The addition of hops is one of the most critical steps in brewing your own beer. Hops are what impart the bitterness, flavor, and aroma unique to a specific brew, so knowing what traits to look for when selecting a strain for your homebrew can be the difference between a great beer and one that is unpalatable. Hops are generally divided into two categories based on their bittering properties and aroma. When choosing which variety of hops to use in your next batch you’ll want to keep this in mind, as they will set the foundation for your final product.
IBUs (International Bitterness Units) are the measure of a beer's’ bitterness, or “hoppiness”; the higher the IBU, the more bitter and hoppy the beer will taste. Hoppier beer varieties like IPA’s and ESB’s use a strain with a naturally higher alpha-acid percentage. These higher-level alpha-acids are what create the most bitter flavors and pungent aromas (think Double IPA). Hops in this category include Centennial and Chinook hops. Both pack a hoppy punch while also imparting delicate floral and fruity notes.
For a sweeter, less bitter beer try Saphir hops. This newer aromatic German strain contributes a sweet citrus bouquet with low IBUs. Crystal hops are another great choice when aroma is more important than bitterness. This American hop brings woody, herbal flavor to the table.
If you’re looking to create a darker beer with high IBUs and a memorable aroma, consider a dual purpose hop like Chinook. This popular strain has been a standard in American brews for years, and provides a well-balanced combination of hoppiness and spiciness.
Whether you are creating a super hoppy Double IPA or a crisp and floral lager, remember that the hops you use will determine flavor, aroma, and bitterness. There are literally hundreds of varieties of hops out there, just waiting to show off their unique qualities!
For more information on choosing the right hops for your next homebrew batch, please contact us.