Understanding Hops
Home Brewing Recipes
Baker Street Ales Associate Brewer
Arny Lands
Beer Nexus
the crossroads of the beer world

Ahh hops... Lovely hops! The "hopheads" most beloved brewing
ingredient. Loved by many, signature of such American styles as
American Pale Ales and American Browns. But just what are
these things sometimes referred to as the "spice of beer"?

Hops plants grow as vines that yield a cone-shaped hops flower
Hops mainly contribute bitterness, aroma, and flavor to beer.
However, hops also contribute to better head retention, help
with the removal of unwanted proteins resulting in a clearer
beer, and beer hops have anti-bacterial properties which can
help ward off spoilage and give beer a longer shelf life.

The hops plants are very prolific, and can be grown in many parts
of the world. The aroma, flavor, and bittering properties derive
from the lupulin glands containing the hop oil and resins in the
hop flower. Hop oil contributes to the beautiful and intoxicating
beer hop aroma and flavor, and alpha acid resins contribute to
the hop bitterness of your homebrew. Using Hops at different
times will provide distinct characteristics to your homebrew.

Understanding Hop Bitterness: You must boil hops to extract
bitterness from them. Typical boiling (bittering) hop additions are
60-90 minutes. As a rule, the higher the alpha acid %, the more
bitterness the hop will provide. Your first hop addition is
typically to provide the bitterness to your homebrew. Bittering
hops typically do not provide much in the way of aroma or flavor
in the finished beer because the volatile oils are boiled
off over the 60-90 minutes.

Understanding Hop Flavor and Aroma: As discussed before, beer
hops not only provide bitterness, but also flavor and aroma to
the finished beer. Aroma and flavor hops are typically called
"finishing" hops. Finishing hops typically do not impart much
bitterness to the beer, and you can adjust the hop aroma or
flavor in your beer by knowing how to use them.

Aroma hops are typically added for 5 minutes or less at the end
of the boil to impart hop aroma. Hop flavor is imparted with a hop
addition(s) at 5-15 minutes before the boil is done. Dry hopping,
a technique of adding hops to the fermenter, can be used to
impart hop aroma and flavor, but not bitterness. I love to dry hop
my APA's, IPA's and similarly hoppy styles. Usually, 1 oz of hop
pellets for a 5 gallon batch in the secondary a week or two
before bottling does the trick. Don't worry about contamination
after adding your dry hops; beer hops are a natural preservative.

Other tidbits on hops: Make sure to use fresh hops when
brewing your homebrew. Hops should be green in color, not
brown or yellow. Brown or yellow may indicate that the hops are
oxidized, or stale. Also, do not use cheesy-smelling beer hops as
this may also indicate that the hops are past their prime. Keep in
mind that hops are a perishable product, always keep your hop
supply under refrigeration.

Hop bags (muslin bags) can be used when creating your
homebrew, however make sure to compensate with a slightly
higher amount as you may get less utilization in the boil. There
are a variety of hops, each contributing different flavors, aromas,
and bitterness levels. Each hop also can have different home
brewing applications. Some homebrewers stick with old
stand-bys, like the Bullion or Fuggles hop, and some opt to go
with relatively new varieties such as Amarillo.

I hope that answers some of the many questions I've received
from my readers.  Just keep e-mailing them in!

Good Brewing and Cheers!

Arny Lands

More recipes from Arny:

Holiday Ales

Belgium Style Triple

Pale Ale or Porter

Brown Ale

Time to Think Oktoberfest