The four main ingredients that go into beer making are water, barley malt, yeast and Hops. Hops for beer making
and the other three key ingredients are all boiled together, cooled and then stored in order for the mixture to
ferment into beer. Beer hops are the are the flowering part of a pretty useless viney plant that is loosely related
to the cannabis plant. It is a plant that grows in virtually any climate where there is adequate water and sunlight
and has been known to grow up to forty feet in height.
In the beer making process, hops act as a preservative and a flavouring agent adding a bitter taste that offsets
the sweetness of the maltose or malt suger. Hops also add an aroma that resembles a piney come citrus smell.
Beer making has not always included hops and their use as an ingredient only came about in Europe around 1100
AD. The use of hops helped to produce more beer from the same amount of malt.
As a preservative, hops allow for a lower alcohol content to be present, whilst serving to keep the beer fresh
enough to be consumed after more than a few weeks.
Since the alcohol in beer is the product of fermentation of barley grain, adding hops to the mixture allowed for
the use of less barley grain to make the same amount of brew, thus reducing the grain cost and the overall beer
Hops also act as a flavoring agent and contribute to the overall flavour in multiple ways. The fruit of the hop
plant contains compounds called alpha acids which when heated become bitter.
Hops, like many plants, also contain oils that add distinctive aromas. Since aroma and taste are closely
related, the addition of a herbal or piney like smell can greatly influence the perceived taste of the final
Some of those oils will vaporize during heating, so it is not unusual for additional hops to be added all
through the brewing process, even right at the end solely to add additional aroma and flavor. The technique is
commonly used when brewing ales, contributing to their more heady nose and flavor over many lagers.
Hops even possess a mild antibiotic that helps suppress some of the organisms in the wort (the liquid fermented
to make beer), allowing the yeast to carry out the fermentation process more efficiently.
The use of hops for beer making began around the beginning of the twewlth century in Germany, followed by
Britain in the early 16th century. Scottish ales began using hops only much later as the climate in Scotland was
too cold for the hop plant to grow. In the United States, the use of hops started in 1629.
Today, there are many basic varieties of hops together with numerous sub types.
For instance, Noble hops come in four different types which are all high in aroma but low in bitterness. The
Noble hops hail from Central Europe and have some fairly exotic names such as Saaz, Spalter, Tettnanger and
Hallertau. The names derive mainly from their region of origin.
In England, names such as Goldings and Fuggles will be more familiar. Both are derived from their European
ancestors with Goldings being used in some ales and Fuggles being a woody hop developed in England in the late 19th
There is another called Hersbrucker, which is a German Hop used in pale lagers and the Lublin from Poland. There
is even a berry aroma hop called the Pacific Gem, which hails from New Zealand.
Considering that hops have practically no other commercial use beyond their application to beer making,
the world is fortunate that clever brew meisters exist that can turn a limitation into such delightful