. Hops however flower just once a year; this along with the exclusivity regions makes them a precious commodity.
Germany, eastern European nations, England, US, Australia and New Zealand are some of the largest producers of hops. Hops from all these different regions have their unique characteristics which is imparted in the beer as flavors. For instance hops grown in US are known for its bold and distinct citrus notes while those from Germany are softer with earthy and spicy notes and English hops are known for their grassy tea-like notes.
After they are harvested hops are processed converting them into pellets, extracts and whole-leaf. Internationally, many craft brewers are using unprocessed fresh hops as well.
What hops are used in your favorite beer?
Lager – Traditional German lager uses Hallertau hops which add slightly peppery or woody spiciness and floral flavor and aroma to the beer. Hallertau is one of the noble hops which originate in Germany and is quite coveted.
IPA – Traditional English IPAs use hops known as Fuggles, Goldings, Northern Brewer and Target. Sometimes to round off and finish the ale noble hops are used.
Fuggles is original to England is said to be a very pretty looking hop which adds mint, floral and wood notes to the beer. Similarly Goldings too is an original English hop known to add a refined flavor and spiciness to a beer. Northern Brewer gives away pine cone and mint with hints of wood while Target is the latest entrant, bred at the Hop Research Institute at Wye College. It was released in 1992, the hops add both bitterness and grass notes to the beer.
Irish Stout – East Kent Goldings comes from the Golding family of hops and flavors that this hop imparts can be vary from savory, sweet, citrus fruits and floral.
Hefeweizen – This style of wheat beer traditionally does not use hops to preserve the fruity balance and not let bitterness take over. However, American craft brewers are known to finish Hefeweizen with a touch of hops without letting it become overbearing.