“I heard they recently decided to add more hops to it.” – McLovin
Beers are described as hoppy, they’re defined by the exact type of hops or hop blends that are used as ingredients (my current beer says it’s a “hoppy helles bock hopped with Mandarina Bavaria,” which sounds like the ramblings of a drunkard), and little photos or doodles of hops are often emblazoned on bottles, cans, cases, and tap handles.
But what the heck is a hop?
Hops are the flowers of a plant known as Humulus lupulus, and they are one of the main ingredients in beer along with grain, yeast, water, and happiness. They are most often green in appearance, and sort of resemble little buds of marijuana. And if you think that’s just the immature stoner in me, you’re right…but you’re also wrong. Humulus lupulus actually comes from the same family, Cannabaceae, as cannabis. (Score one for our beer-drinking, weed-smoking readers!)
Beer doesn’t have to be made from hops (different herbs can be used instead), but it almost always is. That’s because hops don’t just have an appealing taste, they also have an antibacterial and preservative effect. Trust us, your beer will taste better and remain fresher thanks to the hops killing off undesirable microorganisms. Kind of like Raid that you can also drink. (Please don’t drink Raid.)
But how, exactly, do hops turn into beer?
As anyone who has ever brewed their own beer before will tell you, it’s not exactly a simple process. But we’re simple folk here at IDrankBeer, so we should be able to break it down so all you people slightly smarter than us can understand. Basically, hops are generally picked, dried (undried hops are referred to as “wet hops”), and boiled with wort, which is the sugar-packed liquid extracted from the mashing of milled grain and water. Next, the yeast is added, which ferments the aforementioned sugars to produce the ever-important alcohol.
Are hops always bitter?
Not necessarily. Some hops are citrusy or zesty, and the bitterness actually has to do with when the hops are added during production. If they are added early on, you’ll end up with a hoppier flavor. If added closer to the end, the beer will have more aroma. Sometimes, hops aren’t added until after the fermentation process, which is referred to as “dry-hopping.”
Also, higher-alcohol beers are generally more bitter, but the extra alcohol isn’t a product of the extra hops. Instead, brewers will usually opt to add more hops to beers with higher ABVs because more alcohol equals more residual sugars, which will make for a sweeter beer. In order to counteract the sweet, malty flavor, hops are called in for balance.
What varieties of hops are there?
There are tons of hop varieties out there; way more than we can name here. (I mean, we could, but we’d lose most of our readers for sure…if we haven’t already with all this science-y stuff.) But you’ll commonly see varieties like Cascade, Chinook, Citra, Lambic, and Mosaic, among others. If you’d like a detailed breakdown, check out this kickass chart from Freshops.com.
What is the best variety of hop?
We love craft beer and we love many different types, brands, and brews. So in the end, the best type of hop is whatever tastes best to you. Whether you try as many different kinds of hops as possible or find one and stick to it for the rest of your beer-loving life, the most important thing is that you enjoy your beer. We’re a bunch of Millennials, so we think you’re a beautiful and unique snowflake that deserves nothing but happiness.
Unless you’re a total jerk. In that case, we hope you choke…just a little bit.
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