Different Hops, Different Beers: Their Role in Craft Brewing

Hops: A Very Brief Crash Course

Beer is made up of four major components: water, yeast, malt, and- you guessed it- hops. So what exactly are hops and what in the world are they doing in (and to) your beer? The following is a crash course on how hops help to create a balanced, enjoyable pint.

Hops are actually flowers from the humulus lupulus plant and impact the bitterness, aroma and flavour of your beer. Some types of hops are single duty and others have multiple functions. This depends on when they are added in the brewing process. Meaning, some are best at bittering, while others impart a stronger aroma and/or flavour, and some do both. Beer can be brewed with multiple varieties of hops to add complexity of flavours and aromas.

Bittering hops act to balance out the sweetness of the malt to create a more drinkable and delicious beer. International Bittering Units, or IBU’s, determine, on an increasing scale, the level of bitterness in a beer created by the hops. This can be somewhat confusing, however, as a high IBU beer may have a high sweet malt content, which can end up balancing out the bitterness of the beer that you taste or, more specifically, that you perceive.

Hops can have a whole host of flavours and aromas; like tropical fruit, grapefruit or lemon, which are especially prevalent in the New World hop types. Mt. Hood or Perle are spicy or herbal. Hops can be earthy-kind of like sticking your nose in a bunch of beetroot, and found in varieties like East Kent Goldings. Cascade or Centennial have floral, citrus, and pine notes. Hops generally have a several different kinds of flavours and aromas, so even single-hopped beers should boast a few.

If you want a more advanced go at the impact of aroma or flavour hops on beer, get thee to your local homebrew store, like Mottly Brew or borrow (I recommend bribing with beer) some hops from your homebrewing buddy. Grab some different varieties that match the beer below, or your favourite brews. Just dump a few into a bowl and pour over boiling water, leave it thirty seconds or so and give it a smell. Then smell your beer. Then smell the hops- repeat until you can pick up the scent of the hops in the beer. Then taste your beer and see if you can pick up that flavour profile in your sip.

O’Hara’s Irish Red

Described as a complex red with an ‘incredibly smooth malt body complimented by caramel tones and perfectly balanced in bitterness’.

This beer from Carlow Brewing Company highlights Mt. Hood Hops, an American Hop variety similar to the German Noble hops Hallertau and Hersbrucker.

 

What you are looking for: Mt. Hood Hops
Aroma/Flavour: Spicy or herbal. Carlow Brewing Company says there should be a distinctive herbal aroma from the late addition of these Mt. Hood hops.
4.3% ABV
25 IBU’s
€3.40 at Martins Off Licence

Hops: A Very Brief Crash Course
Wicklow Wolf Black Perle Porter

You can’t talk about hops in Irish beer without talking Wicklow Wolf. They grow their own hops on a farm in Roundwood and have six varieties at the moment: Cascade, Perle, Bramling Cross, Chinook, First Gold, & Nugget.

The malt profile of this beer is described as ‘an intense complexity of Dark Caramel, Chocolate, Coffee and Toasted malt character to satisfy any dark beer drinker’.

 

What you are looking for: Perle Hops
Hop Aroma/Flavour: spicy, floral notes.
4.8% ABV
22 IBU’s
€3.90 at Drinkstore

Hops: A Very Brief Crash Course
Dungarvan Mine Head

With ‘sweeter toffee and marmalade-like maltness for a balanced flavour’ this beer is brewed with Cascade and only cascade hops. It’s also dry hopped (adding hops after the wort has cooled) with Cascade for fresh hop aromas.

What you are looking for: Cascade Hops
Aroma/Flavour: These impart a grapefruit, grassy, pine and citrusy notes.
ABV 5.5%
38 IBU’s
€3.90 at Drinkstore

Hops: A Very Brief Crash Course
Yellow Belly Fierce Mild

This is YellowBelly’s take on the famous English Style with a ‘full bodied with a toasty aroma. A gentle roastiness on the tongue gives way to a lingering sweet finish’.

The malts here should impart flavours like dark fruit, hints of chocolate, and some nutty notes, among others.

What you are looking for: East Kent Goldings Hops
Aroma/Flavour: earth, lemon, and some spicy notes, you might get some herbal scents like thyme and lavender,
3.1% ABV
14 IBU’s
€2.80 at O’Briens

Hops: A Very Brief Crash Course

 

ARTICLE BY CHRISTINA WADE

Hops: A Very Brief Crash CourseA historian by trade, Christina founded the Ladies Craft Beer Society of Ireland to have some semblance of a life outside of her Ph.D. An academic at heart, she then went on to turn her love of craft beer into something a bit more formal and has become a BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) Beer Judge.

With this background, she is devoted to educating the consumer on the history of beer styles and brewing, as well as what makes up the perfect pint.

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