Even your novice beer drinker likely knows that hops play a part in the creation of the beer they are drinking. If you are into craft beers, you may know considerably more about hops. For those who only have a vague idea of what role hops play in beer making, the team at Cheers All brings you a beginner’s guide to hops.
The Hop Plant
When you think about it, it is actually pretty amazing that hops managed to find their way into beer at all. The hop plant, after all, is not good for much else. The plant itself, which grows on a vine, is susceptible to disease and pests. Moreover, it only flowers once a year. Those flowers, however, play a critical role in the process of brewing beer. For that reason alone, an otherwise unremarkable plant has risen to star status for the beer drinkers of the world. Without the bitterness hops provide, many beers would be overly sweet and without the antibacterial qualities hops bring to beer we would have to worry about spoilage. Furthermore, hops add a plethora of different flavors to beer that range from citrus to earthy. Finally, that all important foamy head that beer drinkers love to critique is due in large part to the hops used in the beer making process. Because hops are grown all over the world, the flavor and bitterness hops bring to a beer will depend, to a large extent, on where the hops were grown. Keep in mind that most brewers will use a (often secret) blend of hops in their beer.
Hops Around the World
Despite the fact that the hops plant is not a particularly useful plant (except to beer drinkers), they grow in a wide variety of conditions and climates. If you are new to the world of hops, consider the following a beginner’s guide to hops around the world.
The United States -- American hops are known for their bold, intense flavors. Many American hops infuse a citrus flavor to beer; however, American hops have a broad range including pine-like, floral, woodsy, and stone fruity aromas. Examples: Cascade, most commonly described as imparting a grapefruit flavor, is the hop that started the hoppy American craft beer revolution. Columbus, Tomahawk, and Zeus which offer a potent, pungent flavor that is often compared to pine resin and marijuana. Citra which was released in 2009. Like its name, Citra was originally known for it orangey citrus character aroma but now offers diverse aromas including mango, passion fruit, pineapple, and peach.
Germany and the Czech Republic – Germany is known for its beer making (and consumption). Noble hops come from Germany and the Czech Republic. As the name implies, these are the crème of the crop when it comes to hops and may provide aromas that range from soft and floral to earthy and spicy. Examples: Hallertauer Mittelfrüh, (Continental) Europe's most famous hop variety is gentle and floral, with a slightly peppery or woodsy spiciness. Saaz, a Czech hop known for its assertive earthy spiciness.
England – England produces few of the world’s hops; however, what they do grow are worth mentioning. Aromas range from grassy, floral, and lemony to woodsy, minty, or tea-like. Examples: Fuggle which can produce an earthy, cedary, minty, or floral aroma. Northern Brewer which gives beer a woodsy. minty, pine-like aroma.
Australia and New Zealand -- Hops from down under can be woodsy and earthy or ultra-bright and juicy. Examples: Nelson Sauvin which is named for its aromatic similarity to the Sauvignon Blanc wine grapes grown nearby. Galaxy imparts a passion fruit, peach, or orange aroma while Motueka offers a hint of lime and kiwi to beer.
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