How Do Hops Work?

Bittering Hops

One of the main uses of hops is for bittering. Bittering is used in beer to balance the sweetness of the malt. It also has preservative characteristics. Hops are the flower cones of a climbing bine related to the cannabis family. The cones contain compounds called alpha acids, which by themselves are insufficient to create the desired bitterness, so they are added to the Kettle and are boiled for 60 to 90 minutes depending on the beer style. This boiling isomerises (chemically changes) the alpha acids structure. Iso-alpha acids, chiefly Iso-Humulone, are the major bittering compounds in beer.

Flavour and Aroma

During this protracted boiling, many of the aromatic oils that are rich in flavour and aroma are boiled away. Of course, we would like to have these aromatics in our beers to give complexity and balance sweet malty flavours, so to maximise the volatile oils hops should be added at the end of the boil. This final addition means much of the aromatic oils are retained.

Aroma/ flavour hops can be added directly to the fermenter or even into your keg! They have Anti Microbial qualities and were originally placed in beer as a preservative.

The aromatic oils in hops give us the characteristic flavour and aroma its varieties. The light aromatic oils such as myrcene (spicy), linalol, geraniol (floral), limonene, citral (citrus/ fruity), pinene (evergreen) etc. give rise to the aroma you experience when you first open the bag and what you impart during dry hopping. The heavier aromatic oils like humulene, farnesene and caryophyllene give aromas said to be “noble” The noble hops are said to give the best aroma. They come from central Europe such as Hallertauer, Tettnang, Spalt and Saaz (a must for pilsner). Many other varieties are also considered noble and were bred from the original “noble” stock.

In Australia, hops are grown mainly in Victoria and Tasmania due to the long summer daylight conditions required for best growth. Harvesting time in Australia each year is in March, in the beginning of the colder season. In days gone by they were simply dried and added as whole cones to the kettle. They are now are processed into pellets and even liquid extracts for ease of use.

We have a large range of hops in store from Australia & abroad, so come to visit us to find out more!