As we’ve grown with our knowledge of brewing we have looked up a lot of things and knowing your hops is key to making a perfectly blended beer. Here are a few FAQ’s we often had and have been asked.
What Are Hops?
Hops are the delicate female flower of the Humulus Lupulus plant, or hop vine and a close cousin of the Cannabis plant. Hops contain an essential oil with a very bitter flavor. This bitterness counters the sweetness from the malt to create a more balanced beer, and it also acts as a preservative (Hence the creation of IPA’s for long boat rides across the Atlantic). Without the bitterness you would have a cloying, overly-sweet drink. Yuck!
Bitterness, Flavor, Aroma —
By changing either the quantity of hops or when they are added you can completely control your beer’s bitterness, flavor and aroma. Hops added at the beginning of the boiling process will contribute bitterness, but not much flavor or aroma. Added at the end of the boil, hops will contribute flavor and aroma, but not much bitterness.
Three Hop Categories
Most brewers struggle to discriminate the wide spectrum of hop flavors. We have found that it helps to organize hops intothree main categories.
1) German/Czech Hops—A deep, rich spiciness that is a classic characteristic of European lagers.
2) English Hops—Mellow and floral, they blend into the malt gently, unless used in large volumes.
3) American Hops—Pungent, and sometimes citrusy, with jump-out-of-the-glass aromas. Note: German or English hops grown in the U.S. will retain most native characteristics.
Check out this Hop Chart to get a better understanding of all the hops in the world:
Whole versus Pellet Hops
MoreBeer! sells hops in two forms: whole hops and pellets. Whole hops are the entire hop flower. Pellets are whole hops that have been pulverized and compressed. The majority of homebrewers prefer pellets. Yet, good quality beer can confidently be made with either type. Pellets are much more easily handled, measured and stored. They will also dissolve into the boil faster, making them the preferred choice for additions at the end of the boil. Whichever type you select, we strongly recommend using fine mesh, nylon Hop Bags to minimize the amount of the leftover hops that enter your fermenter.
Alpha Acid (AA) Ratings
Alpha acid is the chemical component in hops that creates bitterness. The higher the alpha percentage the more bitter the hops. But don’t be afraid to use hops with higher AA ratings; simply use less per batch. For example, when added at the beginning of the boil, 2 oz of, say, Northern Brewer hops with a 7.5% AA will yield the same bitterness as 1 oz of Magnum hops with a rating of 15%AA. We
list the typical Alpha Acid content for each hop.
Which Hop Should I Use?
Some hops are better for bittering, some are better for flavor/aroma, and some are actually dual purpose. Dual Purpose hops can be used for either bittering and/or flavor/aroma. The recipes you may have, along with our product descriptions, can help guide your choices. Kent (British) Goldings – Universally the first choice for an aroma hop in English Ales. Very mild with pleasant, flowery overtones. Most hops stand out against the malt. This unusual hop actually blends in and complements the malt flavors. You truly cannot add too much unless you are dry-hopping.
Discover Dry Hopping!
Do you want to experience absolutely incredible hop flavor and aroma? Try dry hopping — adding hops to the fermenter (or keg) after fermentation. Put one ounce of pellets into your bucket or carboy after the first week of fermentation. You won’t need a bag as the pellets will sink to the bottom over the next week. Dry hopping can also be done in a keg with whole hops and a fine mesh, nylon hop bag.
Grow Hops at Home!
Homebrewers with a green thumb may find satisfaction in growing their own hops. MoreBeer! sells a large selection of high-quality root stock, called rhizomes, anually during late March to early May (only!). Sign up for our email newsletter on the front page of the site and we will alert you in February when we start pre-selling rhizomes.
Here’s a fun infographic to explain more about hops, what they are, where they come from and how to use them.