Beer Hops Basics: Your Guide to Beer Hops Types & More!
By Liquid Cheers |
Aug 10, 2021
beer hops

Hops have been getting a lot of well-deserved attention these past few years. Brewers continually experiment with combinations of new varietals to make up some of your favorite beer styles, including pilsner, amber ale, pale lager, IPA, and wheat beer. Even if you aren’t a fan of big, hoppy beers, a good majority of your customers will be. 

Read on to discover the importance of beer hops types beyond just bittering your beer.

What Are Beer Hops?

At first glance, the hop plant may look inconsequential. It flowers once a year and doesn’t have many uses (besides making delicious beer, of course.) It’s also very susceptible to pests and diseases if not grown with care. 

Not all hops are the same, though. The bitterness level from alpha acid and aromas that hops provide depend on various factors, including the type of hops, the region they are grown, and specific growing conditions. 

Similar to some wines, it’s tough to find beers made with just one hop varietal. Think of cooking your favorite dish- adding different seasonings and ingredients really takes your dish to the next level. It’s the same with hops. Certain hops complement each other in-depth and flavor. 

Since single-hop beers are hard to come by, the easiest way to experience individual hops is to become friends with a brewer who likes to experiment with single varietals or brew your own one-hop beers.

Why Add Hops to Beer?

There are many reasons why brewers add hops to beer:

  • They taste good (duh)
  • Add bitterness to balance an overly sweet or bland beer
  • Imparts citrus, piney, herbal, and/or earthy notes
  • Maintains a beer’s foamy head
  • Includes antibacterial qualities in their bitter oils to prevent spoilage

The malt in your beer is what produces the alcohol we all know and love, but a byproduct of malt is sugar. Bitter hops are designed to balance the sugar produced by the malt so you can drink more beer without the sugar oversaturating your pallet. 

Lupulin is found inside hop cones and contains resins and aromatic oils that help impart all of those delicious aromas and flavors to your beer. 

When hops are added at the beginning or middle of the boiling stage of brewing, they add that iconic hoppy, bitter taste that beers like IPAs are known for. When added after the boiling stage or towards the end – called dry hopping – they contribute to the aroma and flavor of the beer.

Hops, like wine grapes, draw a lot from the terroir (their natural environment, like soil and climate.) Adding them late in the brewing process allows the natural flavors and aromas of the hops to really shine.

Beer Hop

Top Beer Hops By Region

Hops vary depending on the region they are grown in. As you get to know the different hops around the world, you will notice the common characteristics in each major growing region.

Australia & New Zealand

Hops from Australia and New Zealand have woodsy and earthy notes with some varietals tasting bright and juicy. These regions are known and loved, especially in the United States, for producing fruit-forward hops reminiscent of lychee, melon, lime, and passion fruit. They are an excellent balance to the traditional hoppiness of IPAs and pale ales.

Popular New Zealand and Australian Hops

  • Galaxy: A unique Australian breed of hops that sports the highest percentage of essential oils in the industry. Notes of: juicy passionfruit, peach, and citrus
  • Motueka: Bred from the hop Saaz, the New Zealand Motueka is a versatile hop that you can use at any point during the brewing process. Notes of: tropical fruits, citrus, and kiwi
  • Nelson Sauvin (Nelson): Grown in the Nelson region of New Zealand, it has similar aromatics to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Notes of: lychee, melon, and gooseberry 

England

English hops make up only one percent of the world’s production of hops; even so, they have a cult following worldwide. English hops are described as grassy, floral, woodsy, and minty. British beers are known for maintaining a relatively even balance of malt and hop, but if you want to experience what an English hop can truly taste like, try an English bitter, lager, and India pale ale.

Popular English Hops

  • Challenger: Used in many English pale ales, this aroma hop is basically green tea in a delicious beer format. Notes of: floral, citrus, and spice
  • Fuggle: First discovered in 1891, this English hop is noted for its distinct European characteristics and high alpha acids (source of hop bitterness.) Notes of: cedar, mint, and floral 
  • (East Kent) Golding: East Kent Golding is what many consider to be the quintessential English hop. It has been one of the island’s favorites for ales and pale ales for over 200 years. Notes of: lavender, earth, and pepper
  • Northern Brewer: Northern Brewer is used majorly in a variety of European beers. It is also popular in California Common-style beers. Notes of: pine, mint, and wood

Germany & Czech Republic

When talking about German and Czech hops, there is one group of hops that you HAVE to mention: noble hops. They are traditional varieties of hops used to make early European beers. In the Middle Ages, water wasn’t usually safe to drink, so people of all ages drank beer instead. This Medieval beer was low in alcohol and high in bitterness. Medieval brewers used hops to flavor their beers and never looked back. 

The Nobl(est of) Hops

  • Hallertauer Mittelfrüh (Hallertau or Hallertauer): Hallertau hops are continental Europe’s most famous hop variety. Fresh, locally-made versions are where it’s at. They offer the best opportunity to taste German noble hops because hop aroma quickly fade as beer travels and ages. Notes of: floral, pepper, and wood
  • Saaz ( Žatec or Saazer): Originating in the Czech Republic, Saaz has certainly established itself as a staple variety for brewers and dates back more than 700 years. Notes of: spice, earth, and herbs
  • Spalt (Spalter): Dates back as far as the 8th century. In the 16th century, Spalt was the first variety granted the German hop seal (a historically significant certification system). Notes of: pepper, wood, and earth
  • Tettnanger (Tettnang): This noble hop is claimed to have the best flavor. Due to its delicious flavor, it is the most widely used noble hop worldwide. Notes of: floral, spice, and herbs

The United States

American hops have given rise to the craft beer craze for the last three decades, and with good reason. American hops are valued worldwide for their bold, intense flavors. Currently, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho are responsible for the vast majority of American hop production, and the United States is second only to Germany in acres planted. Because of favorable growing conditions and higher average yields, the United States often ends up producing more hops in pounds than Germany.

Listed below are just a handle of popular hop varietals grown in the US. 

Popular American Hops

  • Cascade: Cascade hop is credited with jumpstarting the hoppy American craft beer revolution. Its popularity is primarily due to its versatility and signature ‘hoppy’ flavor profile. Notes of: grapefruit, citrus, and floral
  • Centennial: The Centennial hop is sometimes referred to as “super Cascade” due to the two hops’ similar aromas. Centennial is a widely celebrated hop because of its bitterness and forward aroma. Notes of: earth, citrus, and floral
  • Citra: Citra hop is a newcomer to the world of beer, released in 2009. It is one of the most coveted high-impact aroma hop in the US. Notes of: citrus, passionfruit, and pineapple
  • Mosaic: Mosaic hop is another young hop. It was released in 2012 and is used for bittering hop, flavor and aroma. Notes of: mango, pine, and citrus
  • Willamette: Considered a staple of the US hops industry, Willamette is one of the most widely grown hops in the US. Notes of: tropical fruit, herbs, and spice

Now that you know the basics of beer hops types, it’s time to put that knowledge to use! Your customers will appreciate the wide variety of delicious beers you are sure to choose. 

Liquid Cheers™ has a wide range of quality equipment for all of your draft beer needs. Ranging from beer towers and tap handles to drip trays and faucets, we’ve got you covered! 

Visit our website or contact us today for more information!