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What are hops?

Hops are what give beer much of its bitterness and aroma, act as a preservative, and help in head retention. Pretty much their only purpose is for making beer. Hops are flowers that grow on a vine. Some grow very rapidly - about 1 foot per day.

Hops were first documented being used in 736 AD in South Central Europe. In 1629, they were introduced into the US by the colonists. Most hops today in the US are grown in the Pacific Northwest.

Only the female plants are used for making beer - male plants are only used for breeding. The female plants have the hop cone that contains lupulin - which is used in beer.

There are two types of hops Aroma and Bittering hops. The aroma hops are typified by low alpha acids, higher levels of beta acids, and an oil profile associated with good aroma. Bittering hops have a higher alpha acid than beta acid content. There are some hops that can be used for bittering as well as aroma.

Depending on when the hops are added during the boiling process they add different amounts of aroma or bitterness. Bittering hops are added early on in the boil. Boiling is necessary to convert the alpha acids to iso-alpha acids to create bitterness. Aroma hops are added at the end or after the boil. If you boil aroma hops for too long the hop oil boils off and with it - the aroma.

Pale and IPA style beers as well as others, may use a technique called dry hopping or adding hops while in the fermentation vessel. This keeps the maximum amount of hop oil and thus hop aroma in the beer.

View the data on the different hops.

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