H is for Hops
H is for Hops – part 8 of our A to Z guide to craft beer terms.
I can think of few things that can add such a wide variety of flavours, aromas and dimension as the humble hop. If brewers were cooks, hops would be their spices.
The female flowers of the Humulus lupulus plant, hops are what can give your beer a tangy, bitter finish or a tropical nose. They can offer up anything from an earthy, savoury character, to bright, pine resin notes. Each hop offers a different profile and another opportunity for a brewer to create something unique. There are currently over 80 varieties in commercial use and more are being developed and released every year.
See if you can recognise the flavour profiles of these hops. Which do you think are used in South African craft beer?
Amarillo – Citrusy, flowery
Cascade – Pleasant, flowery, spicy, and citrusy. Possible grapefruit flavour.
Chinook – Mild to medium-heavy, spicy, piney, and grapefruity.
Northern Brewer – Medium-strong with some wild tones.
Sorachi Ace – Bittering hop with lemony aroma.
Wai-iti – Aroma hop with a startlingly citrus aroma made up of mandarin, lemon and lime zest.
The use of hops in brewing is thought to have started in the 1000’s, though the first mention of hop cultivation was around 730 in Germany.
Up until around 1200, the preferred bittering agent in beer was called gruit. It was an herb mixture which commonly combined mugwort, ground ivy, horehound, sweet gale, and yarrow. Different amounts of each herb produced different flavour profiles. None of which I imagine would be seen as palatable today – though the use of juniper berries has seen some popularity in American styles.
By the 1600’s, the Germans, Dutch, French and even the Americans were cultivating hop vines, and some of these countries are still producing today. Germany and the United States are the top two producers in the world with around 55,000 tonnes per year . . . but farmers are having a hard time keeping up.
Because of the worldwide craft beer explosion and the popularity of hop heavy beers, there have been shortages in recent years. This has driven up crop prices and the cost of craft beer to the consumer.
Devil’s Peak is known for their hoppy, American style beers – The King’s Blockhouse IPA in particular.
Do you like “hop bombs” or do you prefer an easy drinking option?