Welcome back again to the Hop, Brew, and Blog. I am glad you are sticking around and learning with me. That is a great thing about the home brewery community, it is a very helpful group. Everyone loves to listen and talk out how a beer can be brewed. We are going to take a break from the home brewing adventure and try something different.
Today’s topic might get dry (I will do my best to keep the flow going) but we are going to talk about hops. One of the four ingredients of a pure beer (father-in-law again not my saying) that looks so simple but changes the beer very easily. We will go over the different hops (not all of them…there are sooo many of them) and kinda go through basic differences. We will talk about noble hops as well and what makes a hop noble. We will talk about growing because they can grow everywhere and by just changing the location of where hops are grown can slightly change what you get in flavor of the hops. Finally we will talk about my “go to” hops that I personally love. So channel your inner Demeter and come learn about hops.
The first documented cultivation of hops was in 736 A.D. in what would become Germany (of course) but the first time it was documented being in beer wasn’t until 1079. Mostly brewed in Germany and France, and Holland at first, it expanded to England and then outside Europe as well. It came to the United States around 1629. It stopped during prohibition (thanks government) and then made a comeback and has taken over a lot of farming. Currently, hops are grown in eleven countries. The top growers are the US and Germany with 44,324 metric tons and 39,000 metric tons respectively. Right now, there are about 100 different kinds of hops. Names include Apollo, Liberty, Vanguard, Eroica, Zeus, Calypso, and so much more. The main difference is the acid level. Hops like Fuggle and Saaz have a lower level of alpha acid and hops like Simcoe and Chinook have a higher level. The difference in the acid level? The higher the level, the higher bitterness. Making a stout? Try fuggle hops. Making a double IPA? Use the simcoe.
A few years ago, Sam Adams came out with the Noble Hops beer that is said to use only noble hops. Other breweries have similar beers with the same claim “NOBLE HOPS USED HERE”. The question is though, what makes a hop noble? No they are not knighted and don’t think Ned Stark will be the next hop name for one (though that would be cool). A noble hop is just a marketing term used for hops that are low in bitterness and high in aroma. Most consider Hallertau, Tettnanger, Spalt, and Saaz as your four noble hops (though there is debate on others). And like wine grapes and champagne, they have to be grown in the area they were first made. Spalt has to be made in the Spalter region in Germany, not in someone’s backyard in Chicago.
Now growing hops is supposedly easy. Since everyone and their mothers are doing it, I would agree. I plan to start growing some here in the Midwest as some already do. I have done my research to show my wife I know what I am doing, so the best way is to have them grow up a trellis that can be brought down to make picking easier. Make sure you harvest at the right time and have a way to dry them out (if you don’t have an oast house in the German countryside, try a dehydrator). See simple…why don’t we all do this?
Now my go-to hops are the citra hops. It is a great hops with a nice flavor for an IPA. I use it in my IPB that I brew with tangerine peel. The next is fuggle hops. It is a great mild hop for a stout. Now let me know what your favorite hop to use is. Comment below and we will do this again next time. On the next blog, we will finish the Adventure in Homebrewing and talk about the kegging process. Thanks for reading….cheers.