Hops have not always been part of beer, rather they were introduced about 1200 years ago, so I would say they are here to stay. Hops are added to beer in order to add flavour, bitterness and to preserve the beer. Hops add bitterness by being boiled in with the beer. Hop cones also add aromas to the beers, these are often referred to as aromatic hops. The aromas in these hops decrease the longer they are in the boil and as such they are often added at the end of the boil.
When discussing hops in terms of beer we are usually talking about the hop cones, flowers or pellets which are produced be a climbing vine like plant which can be either female or male. The number of different variety of hops is immense and the flavours and effects that can give to beer is just as large. For this post I will talk about 5 of my favourite hop varieties.
1) Nelson Sauvin: A New Zealand hop variety which brings with it a taste of Sauvignon Blanc which have made NZ wineries famous. It was released commercially in 2000. It is described as being fruity with bits of melon, passion fruit, gooseberry and grape fruit. It was designed by brewing giant, Lion Nathan and is grown in the Motueka Valley, near Nelson in NZ.
2) Amarillo: A privately owned and trademarked American hop owned by Virgil Gamache Farms. It can only be grown by farms owned by VG Farms. Amarillo has been embraced by craft breweries but largely forsaken by the big breweries, most probably because of the low acreage and lack of volume. It brings smells of tangerine and apricot. It can be described as ‘a hops hop’ which brings big aromas to the drinker. It is used in big IPAs and double IPAs as a dry hop.
3) Saaz: A Czech style hop and has been grown since the Middle Ages. It is named after the town Zatac, Northwest of Prague. Saaz matures early in the season and produces a unique aroma which has ensured it’s popularity as one of the most used hops. It is similar to Tettnanger and Spalter. The combination of Saaz with pale Bohemian malt and the soft brewing water from the region is identified as the perfect way to create the ever popular and refreshing Bohemian Pilsener.
4) Styrian Goldings: A hop variety related to the British Fuggles hop. It is grown in the souther Austrian province of Styrian and in Slovenia. It was brought in during the 1930’s after disease ravaged the German derived hop varieties. Styrian Goldings adds a spicy taste and is flexible in that it can be used in both ales and lagers.
5) Citra: An American hop that was released commercially in 2009 as a result of cross breeding from 1990. Citra has a mix of 50% Hallertau Mittelfruch, 25% US Tettnanger, 19% Brewers Gold and 3 % East Kent Golding. Citra can be used as either a bittering or aromatic hop. Citra hops have a high level of citrus aromas including gooseberry, lycees and black current. This is an extremely strong hop and as such is often found in India Pale Ale (I.P.A.) and double IPA.
“The Oxford Companion to Beer” Edited by Garrett Oliver