Hops

Bookmark and Share

Hops have been used to flavour beers in Europe since the early 1400's. Hops play an important part in the beer brewing process, not only being one of the key flavouring ingredients but they also act as a preservative. The hop plant is a spindly weed botanically related to the Cannabis plant. It is a perennial plant which can grow up to 30 ft high. 

There is a huge variety of hops, each with its own distinctive character, aroma and flavour. Using combinations gives the home brewer a freedom to really let their imagination go wild. 

Hops are usually infused into the brewing process in much the same way as you would brew tea. They are usually added in 3 stages to the boiling wort to inpair different qualities to the beer. First the boiling (copper) hops - to give the bitterness, then hops for flavour and finally aroma (usually in the last few minutes).

The bittering strength of the hops is measured by the Alpha acid content, represented in a percentage. The higher the percentage the stronger the hops.

The internationally recognised standard for measuring bitterness in beer is the European Bittering Unit (EBU). Most beers fall between EBU 25 and EBU 65

The following is a guide to typical EBU levels for the more popular beer styles.

  •  
    • Mild, Brown Ale, Sweet Stout, Wheat Beer, British and Munich type Lagers -EBU 15-25
    • Pilsner - EBU 28-40
    • Bitter, Pale Ale, Porter - EBU 30-50
    • Irish Stout, Imperial Stout, Barley Wine - EBU 4O-75.

 

There is a simple formula for determining the weight of hops in grams required to brew to a specified EBU value. This formula assumes a 20% hop utilisation. Some brewers may better this utilisation so adjustments may be necessary.  

 

 

EBU REQUIRED x BREW LENGTH IN LITRES
ALPHA ACID OF CHOSEN HOPS x 2

 

 


Example: You decide to brew 25 litres of Bitter at EBU 35 using Fuggles with an alpha acid content of 5.6%. The calculation is as follows:

 

(35 x 25 = 875) divided by (5.6 x 2 = 11.2) = 78 grams

 

IMPORTANT: Only the 'Copper Hops' should be included in the above calculation as little or no bitterness will be extracted from late hops.

Here is a table of the most common hops used in brewing.

Variety Origin Alpha Notes
Admiral UK 14-16% It is a very versatile hop being used to provide bitterness in both Ales and Lagers. Its low aroma requires it to be used with other, more flavourful hops for the best results
Beata (Experimental) UK 5-7%  
Boadicea UK 9-11%  
Bramling X UK 5-7% A hop of considerable character. Distinctive strong spicy/blackcurrant flavour and good alpha characteristics.
Challenger UK 6-9% Originally developed as a Goldings replacement, Challenger is a very versatile variety. It has fine bittering properties and aroma.
East Kent Goldings UK 5-7% Considered to be one of the best hops for pale ales.
First Gold UK 7-11% One of the new exciting varieties of 'dwarf hops', First Gold is a very fine aroma hop reminiscent of the Golding. Bred to grow to a height of just 2 to 3 metres to aid harvesting. Its delicately spicy aroma renders it particularly suitable for late hopping.
Fuggles UK 3-7% Excellent for both aroma and flavour.  Unsurpassed for flavouring the darker British styles.
Northdown UK 6-10% Although Northdown can be used on its own to good effect, especially in darker styles of beer, it is the ideal accompaniment to aroma hops such as Fuggles or Progress.
Pilgrim UK 10-12% Pilgrim has performed well as a replacement for high alpha or dual purpose hops. Because of its alpha it has been compared to Target more than any other variety, although it has a much hoppier aroma
Pioneer UK 9-12% Dual purpose hops with good bittering and aroma.
Pilot UK 9-12% Very new high alpha hedgerow variety hop. Has A good aroma and bittering qualities.
Progress UK 4-8% Similar to Fuggles - Progress is relatively low in alpha acids (around 6%) and is primarily used as an aroma/flavor addition. The aroma and taste is slightly sweet and can be described as almost having a lime character. Common use is for lighter beers like pale ales, lighter bitters, wheat beers.
Sovereign UK 4-7%  A new hedgerow variety with excellent brewing quality, true "english noble hop" which can be used to good effect as a substitute for, or to blend with traditional aroma hops, Fuggles, Goldings and Challenger.
Target UK 8-13% Although recognised by some brewers as an aroma hop, Target is at its best when used in the copper for the production of beers with a low bitterness.
WGV UK 4-8% Originally bred by Whitbread's Brewery, this variety displays both Goldings and Fuggles characteristics.
Saaz Czech 2-5% The saaz aroma can be described best as spicy, clean and classic. Saaz hops are the defining element for the classic Pilsner Urquell and Budìjovice Budweiser beers, and are a welcome addition to any light lager, pale ale, and even the wit style.
Sladek Czech 4-8%  
Strisselspalt France 2-5%  Earthy with a sweet floral, slight citrus character.
Brewers Gold (Hallertau) Germany 6-9% It also imparts a fruity yet spicy aroma as well as having a black currant characteristic. Brewers Gold can be used in a wide range of styles from English Ales to German Lager. These make a good partner to noble varieties such as Tettnang and Hallertauer.
Mittlefruh (Hallertau) Germany 3-6% Classic type of Hallertauer hop - Herbal, spicy, earthy, sweet and floral. Great for German lagers.
Herkules Germany 14-17%  
Herbrucker (Hallertau) Germany 2-5% Regional variety of Hallertauer. Wonderful classic flavour/aroma hop. Earthy and sweet-floral.
Magnum Germany 13-15% Sometimes referred to as Yakima Magnum. Magnum is a good, clean, all purpose bittering hop. It is sometimes described as having a floral character.  Usage is best in ale styles like Pale Ale and IPA, or any strong ales.
Northern Brewer (Hallertau) Germany 7-11% Very good hop for both lagers and Ales. Generally a bittering hop.
Perle (Hallertau) Germany 5-9% Similar to Northern Brewer.
Select (Spalt) Germany 4-8% Traditional German lager style hop for bittering, flavour and aroma. Similar to Saaz and Tettnanger.
Tettnang (Tettnanger) Germany 2-5% Herbal, spicy and sweetly floral almost honeylike. Flavour/aroma hop.
Traditional (Hallertau) Germany 4-7% Similar to other Hallertau but usually with a higher Alpha Content.
Lubelski Poland 3-5%  
Marynka Poland 8-12%  
Atlas Slovakia 5-9% Super Styrian, decendant of Brewers Gold. Good bittering and Aroma.

Aurora (Super Styrian)

Slovakia 5-9% As above but related to Northern Brewer.
Styrian Golding (Bobek, Celeia) Slovakia 3-6% Actually a Fuggle, they have a beautiful perfumey aroma which lends itself to both Continental Lagers and the less malty English ales
Nelson Sauvin New Zealand 11-15%  
Pacific Gem New Zealand 11-15% High Alpha hop, popular in New Zealand for bittering.
Ahtanum USA 5-8% A aroma/flavoring hop variety that is similar to Cascade or Amarillo. It has a citrus and floral character much like cascade with the addition of some piney or earth notes. Grapefruit quality is more forward in than in cascade as well. A good choice for a flavor addition when you do not want to impart quite the bitterness of cascade or amarillo.  
Amarillo USA 7-11%

A new American hop variety that has been described as "super cascade."  Amarillo is a good hop for flavor and aroma additions.
The flavor profile is very citrusy, especially leaning toward a distinct orange flavor and aroma. 

Bravo USA 12-14% Bravo is a recent US cultivar with a parentage from the Zeus hop variety. Bravo is a good choice of a bittering base.
Aromatic qualities of Bravo range from being described as Earthy and Herbal to somewhat Floral as well as spicy.
Cascade USA 4-7% Very popular American all purpose bittering and aroma hop. Floral and citrusy character.
Centennial USA 7-12% One of the "C" hops, along with Cascade, Chinook, and Columbus. Centennial imparts a pungent, citrus-like flavor and aroma. This particular "C" hop, however, is good when you are not looking to impart quite the floral aromas that you might find in Cascade.
Chinook USA 11-15% Chinook hops were developed in the early 1980s in Washington state by the USDA as a variant of the Goldings Hop. Chinook imparts a rich, pronounced aroma with a citrus component. If employed later in the boil, Chinook imparts a herbal, almost smoky aroma.
Cluster USA 6-9% Cluster is classic American hop developed for US large breweries. It is a low to medium acid (5 to 8.5% AAU) hop that imparts a clean, neutral, somewhat floral bitterness.
Cluster can be used in a wide range of beers.
Columbus, Tomohawk, Zeus USA 13-18% Columbus (also known as Tomahawk) is a relatively new hop variety patented in the USA by HopUnion Inc. A great all-around hop and a good candidate for single-hopped pale ales and IPA.
Flavors are earthy, spicy, and pungent with a citrus component - yet mild and not overwhelming.
Crystal USA 3-6% Crystal is a US hop variety with parentage going back to Hallertau. Like its parent, Crystal has a relatively low alpha acid range and is best-used in the last part of the boil to impart flavor and aroma constituents. Like Hallertau, Crystal is somewhat spicy, earthy and noble.
Galena USA 10-14% Galena is a high-alpha (12 to 14% AAU) all purpose bittering hop. This is a pungent, very bitter variety that can be used in a wide range of beer styles. Galena is widely used as a commercial bittering hop in the USA.
Liberty USA 3-5% Liberty was developed in the US around 1983 as a replacement for the Hallertauer Mittelfrüh hop variety. Its best use is in German style lagers as a finishing hop to impart its mild, fine aroma.
When hops are in short supply and prices are high, Liberty is a good replacement Hallertau and Tettnanger.
Millenium USA 15-16% Grown mostly for producing hop extract.
Mount Hood USA 4-7% Mt. Hood is a US-Bred hop variety resulting from a cross with Hallertau and is a relative of Ultra, Liberty, and Crystal. Like its relatives, Mt. Hood retains that spicy, earthy, somewhat fresh noble aroma. I think Mt. Hood is a bit more spicy and rich than its relative hop varieties.
Nugget USA 10-14% An aggressive bittering hop with moderate herbal aroma.
Palisade USA 6-10%  
Santiam USA 4-7%  
Simcoe USA 11-15% Simcoe is best characterized as having a pronounced pine or woodsy aroma. The cultivar was bred by Yakima Chief in the USA. Like cascade, but more bitter - and with pine notes.
Sterling USA 5-9% Sterling is an American hop variety bred to be similar in flavor and aroma to the noble Saaz hop variety. Sterling has a noble and somewhat spicy (but not overly spicy) and even a little floral aroma.
Vanguard USA 5-7% US hop variety that came about in 1982 with breeding between a Hallertau mother and unnamed father. Like its parentage, Vanguard is somewhat noble and mild in aroma. It's US parentage lends Vanguard an ever-so-slight herbal citrus that is quite restrained, but perfect for hybrid styles like American Wheat.
Willamette USA 4-7% First developed around 1976 as a hybrid of the UK Fuggle hop in Oregon and continues to be very widely-grown hop in the US.
Characteristics are much like the Fuggle variety, having vegetal, woody, or earthy aroma. Good Aroma hop for end of boil.

Check out our great brewing forum for tips, advice and brewing banter.