Beer Tasting Exercise: Hops
Hops are the flowers of the Humulus lupulus plant, a crawling vine that grows in many parts of the world. Most brewers use dried hops, though some like to use fresh “wet” hops, when available. Many brewers today use hop pellets (which are made from dried hops) to ensure consistency from batch to batch.
How Brewers Use Hops
Hops give beer both flavor and aroma. Brewers can choose from among dozens of varieties, many of them quite distinctive. “Saaz hops from the Czech Republic are spicy and peppery,” says McLean. “English hops can be grassy, and Pacific Northwest hops can be citrusy or piney.” Hops also contribute bitterness, measured in International Bitterness Units, or IBUs. The amount of IBUs depends not only on the type and amount of hops, but also on when the hops are added during brewing.
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“I think bitterness is becoming more accepted in the US because of cocktail culture,” McLean says. “People are now into bitter drinks, like Negronis.”