Hops: The freshness behind the flavor

Hops: The freshness behind the flavor


By NWI.com

Before there were hops there was gruit, a mixture of herbs such as juniper berries, yarrow, horehound and my favorite, because of the name, mugwort which also is sometimes known as wild wormwood and naughty man. Other ingredients could include ginger, anise, sweet myrtle and at times, maybe for the added kick, hallucinogens like hemp (think marijuana) and poppy.

“People do compare hops to marijuana,” says Steve Mazylewski, brewmaster at Crown Point Brewing Company.

Indeed, both are members of the Cannabaceae but last we heard no one was smoking hops. Instead, hops—the flower of the hop plant and a necessary ingredient for making beer along with grain, yeast and water—eventually came to replace herbs some 1500 years ago as they added both an aromatic flavor and acted as a preservative at a time when water was often unsafe to drink.

“They really started putting hops in beer not only for flavor but as a way to ship it to India,” says Andrew Hlebasko, a home brewing enthusiast who works at Kennywood Brewing and Wine Making Supply.

To get good English ale to British troops busy colonizing India, Great Britain’s brewers increased the amount of hops and alcohol in their pale ale recipes so that barrels of hops, which were shipped first by boat, then rail and ultimately by horse and wagon to India—a journey that could take six months—wouldn’t spoil.

Now hops are used for creating the ever increasing demand for artisan microbrews.

“We import varieties from German, Czechoslovakia and England and also are playing around with hops from New Zealand, Slovenia and Bohemia,” says Mazylewski who just returned from a brewer’s convention in Colorado. “We continue to branch out and trying different hops such as noble hops like the German Hallertau.”

Mazylewski is excited because this year five new crossbred public varieties are being released.

“This is the first time in ten years that we have new public varieties,” he says. “All the varieties in the last ten years have been private hops which can be hard to get a hold of.”

Figure Eight’s head brewer Mike Lahti wants all of the beers he makes to have their own identity. Though they use common hops like Cascade, Nugget, Centennial, Progress, East Kent Goldings and Czech Saaz but says for brewing he tries not to limit the hops he uses.

“I’m always trying to get my hands on new varieties but when I can’t I like anything with a distinct aroma like Strisselspalt, a French variety, or Styrian Celeia,” says Lahti noting that his favorite hops seem to be the new ones on the market. “I like things that are more aromatic than bitter. My bosses think I’m crazy cause I have such a large library of hops in use but I always try to let a beer take on its own character and I try to remember that every beer should taste unique so variety is the spice of life on our hop usage.”

For American style beers, Barb Kehe, owner and brewmaster at Ironwood Brewing Company in Valparaiso, says she uses Chinook, Cascade, Centennial and Citria.

“For European style beer, I use hops like Kent Golden, which is a very English hops and Spalter, a German hops,” she says.

Hlebasko discovered great beer when backpacking through Germany. Sampling beers in beer gardens and rathskellers made him realize how weak and flavorless many of the mass produced beers were in the U.S.

And so when Hlebasko returned to Northwest Indiana he decided he would begin making his own.

“One of my favorites to make is a knock-off of 3 Floyds Zombie Dust,” says Hlebasko, noting that Websites offer copycat recipes for favorite handcrafted brews. “It’s a pale ale that you over hop once during the brewing process and then when the beer is fermenting and the live bacteria yeast are eating and expelling alcohol, hop it again.”

He also has grown his own hops like Glacier, Warrior and Citra in his backyard.

“It takes a couple of years of growing and budding before the hops are ready to harvest,” he says of the beanstalk like vines which are aromatic and produce a pretty cone shaped flower.

Deb Heinlein, who owns Kennywood with her husband, Bob, also grows hops in her backyard.

“We grow Cascade which is a citrusy, floral and well rounded hop,” she says noting that they’re normally grown in the Pacific Northwest but Cascade hops grown here have a different taste because of the climate. Though hops are normally strung on a pole as they grow quite tall, Heinlein has hers twining up and around her deck.

“If I’m not using them right away, I’ll dry them by laying the cones out on cardboard and then freeze them in vacuum sealed bags,” she says. “But we make a harvest ale in the fall where you just pick and use them. Those are called wet hops, which has a more grassy taste.”

Mazylewski says they buy most of their hops which come dried.

“They kind of look like rabbit food pellets,” he says. “But we have six types of hop vines growing in our beer garden—Nugget, Columbus, Cascade, Northern Brewer, Glacier and Hellertau. “The first year we harvest them and made our Patio Pale Ale. We also do some whole hops on a smaller scale and add them to our barrels when they’re fermenting.”

Lahti also has grown his own hops at home because he likes their aroma.

“On the brewery side we have thought about it but the volume of hops we use we could not really sustain with growing our own,” he says, “although we may grow a few and use it in a five gallon one off type beer.”

Lahti says when he’s developing new handcrafted microbrews he considers how the hops will play with the yeast and malt he’s using, asking himself will the hops overpower the other flavors or accentuate it.

“I like balanced flavored beer, nothing skewed to one side—malt or the other—hops, although every now and again I will make a hop bomb or a maltier based beer,” he says.

“”There are so many different things you can do with all the hops available,” says Mazylewski. “Sometimes we’ll a hold of a hop that we’ve never had before. That’s so great.”

Guide to Hops

Origin: Washington, USA
Flavor Profile: Amarillo hops are one of the most commonly used hops in IPAs today. Used primarily for aroma and flavor, this style of hop traditionally displays spicy orange and other citrus characters. They are also known to give a beer a bit of floral profile, too.
Beer Styles: Pale Ales; India Pale Ales; Black IPAs

Origin: Oregon, USA
Flavor Profile: Who doesn’t love a good grapefruit aroma and taste in their IPA? As one of the “three C hops,” the cascade hop is notorious for providing this character to both the flavor and aroma of a beer. Floral and spice accents are also seen with this variety which sees most of its usage in Pale Ales, India Pale Ales, and an occasional Lager.
Beer Styles: Pale Ales; India Pale Ales; Black IPAs; Lagers

Origin: Washington, USA
Flavor Profile: If your IPA has a citrus and/or floral character, it could have something to do with the Centennial variety of hops. Also known as one of the “three C hops,” it’s fairly high alpha acid percentage and a medium range aroma make for a great hop to use for both bittering and aromatic characters.
Beer Styles: Pale Ales; India Pale Ales; Black IPAs

Origin: Washington, USA
Flavor Profile: Chinook is the hop that smells and tastes the most like you would imagine—a dank piney forest. These hops are known to have a very spicy finish, too, and because of the very high alpha acid levels it makes for the perfect bittering component of a beer. Many brewers will tell you to watch out, because they can easily be overused.

Origin: Washington, USA
Flavor Profile: This is a very new variety of hop on the market and it’s blowing peoples’ minds with its fruity and citrusy characters. It is basically the lovechild of three different hops: Hallertau Mittelfreuh, US Tettnanger, Bavarian, Brewers Gold and East Kent Goldings. Having had this in a few IPAs so far, I can tell you it’s one hop junkies are going to love.
Beer Styles: Pale Ales; India Pale Ales; Black IPAs

Origin: Washington, USA
Flavor Profile: Primarily known as another one of the “three C hops,” the Columbus (aka Tomahawk) variety has enough alpha acid to remove the teeth from your mouth. Aside from that, it is regarded as having a very nice herbal character that can be used to bitter and flavor everything from IPAs and Lagers to all types of Stouts.
Beer Styles: Pale Ales; India Pale Ales; Lagers; Stouts
Origin: United Kingdom
Flavor Profile: This variety of hop, while grown in very small amounts in the USA, is one of the classic English hops. While it does have a fair amount of bittering properties if used in great amounts, it is primarily used for aroma and flavor. You can expect this hop to impart flavors that have been described as woody, earthy, and sometimes fruity.
Beer Styles: Porters; Milds; ESBs

Origin: Germany
Flavor Profile: As the name would suggest, this hop variety comes from the Hallertauer region of Germany. It is a noble hop that has very low bittering qualities because of its alpha acid level, but it gives a beer a light floral (and spice) character.
Beer Styles: Pilsners; Bocks; Hefeweizens

Origin: Germany
Flavor Profile: While this hop originated in Germany, it is also currently grown in the Pacific Northwest. Again, this hop has a very high alpha acid unit and is most commonly used to bitter and flavor a beer. The aromas and flavors of this variety have been described as citrusy, herbal, and even spicy.
Beer Styles: Pale Ales; IPAs; Stouts; Porters

Origin: Washington, USA
Flavor Profile: Spicy, grassy, and herbal are the primary elements this hop variety possesses. On the higher end of the alpha acid unit spectrum, these hops are primarily used for bittering American Lagers and Stouts. Tröegs Brewery even went so far as to brew a beer that highlights this hop called Nugget Nectar. So look for it if you’re interested in this hop variety.
Beer Styles: Stouts; Old Ales; Lagers

Origin: Washington, USA
Flavor Profile: With a relatively low alpha acid unit, the Palisade hop variety has been referred to as one of the better aroma hops. This is another variety that is fairly new, and is produced by Yakima Chief, Inc. in Washington. Its profile can be described as floral, grassy, and even apricot-like and is ideal for IPAs.
Beer Styles: Pale Ales; IPAs; English IPAs

Origin: Czech Republic
Flavor Profile: Saaz is another noble hop. It’s main aroma and flavor profiles have been described as earthy and spicy. Some will say it even has a bit of cinnamon-like character to it. Because it has a lower alpha acid unit, this variety can be used for aroma and flavoring, but will likely not bring a lot of bittering character to a beer.
Beer Styles: Pilsners; Wheats; Lagers

Origin: Washington, USA
Flavor Profile: There are many brewers using this variety today, but to get a clear understanding of what this hop variety smells and tastes like, one should look no further than the Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA. With a very high alpha acid, this is a hop that isn’t bashful with its pine, citrus, and cat urine characters. In fact, this is commonly referred to as the “cat pee” hop. Try it!
Beer Styles: Pale Ales; India Pale Ales

Origin: Japan
Flavor Profile: This variety was originally created and grown for the Sopporo Breweries in Japan, but has recently been growing in the Pacific Northwest. During the hop crisis of 2007/08, a lot of brewers were looking for high alpha acid hops. Because of the alpha acids, it is typically used for bittering (and sometimes flavoring). The flavor is unmistakably with its spicy and lemony characters. See Brooklyn Sorachi Ace.
Beer Styles: IPAs; Saisons; Wheat Ales

Origin: Washington, USA
Flavor Profile: One of the more prominent hops varieties to be grown in the state of Washington, the summit hop is a bad sumbitch at nearly 20% AAU. It is also one of the better tasting hops to currently be used in big Imperial IPAs with its huge grapefruit and tangerine characters.
Beer Styles: Pale Ales; India Pale Ales; Imperial IPAs; Barleywines

Origin: Germany
Flavor Profile: This German hop variety is similar to the Hallertauer, but it has been called the “spicier version.” It too has a lower alpha acid unit so its primary use is for aroma and flavor, which has been described as spicy, grassy, and floral. It is also grown in Washington.
Beer Styles: Pilsners; Bocks; Hefeweizens

Origin: Washington, USA
Flavor Profile:
 While this variety of hop has a very high level of alpha acids, the claim is that it can be very light in aroma. Aromas and flavors include grapefruit, pine, lemon, and spice are all profiles that make this one perfect for those big American Imperial IPAs.
Beer Styles: Pale Ales; India Pale Ales; Imperial IPAs

Origin: Oregon, USA
Flavor Profile: The Willamette hop variety is at the lower end of the alpha acid scale at about 5.0%. While it may be low, it is one of the better bittering and aroma hops out there with its fruity, floral, spicy and earthy characters. This is a great hop for Brown Ales.
Beer Styles: Brown Ales; ESBs; Pale Ales

From: thehopry.com/hops

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