Like most home brewers I love hops. When I think of beer I automatically think of hops. I love strong, hoppy brews and, again, like many home brewers have made a few 100+ IBU hop monsters. And I always find it interesting that non-beer drinkers equate heavily hopped beers with high alcohol content. This is sometimes, but not always true. Just an observation. Hops, as we all know, are the female flowers of the Humulus Lupulus plant. The first reference made to hops written history was by Pliny the Elder in his book Naturalis Historia from way back in 1669, though we know that hops had been cultivated in the Hallertau region of Germany since the 8th century. I find it interesting that hops did not find their way into beer brewing until the 13th century and that at one time England flat out banned the use of hops in beer brewing. What a sad time that must have been. Eventually attitudes toward hops softened and they began being cultivated in England in the 16th century and were then brought to the colonies in the 17th century. It is my humble opinion that citrusy American hops like Cascade and Amarillo are the best all around hops known to mankind. If I were only able to brew with either one (or preferably both) of these hops for the rest of my life, I would live out the remainder of my brewing sessions very happily. As you have surmised I have my opinions on, among other thing, hops and I am sure you do, too, I strongly prefer citrusy hops and have designed a good number of beers around this preference. There is some actual hard science that can go into hop selection I am going to keep things pretty basic here and not go into co-humulone levels and things like that. We are just having a nice, relaxed discussion about hops here. We can talk hard science another time, perhaps. On the one hand, I could happily use Amarillo and Cascade hops in each and every beer I make if I had to and be pretty darn OK with it…but I do not have to. It is easy to fall into habit and routine when it comes to brewing and occasionally I have to remind myself that there are other hops out there besides Amarillo and Cascade. Personal preferences aside, home brewers have plenty of options when it comes to choosing hops, so how should you choose? There are a couple different ways you can go. Go with what you like: If you prefer a certain type of hop, then use it. It may not always be the perfect fit or be ‘stylistically appropriate’ for every beer you are going to brew, but sometimes that is OK. I have made some darn fine Belgian Strong ales using Cascade hops. I’ve even used Cascade in stout. Be forewarned, though, one hop does not fit all. Learn from the classics: There are some very good reasons that certain hops are nearly always used in certain beer styles. It’s because the pairings work and will always give you the flavor profile you are looking for. Drop the bomb: You like hops right? Yeah you do. Want to make a really stupid high IBU beer? If you want to, then do it. But keep a couple things in mind while you are designing this hop rocket brew. Property of www.johnnyhomebrew.com. Please do not reuse without permission. More hops = more bitter. Well, yes and no. Remember that the hops you add early on in the boil are the ones that add your bitterness. If you were to make a beer and add hops every few minutes, the later additions would be contributing flavor and then aroma to your finished product, on top of the solid backbone of bitterness that the early additions add. These later additions of hops will also help smooth out the overall hoppiness of your brew and take the edge off a beer that might otherwise come across as harsh. If you want to make a beer that is higher on the hop bitterness scale you can start by brewing a beer that is lighter in body and alcohol. This will allow you to have a higher level of perceived bitterness without having to use a ton of hops. For example, if you were to make an ordinary British Bitter that had an IBU level of around 30, it would taste more bitter in comparison to a strong Stout that actually has much higher IBU’s. Why, you might ask? Because the Stout has more malt and therefore more residual sweetness than the Bitter has. The Bitter has less residual sweetness so the 30 IBU’s are far more noticeable on the palate. Pretty cool, huh? So you can make hoppy beer using loads of hops. You can make hoppy beer using only a little bit of hops, if you plan things out properly and brew the proper style of beer. Making a classic beer with the right hops will really allow you to appreciate the brewer’s art and the depth of flavor that hops provide. On the other hand, making a classic style of beer with an alternative strain of hops can be a fun project and make some darn tasty beer, too. I should know, I do that a lot. One kind of hop does not fit all styles of beer but when you come across a variety or two of hops that you love, do yourself a favor and brew as much beer with them as you can. Property of www.johnnyhomebrew.com. Please do not reuse without permission.
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