What Are Beer Hops?

After recently learning that Cyberhops are apparently a real thing, I realized that I’ve overlooked something.

I’ve never written about hops, what they are, and why anyone should care.

I’ve explored fresh hops. I’ve explored varietals. I’ve even explored how that Corona you’re buying for Cinco de Mayo doesn’t have real hops.

So, consider this an ode to hops, the little green guys that help your beer get such a great flavor.

What Are Hops: An Overview

Before we get deep into hops and stuff, I’ll briefly cover an overview of hops.

Hops, aka Humulus lupulus, are considered to be one of the four main ingredients of beer (along with water, grain, and yeast). While hops in the wild grow like a little green pinecone, the hops we have in beer often come in pellet form. Some hops come as a dust, but that’s a tale for another time.

What do hops smell and taste like?

What gives hops their incredible flavors and smells is a blend of chemicals including alpha acids, terpenes, and flavonoids. When brewed in conjunction with yeast, barley, and other tasty beer ingredients, the olfactory profile of hops pops.

Generally, hops vary in smell and taste to such a degree that I’m not even going to provide a blanket statement. And that’s the beauty of hops! There’s a little something for everyone.

What Are Hops: A History

The history of hops is a little convoluted considering that they existed for thousands and thousands of years before humans discovered their tasty use.

According to my friend Wikipedia, hop cultivation was first recorded in 736 in modern-day Germany. Beer first started incorporating hops as late as 1079, and several hundred years later the use of hops started to threaten the use of gruit. This is partly because the Catholic Church didn’t tax hops while it did tax gruit.

Side note: Find a gruit beer.

Hops were on a roll at this point in time, and they continued rolling into the massive industry adjacent to beer that we have today.

What’s In Hops: Chemicals, Acids, and Fun!

Ok, we know that hops are a plant that flower, not unlike marijuana…but that’s another post about marijuana beer

Here are the four main components of hops:

Alpha Acids: These guys are responsible for a lot of the beer flavor found in beer, particularly the bitterness. It’s not uncommon for hops to list the alpha acid count so brewers know just how deep into bitterness they’re going.

Terpenes: I once wrote a long, boring article about terpenes which has long since been removed from the internet, but I’ll give you an overview. Terpenes are basically an essential oil found in marijuana and hops and are responsible for strong aromas.

Flavonoids: If you read flavonoid and immediately thought flavor, well guess what, you’re wrong. Flavonoid comes from the Latin word flavus, which means yellow. Frustratingly, flavonoids do play a role in influencing the flavor of beer, so in a roundabout way I guess you were right.

Beta Acids: Not as important as alpha acids, beta acids affect the smell of beer. 

What Kinds Of Hops Are There?

Ok, time for the best part: an exploration of hop varietals! Yahoo!

Mosaic Hops

Mosaic hops are super fruity and are a common ingredient for many ales, particularly IPAs. These hops are really fruity in flavor and will mainly be found in something like a Hazy IPA. 

Citra Hops

Unlike Mosaic, Citra Hops are used in ales, particularly IPAs. Wait, they’re almost exactly the same as Mosaic…Well, Citra Hops have a great citrusy flavor, and they blend very well with Mosaic hops. Citra and Mosaic have different alpha acid levels too, something to note.

Simcoe Hops

Breaking from tradition, Simcoe hops are responsible for providing a burst of bitter to beer. Also great for IPAs, these hops are going to be found more commonly in a West Coast IPA.w

Thomas Short
Latest posts by Thomas Short (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *