Beer and hops, that belong together like beach and sea, like pot and lid. Beer without hops? Unimaginable! Hops have made beer a food and beverage that is harmless to health. In the early Middle Ages, poisonous herbs were often thrown into the brew. In addition, the use of different hop stake in brewing was the birth of some special beer styles. And last but not least, hops are the “aroma-giver” for beer par excellence
Hops “The Soul of Beer”
Did you know that Germany was the world market leader in hop cultivation with 18,598 ha until 2016? It was only in 2016 that the USA, which massively expanded its cultivated areas – currently 20,582 hectares.
The increase in hop-growing areas in the USA is due to the growing number of craft brewers. Although these craft brewers account for only 8% of total beer production in the US, they consume more than 50% of the hops grown locally. This is because in the production of craft beer, sometimes 10 times as much hops as for a “standard beer” is used.
But also from a global point of view, the number of hop-growing areas is growing, despite the fact that per capita consumption is steadily decreasing.
This is due, fortunately, to the high demand for special beers and the growing new construction sites.
There are different reasons for this steep increase in interest in special beers, especially so-called craft beers. One of the most important reasons is definitely the varied aromas that craft beer offers us. And we owe this variety of aromas that can be in a beer to one ingredient in particular: hops.
What is hops anyway?
The hop (Latin Humulus lupulus) is a close relative of the hemp plant. The hop plant has grown to a growth height of up to 12 metres. At the beginning of March, the plant begins to grow and is harvested at the end of September.
The hops begin to bloom on June 1. After 3-4 weeks, a hop cone develops from the flower. The hop cone – the fruit, so to speak – is the component of the plant needed for hop production. It looks like a small pine cone and consists of many small cover leaves, which protect the lupulin, which is in the form of lupulin glands at the end of the cover leaves. In this lupulin are the alpha acids and the essential oils, which are decisive for the aromas of the hops. You will certainly know the special properties of some plants such as mint or sage. When you rub the fine leaves between your fingers, highly intense aromas are created.
It is above all the essential oils to which hops owe its different aromas depending on the hop variety. More than 100 molecule compounds are now known in hop oil, which have different aromas. However, 4 molecules are always contained in the different hop varieties:
- Linalool: Linalool is the main component of every hop. This molecule provides the hop-flowered and fruity aromas of the hops.
- Myrcene: Myrcene is more common in hops than the main ingredient linalool and provides herbaceous metallic aromas. However, mycren is difficult to soluble during the brewing process, which is why the molecular compound has only a small effect on the aroma in the beer.
- Limonene: This molecular compound is particularly important for the fresh, citrus-like aromas in beer. Depending on the type of hop, this molecule can be so pronounced that it also contributes aromas of oranges and tropical fruits.
- Pines: Pine provides a spicy aroma that is reminiscent of resin, pine needles and, in some cases, a medicinal sharpness.