Exactly what are beer hops, the mystery ingredient that makes beer taste so good? Beer hops, more simply known as hops, are the flowers of the hop plant known as Humulus Iupulus. Beer hops are used in the brewing process to add flavor and act as a preservative. Hops are what give beer its bitter flavor, and without them beer would actually be very sweet. Bitterness is measured in IBUs, or International Bitterness Units. The flavor of beer hops can be described as "earthy", "citrusy", "spicy", and "piney." The most "hoppy" flavored beers are typically pale ales, especially those designated as India Pale Ales (IPAs). The first use of beer hops in the beer brewing process was in the ninth century century.
Uses of Beer Hops:
Bittering: Bittering hops are those that contain high amounts of alpha acids. As the name suggests, these types of hops add to the bitterness of beer's flavor.
Aroma/Finishing: Aroma, or finishing hops contain low amounts of alpha acids, and are generally used in finishing applications when brewing. The aroma and flavor of hops generally depend on its level of hydrocarbons, rather than its amount of alpha acids. These
There are also dual-purpose hops which contain high levels of alpha acids, but also contain pleasant aroma and flavor qualities.
Varieties of Beer Hops:
Beer hops are produced by many different countries around the world, thus creating many varieties of beer hops, each with unique levels of bitterness, flavors, and aromas. Beer recipes will usually provide certain hop varieties to be used, but do not be afraid to experiment with different hops.
Noble hops are four varieties of beer hops that are low in bitterness and high in aroma. They are each named for the region they were first cultivated
- Hallertau, alpha acid level: 3.5-5.5%. Beta acid level: 3-4%
- Saaz, alpha acid level: 3.5-4%. Beta acid level: 3-4%
- Spalt, alpha acid level: 4-5%. Beta acid level: 4-5%
- Tettnang, alpha acid level: 3.5-5.5%. Beta acid level: 3.5-5.5%
When to Add Hops:
Hops should be added in the brewing process according the beer recipe. Usually bittering hops are added when the wort begins to boil for about sixty minutes. Flavor hops are generally added for the last fifteen minutes of boiling, and aroma hops are added for the last five minutes of boiling.