Beer Brewing Hops

Many varieties of hops are used for brewing. Hops are not essential to make beer, but have become standard in nearly all recipes. Before hops were discovered, many other plants and spices had been brewing ingredients as preservatives.

Although hops make up less than half of a percent of beer by volume, it's clear their contribution to your beer is worth their weight in gold. 'humulus', or 'humulus lupus' Is the flowering cone of a hardy perennial vine that grows in various regions/climates throughout the world. Hops have been used as a flavoring agent/preservative for beer as far back as the 11th century, and their contribution to beer continues to grow and evolve to this day.

The hop cone contains small pockets of lupulin glands which contain the alpha/beta acids that provide the bittering/aromatic effects that hops impart into our beers. Typically, bittering hops that are high in alpha acids are added early on in the boil during the brewing process, imparting the bitter flavor present in beer to balance out the malty sweetness. Aroma hops are typically lower in alpha acid and added very late in the boil to impart a pleasant aroma and some delicate flavors that compliment the beer.

Since their first cultivation and utilization in beer, hops have evolved into 100's of different varieties, each with unique characteristics, flavors, and varying alpha/beta acid concentrations. Not only do hops add depth, flavor, and balance to beer, they also help to preserve it from spoiling, prevent growth of unwanted bacteria, and assist in head retention (small layer of carbonation that persists on the top of a beer while it is consumed). Furthermore, techniques such as “dry-hopping”, “wet-hopping”, continuous hop additions, and “hop-rockets” have further highlighted the delicious citrus/pine/fresh/fruity flavors hops can impart into our beer. As beer styles continue to evolve along with the tastes and preferences of beer consumers abroad, hops have taken center center stage in this ever expanding beer revolution.

Bittering Hops

Hops can be used to add a bitter flavor to beer. This is done by adding certaion varieties of hops toward the beginning of the boiling step of the brewhouse stage of brewing. Boiling hops allows the Wort to capture Alpha Acids in the hops and turn them into iso-alpha acids. This process is called isomerization.

Varieties of hops used for bittering usually have a higher percent-mass of Alpha Acids, from 10-20%.

Aromatic Hops

Hops can be used to add aroma to beer. This is done by adding hops late in the sustained boil, by Wet Hopping, or Dry Hopping. The wort captures the Essential Oils, which contribute to the overall aroma. Boiling aromatic hops too long will evaporate these essential oils. A vigorous fermentation can also inadvertently expel the hops' aroma (alongside the carbon dioxide). These vary per hop variety, but may include mild pine, citrus, greens, flowers, or earth flavors.

Varieties of hops used for aroma usually have a lower percent-mass of Alpha Acids, from 2-10%.

Hops Variety Periodic Table

See every hops variety organized in a Periodic Table, and click to learn more about each one.


Hops can be added to recipes in 3 different forms: pellet, plug, and whole.

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Alpha Acids

Hops have the alpha acids Humulone, Cohumulone, and Adhumulone.

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Beta Acids

Hops have the beta acids Lupulone, Colupulone, and Adlupulone.

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Essential Oils

Essential Oils are oil compounds that provide an essence, fragrance, or aroma. They are found in plants and their flowers, including hop flower cones. They may also be referred to as volatile oils.

Hops typically have the essential oils Caryophyllene, Farnesene, Humulene, and Myrcene. Each hop variety has a different ratio, so when used for brewing, varieties can provide unique aromas for beer recipes.

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Farming Hops

Hops are grown in the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Poland, Slovakia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia, China, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. The sites are called hop nurseries or hop yards. Learn how to grow your own vines of hops.

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