A Brief History
Hops are the flower, or cones of the herbaceous perennial Humulus lupulus which is in the Cannabaceae family. Records show that people started wising up to all of the great things hops can be used for around the 9th century. Today hops are grown in hundreds of varieties mainly in Germany, the USA, and China, but they will grow in any moist and temperate area including New Zealand (Most are around the 48°N parallel).
Hops aren’t just used to make your beer taste better, they also have medicinal effects (as if beer wasn’t medicinal enough). Studies are coming out showing that deodorant with hops added won’t make your pits stink as bad. It can also be used in extract form to help cure/alleviate symptoms of insomnia, menopause, leg ulcers, and even certain kinds of cancer.
The Tasty Part
But you want to know more about hops in beer! No worries, we’ve got it covered. An abundance of hops on a description will commonly send people reaching for, or running from a beer due to their most known trait. Bitterness. This can be confusing because some hops are more bitter than others, and adding hops at different times during the brewing process can add more or less bitterness. All hops are measured in alpha acids which determine the potential bitterness of the variety used. Numbers range from 2% AA (very low) to 20+% AA (for serious bitterness). When adding hops early on during the boil, you have more heat and time to isomerize the available alpha acids which make the beer more bitter, but less flavors and aromas are derived from the hops used. The opposite is true when adding them towards the end of the boil. More flavor/aroma, less bitterness. Dry hopping is the process of adding hops in the fermenter which will add no bitterness to the beer, but pack a huge punch of flavors and aromas. Hops also help to stabilize the foam of a finished beer, and keep all of the microorganisms under control so your beer doesn’t spoil as quickly.
Beer would’t be half as exciting without these little green guys, and we’re more than happy to explore what they have to offer with each brew we make.