What is a Hop and Why is it in my Beer?
Let’s start with the basics, the four main ingredients of beer are malt, water, yeast, and hop.
You often hear people talk about “hoppy” beers or bitter beers, I’m not convinced most people know what a hop is.
Hops are the flowers of the plant called Humulus lupulus in the Cannabinaceae family. It’s interesting that the Cannabinaceae family also includes Hemp and Cannabis.
Scientific names are too hard to remember so let’s just go with hops.
Key Elements of Hops on Beer
Hops have several key effects on beer
- Hops help to keep beer fresher, longer;
- Hops help beer retain its head of foam—a key component of a beer’s aroma and flavor;
- Hops add “hoppy” aroma, flavor, and bitterness.
Hops the Plant
There are many different types of hops worldwide. The first documented use of hops in beer was in Germany in 736 AD. I don’t think I need to explain that the first hop in beer was used in Germany – because of course.
Commercially, hops are planted in rows and harvested towards the end of summer. Today, hops are harvested by commercial separator.
Hops and Beer
Hops have a wide variety of flavors and aromas. Flavors include floral, spicey, piney, earthy, grapefruit, citrus, blueberry, and lemon. Some beer can be categorized by the amount of hops, or how hoppy they are. India Pale Ale, or IPA, is a very popular craft beer today. They tend to have a lot of hoppiness and bitterness.
Conversely, pale lagers tend to have very little hops in the brew.
A new trend with hops is to combine different hops in one beer. This combines different tastes and makes a unique beer. With this approach, the different beer tastes and types of beer are essentially endless.
New Varieties of Hop Beer
Around 1900, a number of institutions began to experiment with breeding specific hop varieties. The breeding program at Wye College in Wye, Kent, was started in 1904 and rose to prominence through the work of Prof. E. S. Salmon.
Today, with the explosion of craft beers, new types of hops are propagated every year. I’m sure there will be a number of new varieties with great new tastes soon.
Final Thoughts on Hop Beer
I hope this post on hops has brought some more information to you. Either way, I enjoy hoppy beers and will continue to try the new tastes.