What are Hops?

Hops are a complex ingredient in beer, these little flowers that grow on vines can completely alter the way a beer tastes. There is a lot of involved biochemistry surrounding their interaction in the beer making process but it is good to know a little about what is happening when you use them because when you want to develop your own recipes, having some facts under your belt will be better than guessing how much to throw in.

The key things that we want to take from hops are to flavour and bitter the beer. To do this there are resins and oils that are produced in the lupulin glands that we want to utilize. There are of course other aspects to hops but these two things; the oils which will give the beer flavour and aroma and the resins which will bitter our beer are what we are most concerned with.

Hops are flowers that grow on vines, the hop vines are cut down and the flowers removed before being dried, just like how herbs are dried. This stabilises the hops so they can be stored, usually in vacuum packs under cold storage. When you buy hops they will usually have the date of the crop on the label so you know what year the hop harvest was.

There are a lot of hop varieties to chose from and you will notice when you come to buy them that they are usually labeled with an alpha acid %. This alpha-acid amongst other things is what makes up the hop resins. They are used to determine the hop bitterness and are expressed as the weight of alpha acid in relation to the weight of the hop flower itself. Most hops have an alpha-acid % in the range of 2 – 16%.  So that means between 2 and 16% of the weight of the hop is the amount of bitterness resins that are available.

The reason hops are boiled in the wort for an hour or more is that these alpha acids are not very soluble and by boiling for such periods of time allows a chemical process called isomerization to occur.

An Introduction to How Bitterness is Measured

As you are probably aware certain beer styles have differing amounts of bitterness in comparison to others so the amount of bitterness needs to be measured. This measurement is called “International Biterness Units” (IBU).

When a recipe is formulated the Alpha Acid % that is associated with the hops can allow us to work out how much hops are needed in that brew, according to what level of IBU is needed. You can find a complete guide to hop bitterness and how to work it out here.

Now, unfortunately, depending on where you come from or what recipe you have you could also have another measurement for hop bitterness which is “European Bitterness Units” (EBU). They are the same as IBU’s but only really differ in how they are calculated.

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Storing Hops

Storing Hops

What’s the best way of storing hops? It’s always the way that after picking up the ingredients for your next batch that you end up with a load extra malt or hops that has to sit around for a while until you brew another batch that calls for them. I have wrote before about storing malt but what about storing hops, usually I purchase hops in 100 gram vacuum packs and it’s not often that I use 100 grams of any hop in a batch. So In this artocle I want to share with you some of the options for storing these excess hops.

 

The Thing About Storing Hops…

Although malt can become stale over the time it tends to be a lot more stable than hops when it comes to short term storage. Hops on the other hand a pretty unstable and especially after being exposed to the air they begin to deteriorate in terms of the aromatic oils that flavour the beer and also the alpha acids that provide bitterness.

Take a look at this excerpt from a Brewing Techniques article on the deterioration of hops:

Hops start to lose their a-acids and oils as soon as they are harvested. The rate of loss depends on the storage temperature, the amount of air present, and the hop variety. The lower the temperature, the less the hops deteriorate. It has been shown that the rate of loss halves for every 15 degrees C (27 degrees F) drop in temperature (2).

Oxygen is definitely bad for a-acids; their oxidation components are responsible for the “cheesy” aroma detected in old hops (1). Oxidized a-acids lose their bitterness and cannot be isomerized. Because b-acids form bitter compounds when they are oxidized, some believe that this result of oxidation makes up for the loss of b-acids.

So from this we can assume that the best way to store hops is as cold as possible which would be in the freezer. So as soon as you get your hops home the best thing to do is leave them sealed in the packaging (which we’ll talk about in a second) and chuck them in the freezer until your ready to use them.

Freeze Hops

What About Left Over Hops

The best way to store the remaining hops after a batch of beer is still in the freezer but we want to seal them from any air if possible. The best way to do this in an ideal world is with a vacuum sealer. This is probably how you bought them from the home brew store, if you are buying hops that aren’t sealed or vacuum packed then consider how fresh they are. You may already have a food vacuum sealer at home and this is ideal, if not they can be pretty cheap to pick up.

If you don’t have a vacuum sealer or something like a heat sealer then an airtight container is probably the next best thing. Anything that will stop air getting to the hops in the freezer.

How Long Will They Keep

So you’ve got your hops in the freezer but how long will they last? Well if they are unopened and in sealed vacuum bags from the home brew store then for a couple of years without too much deterioration.

If they are open then you can still use them but your recipe may need to be adjusted slightly, as mentioned before the hops lose alpha acids over time depending on the temperature they are stored at, thankfully there are ways to calculate the loss of acids over time using a simple calculator such as this one at Brewer’s Lair. If you are storing hops in the best environment then they are going to last a lot longer than leaving them at room temperature.

Hop Storage Tips

To be honest, I don’t like having to store hops at all, one reason being I have a very small freezer and the other being that I find it too much hassle having to work out adjustments and the like. It’s for this reason that I like to use some of the following tips to minimize the need to store hops long term:

Buy as close to what you need as possible. This is obvious right. The reason I say this is I found a company that sells hops in intervals of 10 grams where as every other supplier sold 100 gram or 500 gram packs. Shop around and find the best option

Planning your brews around what you need to buy is something I also tend to do quite often. If i’m brewing with a common English hop I know there are plenty of beers I can brew that I can use them in so I brew the beer’s to suit the ingredients I have.

Team up with a friend and trade hops. I send my excess hops to my Dad to make a beer with. If you have a friend that brews why not trade your ingredients with them so you don’t end up with loads of left overs.

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Topaz

Hop Variety
Topaz

Origin
Australia

Alpha Acid %
14 – 18%

Beta Acid %
6 – 8%

Topaz Hops

Background
Topaz is a hop bred in 1985, Victoria, Australia at the Rostrevor Breeding Garden by Hop Products Australia. Topaz is a high alpha seedless cultivar created to have a unique flavour and aroma. Originally it was used solely for the production of hop extract.

Recently however in the late 2000’s it has found favour among brewers for it’s unique aroma properties and bittering potential.

At the trading fair Brau 2010 and 2012 Topaz was used in a single hop beer at a rate of 200g/hl and 250g/hl to showcase it aroma potential. It was selected as one of the preferred beers in both instances.

Brewing Attributes
As a super high alpha acid variety it’s use as a bittering hop would be efficient but it is best used as an aroma and late addition hop. It’s use as dry hop is also excellent and adds further layers of flavour to a beer.

The aroma as a late hop is that of peach, blackcurrant and tropical fruits like lychees. As a dry hop it adds a green fruit like character. Comparisons have been made to gooseberries and grapes as well as black currant and clove like aroma.

Topaz works well when used with citrus hops such as Citra, Cascade, Columbus and the like as well as its Australian sister Galaxy

Possible Substitutions
For the substitutions to Topaz you will need to look for big aromatic late hops. The aroma is unique so it will be hard to replicate its aroma but using hops like Galaxy, Riwaka, Cascade,, Rakau, Amarillo and similar varieties will work well as a replacement.

Commercial Examples
Samuel Adams used it, along with Galaxy in its Tasman Red IPA

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Saaz


Hop Variety

Saaz

Origin

Czech Republic

Alpha Acid %

3-5%

Beta Acid %

3-4%

Saaz Hop

Background

Saaz is considered a noble hop and are also one of the finest hops in the world. Saaz is a landrace variety of hop meaning it has grown in the same region for hundreds of years and is perfectly suited to the growing conditions through breeding.

The name Saaz is from the town Zatec in the Czech Republic and the hop is used extensively in Bohemian or Czech Pilsners for which it’s delicate aroma is perfectly suited. As with many varieties of hops Saaz are grown outside of the Czech Republic under different names, one example being Montueka in New Zealand which has Saaz parentage.

Brewing Attributes

Saaz has very similar qualities to other noble hops in Europe a fine, delicate and celebrated aroma. The aroma is subtle with an earthy, peppery quality and fairly crisp. The low alpha acid and pedigree make Saaz an unsuitable choice for bittering and it would be slightly wasted in this role.

Light beers and lagers are the domain for Saaz  where it really has a chance to shine, in darker beers it can be lost unless used in higher quantities. It’s also notable for its usage in Belgian ales where balance and nuance are required.

Possible Substitutions

Other noble hops of the region such as Tettnang and Spalter have similar aroma qualities. Substitutes should really be considered for the style of beer being brewed. If you are making a lager or light ale then replace with a hop suitable for the style. The hop Lublin from Poland is noted as a comparable substitute as well.

Commercial Examples

Pilsner Urquell is a beer that displays the qualities of Saaz particularly well and it is also available pretty much everywhere in the world. As mentioned previously Pilsners showcase Saaz perhaps better than any other style of beer.

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Hallertauer Mittelfruh

Hop Variety

Hallertauer Mittelfruh

Origin

Germany

Alpha Acid %

3-6%

Beta Acid %

3.5%

Background

The name Hallertauer comes from the German region of Hallertau and Mittelfruh is considered one of the finest of it’s kind. Hallertauer Mittelfruh is a noble hop and of the landrace variety, meaning because of it very long history and open pollination it suits the region it grows in perfectly.

It is also grown in other areas of Germany such as Spalt and Tettnang which leads confusingly to variations called Spalt Hallertauer and Tettnang Hallertauer even though both Spalt and Tettnang produce hops with the same names as well.

The name Mittelfruh means middle early relating to the harvest time in the growing season.

Brewing Attributes

Hallertauer Mittelfruh is one of the finest examples of a noble aroma hop. It is delicate and mild and has pleasing herbal and floral notes as well as a slight spiciness. It is almost always associated with German Lagers and are part of what defines them. They are also great in many other styles as well as ales, lighter beers in general allow the delicate aromas come through and I have found them particularly good in Kolsch and Blonde style ales.

Possible Substitutions

There are many varieties of Hallertauer hop which makes purchasing slightly confusing, you may be buying Mittelfruh that aren’t even grown in the Hallertau region so look for hops with their origin clearly marked.

If a substitute is to be made a few options have similar properties but of course are not quite the same. Crystal, Hallertauer Hersbruck, Liberty and Mount Hood are worth investigation.

Commercial Examples

As I said before they are widely used in German Pilsner style beers and a couple of beers you’ll be able to find anywhere are Sam Adam’s Boston Lager that uses Mittelfruh as an aroma hop as well as Bitburger Premium Pils http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/613/1641 one being a German Style Lager and the other an actual German one.

Mittelfruh are also found in some Belgian ales I believe Chimay brewery use them as a finishing hop in most of their beers.

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Magnum Hops

Hop Variety

Magnum, Hallertauer

Origin

Germany

Alpha Acid %

11 – 16%

Beta Acid %

5 – 7%

Background

Hallertauer Magnum or Magnum as it’s most commonly referred to as is a hop released in 1993 by the Hop Research Institute in the Hallertauer region. It’s parentage contains hops such as Galena from the US and a German male variety. Magnum is grown at number of locations such as the Hallertauer region of Germany, France, Poland and in the US.

It is the main high alpha variety of hop grown in Germany and is well renowned throughout the world for is clean bittering qualities as well as storing well after harvesting.

Brewing Attributes

Magnum is one of the finest bittering hops available to today’s brewer. Being of a reasonably high alpha acid content it’s economical but more than that the bittering quality is very clean, pleasant and works well in conjunction with other hops.

Magnum is primarily a bittering hop and therefore not much is said about the aroma. If it is used later in the boil is contributes a delicate floral note to the beer. That said other varieties of hop from the region like saaz or hallertauer mittelfrueh are so good for aroma additions Magnum is best left to early kettle additions and bittering duties.

Possible Substitutions

A lot of sources state Northern Brewer and Warrior as a substitute for Magnum primarily for their clean bittering qualities. Galena one of the parent hops of Magnum might also be worth considering.

Commercial Examples

Sierra Nevada reportedly use Magnum hops as the sole bittering hop and also as the aroma hops in their Torpedo Extra IPA along with Citra and Crystal as the other two aroma hops.

Mikkeller also brew a single hop IPA that uses solely Magnum hops, although difficult to obtain it is well worth looking for this hop bomb.

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Perle

Hop Variety

Perle

Origin

Germany

Alpha Acid %

6 – 9%

Beta Acid %

4.75%

Background

Perle is a German hop released from Huell in the Hallertauer region in 1978. Its parent hops include Norther Brewer and is a good dual purpose variety to brew with. Perle are widely used in light and medium coloured ales and Pilsners primarily for their mild yet fresh bittering and aroma qualities.

Perle is the most planted aroma variety of hop grown in Germany at present and the exact same variety of Perle is also grown in the United States but the alpha acid content is higher. It is also grown in Belgium.

Brewing Attributes

The fine attributes of Perle make it a good all round use hop or multi purpose hop. The aroma is a kind of slightly minty, green or earthy quality. It would be best described as moderate, nothing too in your face. As mentioned before it’s a general purpose hop and the bittering quality is clean and balanced.

It’s well suited to lagers and lighter beers where balance and subtlety is required and is particularly good as a bittering hop in wheat beers.

Possible Substitutions

I have seen a few substitutes suggested one of them being Tettnang, which is a hop grown in the same region but has a slightly lower alpha acid percentage. It is often used in beer styles that Perle works well in. Northern Brewer is another hop often suggested as a substitute, again it;s grown in Hallertau and the acid percentages are fairly close.

Commercial Examples

Sierra Nevada use Perle in a number of their beers, in particular their Summerfest and their Wheat are said to use them as a bittering hop.

In the UK, Scotlands Cairngorm Brewery use Perle in their beer Trade Winds and Westerham Brewery make a seasonal beer called Summer Perle http://www.westerhambrewery.co.uk/RegularBeers.htm which is dry hopped with Perle and really demonstrates the refreshing quality of the hop.

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Tettnang

Hop Variety

Tettnang

Origin

Germany

Alpha Acid %

4 – 5%

Beta Acid %

3.5 – 4.5%

Background

The hop we are looking at here are the German variety, there is also an American Tettnang hop that isn’t the same. Tettnang Hops are a variety of hop grown in the Tettnanger region of Germany.

Tettnang is one of four varieties that are commonly known as noble hops, although the term noble in the case of hops is hard to define. In Germany it is widely considered to be one of their finest aroma hops used in Pilsners and Lagers.

 

Brewing Attributes

Tettnang is used primarily as an aroma hop and the aroma/flavour qualities are particularly good especially in Lagers and Wheat beers. It is grown in the US although the flavour is coarser or less refined, being more like a fuggle variety, showing how the “terroir” of the growing conditions can and do affect the crop.

Tettnang is used as a bittering hop although it has a fairly low alpha acid % and is particularly suited to single hop beers because of it’s fine aroma.

Beer Styles

Pilsners, Lagers and Wheat beers especially but it’s also used in a wide variety of other beers like Belgian ales and ESB’s.

Possible Substitutions

Saaz are a good substitute and are also one of the other noble hops. Another variety is Spalt both of which are German hop varieties.

Commercial Examples

After a bit of searching I found a single hop beer brewed by Mikkeller, a Tettnanger Single Hop IPA at 6.8% ABV. Whether it has the subtleties of cold refreshing Pilsner is another thing. Sam Adams Oktoberfest is another beer that makes use of Tettnang.

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Green Bullet

Hop Variety

Green Bullet

Origin

New Zealand

Alpha Acid %

11 – 15%

Beta Acid %

6 – 7%

Background

Green Bullet is a New Zealand variety of hops that was released in 1972 as part of a research program. Green Bullet came about in a time where higher alpha acid hop strains were being recognised for this trait hence the very high acid content.

High yields and the absence of disease makes Green Bullet a great variety for the grower and many are certified organic, unusual for Hops in other parts of the world. Storage of Green Bullet is another benefit making a great all round variety.

Brewing Attributes

Green Bullet are a workhorse variety that are both high in alpha acids and unique in aroma. As you can see from the high acid content of the hop it is an economical bittering hop and useful for early additions into the copper, it has a crisp bittering quality.

The aroma properties of Green Bullet are comparable to Styrian Goldings in respect of a floral spiciness. Other aroma notes I’ve heard are dark fruit qualities that can make for interesting darker beers but also lemon notes (which maybe contradicts dark fruit?) which make this hop a hard one to pin down.

Possible Substitutions

Styrian Goldings are likened to this variety often in terms of aroma but Green Bullet has a fuller flavour than the former.

Commercial Examples

Adnams brew a single hop beer at 4.6% which is worth looking out for. Robinsons Brewery also make a Green Bullet Pale Ale.

In the US Green Flash Brewing make a single hops Green Bullet DIPA that is rated very highly.

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Nelson Sauvin

Hop Variety

Nelson Sauvin

Origin

New Zealand

Alpha Acid %

12 – 13%

Beta Acid %

6 – 8%

Background

Released in 2000 Nelson Sauvin has had a massive impact for such a young variety and some would say the “Marmite Effect” applies to it. Developed at New Zealands HORTResearch (Horticulture and Food Research) it is a Triploid variety meaning it is infertile and produces next to no seeds due to having 3 rather than two sets of chromosomes.

The name is derived from the the wine grapes grown in the same vicinity as the the hop which bear similar flavour descriptors to the hop. Nelson Sauvignon grapes are grown in the Montueka Valley near Nelson, hence Nelson Sauvin.

Brewing Attributes

One of the most unique aroma hops available to the brewer Nelson Sauvin has an intense fruity character with notes of Gooseberry, Melon, Citrus and Passion Fruit. It truly is unique and an aroma some find too powerful and others cannot get enough of. These attributes of course are perfectly suited to craft brewing where new, more and distinctive flavours are the primary goal.

Some may find the tropical, punchy aroma of Nelson Sauvin means it’s only suitable for one off beers and big fruity double IPA’s but one thing is certain, if you want unique, big character in your beer then Nelson Sauvin will provide it.

Possible Substitutions

Nelson Sauvin is truly unique, finding a substitute is not really possible. The only alternative if you cannot get hold of them is to modify your recipe, try something equally unique like Citra. That said though it won’t be anywhere near the same beer.

Commercial Examples

Mikkeller Single Hop Nelson Sauvin IPA is a beer to get to experience nothing but Nelson Sauvin, expect a medium bodied copper coloured beer with passion fruit, apricot and grape notes.

Thornbridge Breweries Kipling at 5.2% also uses Nelson Sauvin and is described as a South Pacific Pale Ale

Alpine Beer Companies Nelson generously hopped with Nelson Sauvin and then dry hopped is another beer to try and get your hands on, at 7% it’s a big beer.

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