One of the most important ingredients in the creation of a delicious, ice-cold, frothy beer is the hops. The hops give the elixir of the gods its distinct flavor; a different hop creates a different aroma and taste in the beer.
Hops, or “humulus lupulus,” are the flowering cone of a perennial vine that is, surprisingly, closely related to the cannabis plant (of course, hops don’t have THC). The addition of hops to a beer is more than just to add flavor. During fermentation, the hops release certain enzymes that stop the growth of bad bacteria and balance out the sweetness of the malt, and give your beer a nice, frothy top!
Here are some of the most common hop varieties and the unique flavors they impart:
A product of the USDA-ARS breeding program, the Cascade hop was first bred in 1956, although it wasn’t released until 1972. It has a moderately bitter flavor, with a fragrant and flowery aroma that gives beer a citrus and floral character.
First cultivated as a chance seedling in England back in 1861, the Fuggle is the choice hop for English-style ales, accounting for 78% of the English hop crop. It’s also grown in Oregon and Washington state.
Used for authentic, European-style lager, the Hallertau Mittelfreueh, or Hallertau mf, originated in Germany as a land-race hop. It’s an aroma-type cultivar that is noted for its mildly spicy flavor and aroma.
Mandarina Bavaria is a relatively new type of hop released in 2012 and is the “daughter” of three different types of hop cultivars. As the name suggests, the Mandarina Bavaria is noted for its sweet, tangerine-citrus aroma that gives the beer slightly-sweet notes.
A bittering-type of cultivar that was first bred in England in 1934, the Northern Brewer is an exceptional choice for steam-style beers and ales. It’s noted for its strong and fragrant aroma, as well as its unique, minty flavor.
One of the four ‘noble’ hops, the original Saaz cultivar dates back more than 700 years to a hop cultivar grown in Zatec, Bohemia. One of the most popular aroma hops, the Saaz hop is used heavily in the production of Stella Artois and other Bohemian-style lagers and ales.
Arguably one of the oldest varieties of hops (with evidence of its existence dating back to the 8th century), the Spalt is the original landrace hop, and is prized for its earthy, spicy aroma. It is used in the production of German-style beer.
Grown all around the world and is also one of the four ‘noble’ hops, the Tettnang hop came from the town of Tettnang in Germany. It is the hop of choice for European-style lagers and wheat beers. It’s favored for its subtle spicy flavor and balanced aroma that borders between floral and herbal.
The Willamette hop is one of the most popular types of hops in the United States, a cross-breed aroma-type hop from the Fuggle seedling. It is noted for its fragrant, spicy, and woody aroma, perfect for American-style lagers and ales.