Hen & Hound Brewery Co.

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All I hear these days is ‘hops, hops, hops’! What are hops?

Good question. In Australia (at least) you can largely thank the craft beer scene for bringing hops to our attention. Before that most Australian brewers used just one type of hop called ‘pride of ringwood’ which was bred by CUB in the 1950s – think Foster’s lager. Now there are more hop types available to a brewer than they can poke an … empty schooner at – too forced? yep.

Hops are the female flower (of a hop vine) which secrete an acid called lupulin (photos below). It is this acid that is prized as it helps with the beer’s head, gives it the bitterness that we all love, act as a natural preservative and give it both flavour and aroma. Hops are closely related to marijuana and only grow in latitudes between 35 to 55 degrees north and south – they do grow in Canberra.

When making beer the hops are (mostly) boiled to extract the acid – either fresh or as a pellet. The more alpha acid in the hop you are using and the longer you boil it for the more bitter the beer. However, the more you boil it the less aroma you will get. This is why brewers often add hops throughout the boil (either the same type or different types). For instance our ‘tell me how it ends APA’ has citra boiled for 60 minutes, a second lot of citra added 45 minutes later (for 15 minutes) and cascade added after the boil ends. Hops added after the boil are called dry hopping, this method extracts the flavour without the bitterness – If only that was possible with people.
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Hops have lots of odd and mysterious names: chinook, fuggles, saaz, vic secret. Once you identify a beer or a style you like, try and find out what hops are in it and how bitter it is (bitterness is measured in International Bitterness Units (IBU) – the higher the number the more bitter). This will help you know what to look for in the future. This link is a good place to start.

http://www.hops.com.au/hop-flavour-spectrum

I’ll soon be harvesting our home grown hops (all American cascade) so stay tuned for more beer school and more beer drinking soon.

 

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