Hops bring beer to life, providing bitterness, flavor, and aroma. They are the fireworks of beer, the face-slap, the laughter, or the delicate kiss. They are also the A-list ingredient, which has catapulted craft-brewing around the world, thanks to the amazing qualities it gives to beer.
Hops have been used as beer’s bittering agent for hundreds of years, but things only really exciting in the 1970s and 1980s when American hops were used by pioneering American craft brewers. Not only were these brewers now making beers other than light lagers, they were also using ingredients with huge flavor profiles and hops bursting onto the tongue with citrus pith and juice, bitterness, and a floral freshness.
It was beer’s color-cinema moment.
Grown around the world, hops are varietal with each variety having a different flavor profile ranging from delicate to brutal, where they can be aromatic, citrusy, spicy, tropical, herbal, earthy, grassy, piney, or floral. Hops are used as flowers, pellets, a Flowers are harvested, dried, and pre together; pellets are flowers that have blitzed up, squashed together, and cut into s blocks; oils come in a pourable form.(mall once a craft beer no-no, but are now accepted, particularly in very hoppy beers where they give the bitterness and aroma that would be difficult to achieve with just flowers or pellets.) Some brewers only use flowers, while others stick to pellets; a mix of both is common.
As the wort reaches the kettle, it is brought to a rolling boil. That’s when the first hops are added. Boiling sterilizes the beer. It also allows hop bitterness to get in. Hops contain acids and oils, and the alpha acids in hops (which give beer its bitterness) need to be boiled to isomerise into water-soluble iso-alpha acids. Hop oils are volatile, so boiling them for extended amounts of time drives off the flavor and aroma qualities. For this reason, early hop additions give bitterness, while middle and late additions give flavor and aroma. Hops can be process known as dry-hopping) to produce ex aroma and flavor. Crafty brewers are f endless ways to get more hops int including adding them in the mash tun.
American hops started it and the continue to be in huge demand. US hop farmers, alongside Australian and New Zealand farmers are the New World hop growers; Europe is the Old World of hop growing with the classic varieties, while new varieties are constantly being developed and cross-bred to give new and different flavor profiles.
Some are neutral in flavor, some leave a fruity taste behind, some are used for funky flavors and sourness, some are specific strains belonging to breweries, and some are style-defining strains. There are “top-fermenting” yeasts and “bottom-
fermenting” yeasts. If “Beer” is at the top of the family tree, then it branches down into “Ale” and “Lager”. Ale is made with top-fermenting yeast, which works quickly to ferment the wort in three to six days at warm temperatures of 18-24°C (65-75° F), rising to the top of the tank to form a thick, sticky foam before dropping back into suspension. Top-fermenting yeast contributes some fruity flavors to beer. Lager, on the other hand, is made with bottom-fermenting yeast, which works slowly, fermenting all the sugars in five to ten days at cool temperatures of 8-14 c (46-57°F) before falling to the bottom of the tank. Lager yeast is clean with little flavor added to the beer.
Yeast goes into the fermentation tanks then eats the sugars created during the mash producing booze and bubbles as by-products.
As yeast is sensitive, control over temperature is important and the two work together. For example, if you try to ferment lager yeast at ale temperatures (higher than usual), you’ll typically get a range of unusual and unwanted aromas (esters). If you try to ferment ale at lager temperatures (lower than usual), it works slowly or not at all-although some examples exist that go against these general temperature rules, Steam beer being one.
Unfiltered, the beer still contains all the yeast, and the aromas that swirl out of the vase glass are of banana bubble gum, cloves, and vanilla. These aromas are known as esters, which are primarily formed by the yeast during fermentation. Typical ester aromas include banana, pear, apple, rose, honey, and a solvent-like whiff. Esters are appropriate in some beers, but not in others, where they could be a sign of a lack of control in the brewery A lot of beer’s potential off-flavors come from yeast. For this reason, careful control over yeast and temperature is key in the brewhouse
Crazy additional ingredients
After using water, grain, hops, and yeast, brewers can then add whatever else they want. Fruit is common, including cherries, raspberries, blueberries strawberries, grapes, oranges, apricots, raisins, and pumpkin. The fruit can be used fresh frozen, or cooked and either as syrup or peel. Any type of herb or spice can also go in to give depth or flavor; often seen are ground coriander ginger, chili, pepper, curaçao, and hard herbs such as thyme, lavender, and rosemary. Coffee is one of the most common ingredients, particularly in stouts. Honey, nuts, vanilla, and chocolate are also popular. Some of the more unconventional ingredients include nettles (a relative of hops), bacon, tea, peanut butter, spruce, and many more. Some ingredients are added to the mash tun, some go in like late or ry hops, some are added during fermentation, some during conditioning, and some are blended in late in the process.