Significance of Hop Selection in Craft Brewing
Craft brewing is a meticulous process where various factors contribute to the final product, and among them, hop selection stands out as a critical element. We sat down and picked the brewer brain to get the inside track on hops.
Hops, derived from the Humulus lupulus plant, have a historical role in beer production. Initially valued for their preservative properties, hops have evolved into a key ingredient influencing flavour, aroma, and clarity in modern brewing.
The Impact of Hops:
Craft brewers will use an extensive range of hop varieties, each with distinct attributes like essential oils, alpha acids, and aromatic compounds. We utilize Simcoe and Idaho 7 in our Slipway IPA, giving passionfruit and pineapple qualities. The choice of hops significantly influences the sensory qualities of the beer, affecting bitterness, aroma, and flavour. Brewers strategically select specific hops to achieve the desired beer profile, depending on the style and consumer preferences. Selection is key from start to finish of beer idea, to testing to final brew.
Balancing Bitterness and Flavour:
Alpha acids, responsible for bitterness, vary among hop varieties. Brewers consider alpha acid content when selecting hops to achieve the desired bitterness level. Additionally, hops contribute to flavour and aroma, requiring brewers to strike a balance to avoid overpowering the beer with bitterness or diluting it with excessive hop flavour. The balancing act with hops in the craft beer brewing process is combined with other ingredients and processes to enhance, or lessen, the impact of certain hops. The quantity of the bittering addition varies across our beers to give different levels of bitter, for example 10 x the bittering addition goes into our Back Road West Coast IPA in comparison with Meor IPA – this demonstrates the importance of both hops and process.
Aroma Enhancement and Complexity:
Craft beer enthusiasts often appreciate the aromatic complexity created by the use of specific hops. Hop selection plays a crucial role in enhancing beer aroma, providing distinctive notes ranging from floral and herbal to fruity and spicy. The timing of hop additions during the brewing process, such as bittering, flavouring, and dry hopping, contributes to the complexity and depth of aromas in the final product.
Local Terroir and Innovation:
Hops sourced from different regions can introduce unique regional traits to beers. Additionally, craft brewers engage in innovative hop usage, experimenting with new varieties, blends, and techniques to create novel brews. Craft brewers develop a deep knowledge of regions and hops to understand which variety to employ in their beers, ensuring that the critical selection is the right one to create beautiful craft beer. In our line-up we have Destination DIPA, which uses a blend of American and Australian hops and Mean As which uses purely New Zealand hops, but both have similar high ABV and hop quantities – but very different flavour profiles.
In the craft brewing industry, hop selection is a practical and integral aspect of the brewing process. It involves a strategic approach to achieve the desired beer characteristics, reflecting the brewer's expertise and catering to consumer preferences. As craft brewers continue to explore different hop combinations and techniques, the potential for producing diverse and exceptional beers remains a driving force within the industry. Hop selection is more than a creative expression; it's a fundamental factor that defines the quality and distinctiveness of craft beers.