Hops are an essential part of brewing and they add bittering, flavour and aroma to your beers. There are many different types of hops. Some are better for bittering, others for aroma, some are good for both. They compliment the sweet wort that you have extracted from your mash and when used correctly provide an excellent balance to your beer. In brewing, we only use the female flowers.
Hops are generally added to the boil at different stages in order to extract the acids which give us the required levels of bittering or aroma. For instance, hops added at the beginning of the boil are used for bittering as a prolongued boiling tends to decrease the aroma and increase the bitterness. Hops added towards the end of the boil add aroma and flavour. Hops also add preservative qualities to your beer which means they can be used for dry hopping. Dry hopping means adding hops to the fermenter or cask after the boil which adds aroma. The reason hops can be added to your beer after the boil has occured is because of the preservative properties of the hops. Bad bacteria just dont seem to like them hence you can throw them in without risking infection.
Hops are generally available in 3 forms. Natural cones, pellets and extract. Below are some examples:
Where possible it is always best to use fresh hop cones. However, sometimes they are not readily available so hop pellets can be used as an alternative. They dont always give the same level of flavour as cones so this always needs to be considered when using them. Hop extract does not need to be boiled and can be added anytime after the boil to increase bitterness in your beer.
Some examples of available hops can be found below:
Cascade - A very unique and popular hop, the aroma is very flowery and fresh. Beautiful taste and aroma. One of my favourite hops.
Challenger - Gives a very nice bitterness when used in the main stages of the boil and a very fruity character to the beer when added late.
EK Goldings - Very popular in English ales, it produces a smooth and spicy aroma. Often used with fuggles in English beers.
Fuggle - As mentioned, this is often used with Goldings and gives a very grassy, floral aroma which is extremely popular in English ales.
Hallertau - Traditionally used for German beers. Nice spicy aroma and hasd been used in some English cask ales.
Northern Brewer - A good bittering hop.
Saaz - Very popular in European lagers and pils. Can be used for both bittering and aroma.
There are many more hops available all with different qualities. Designing your beers using some of the more unusual hops can at times produce beautiful one off beers. Try and test it... thats the name of the game!!!