A Few Things You Should Know About Hops
Hops (humulus lupulus) are a prolific, long-lived, climbing perennial herb whose flowers grow into cone-shaped structures (strobiles) on the female plant. These cones are composed of bracts and bracteoles – leaflike structures attached to a central axis. The bracteoles carry the lupulin glands that provide the aroma, flavour, and astringent bitterness that balances the sweetness of the malt and acts as a preservative and natural clarifier.
The bitterness of hops comes primarily from the alpha acids contained in the resins of the lupulin glands. Typically, hops with high alpha acid percentages are generally used for bittering and hops with lower alpha acid percentages are usually considered best for aroma and flavour.
Whole hops (or flowers), are not used as often as pellets (hops ground into a very fine powder, then formed into pellets under intense pressure) in the commercial brewing process. Although pelletizing greatly increases the shelf life of the hops, some still feel that the whole flower is often the freshest and best way to utilize the hops delicate oils and resins responsible for aroma and flavour.
*Information provided by For the Love of Hops by Stan Hieronymus
Some Basic Information On Hop Cultivars
CASCADE Alpha acid 4-7%
A very popular U.S. variety, with a moderate bitterness level and fragrant, flowery aroma. Cascade is often used in highly hopped West Coast ales that have a citrus-floral hop character. Good resistance to downy mildew, susceptible to aphids. Moderate capacity for storage.
CENTENNIAL Alpha acid 9-11%
Brewers’ Gold outcross. Often called a super Cascade, floral and citrus aroma. Mid-season, good growth habit, good yield. Moderate mildew resistance, good storageability.
CHALLENGER Alpha acid 6.5-8.5%
Beautiful plant, large cones. Late season Northern Brewer type with resistance to downy mildew. Plenty of lupulin, easy to pick, high yield. Excellent storageability. Nice earthy/spicy aroma, good dual-purpose hop.
CZECH SAAZ Alpha acid 3 – 4.5%
The classical “noble” aroma hop with long and strong traditions. Associated with the renowned Pilsner lager. Very mild with pleasant hoppy notes.
CHINOOK Alpha acid 11-14%
A high alpha acid hop with a wonderful herbal, almost smoky character when used as an aromatic during the last few minutes of the boil when dry hoping. Excellent for hopping American-style Pale Ales, especially those brewed to higher gravities. Good storage, moderately resistant to downy mildew and insects, strong growth, high yield and good pickability.
FUGGLE Alpha acid 4-6%
Low yielding, early ripening traditional English an aroma-type cultivar. Superb in English-style ales. Aroma is mild, woody, fruity. Easy to pick, moderate storage capacity and moderate resistance to downy mildew.
GOLDING Alpha acid 4-6%
North American Golding bred from East Kent Golding stock. The premier English aroma hop. Superb in English-style ales, and lend a unique character to fine lagers as well. This hop has a unique spicy aroma and refined flavour. Strong growth, but sensitive to downy mildew. Good storageability and produces a moderate yield.
HALLERTAUER Alpha 3.5 – 5.5%
Traditional German variety, originally selected in the area of the same name. Lager, Pilsner, Bock, Wheat, Kölsch, Munich Helles, Belgian-Style Ales. Limited acreage grown, though seeing increased popularity among craft-brewers.
MAGNUM Alpha 12-14%
German Hallertauer hybrid, good storage stability. Moderate yield, resistant to downy mildew, susceptible to powdery mildew. Primarily a clean bittering hop.
MT. HOOD Alpha 5-8%
Hallertau type, very vigorous, high yielding, early maturing. Moderately resistant to downy mildew. Good storageability. Very popular hop in the Pacific Northwest, overwinters well.
Alpha 8-10%, a high-alpha dual-purpose hop, may be a replacement for Chinook. Early/mid season, good yield and pickability. Excellent storageability. Resistant to aphids & mites, susceptible to downy mildew and heat stress. Excellent aroma.
NUGGET Alpha acid 11-16%
Nugget is a bittering-type cultivar with a heavy herbal aroma. Good yield and excellent storage capacity. Resistant to downy mildew, susceptible to spider mite.
STERLING Alpha acid 6-9%
Sterling is an aroma cultivar. Saaz Hybrid. Herbal and spicy with a hint of floral and citrus. Moderately resistant to downy mildew with good yield and storage capacity.
WILLAMETTE Alpha 4 – 6%
A variation on English Fuggle hops. Willamette has a fragrant spicy woody aroma. An excellent American aromatic hops for ales and lagers. Currently the most widely grown aroma hops in the US.