Hops in beer making

Posted by in Beer Making on June 13, 2014 . 1 Comments.

For hundreds of years hops have been used as the 'seasoning' in beer. Originally a wild-growing weed, the hop, a member of the cannabis family, is now intensively cultivated. Its inherent poor resistance to disease and its low tolerance of adverse weather conditions have led to the development of many new varieties bred to combat disease whilst retaining flavour and bittering power.

Hops are used for three separate purposes, besides their natural preserving properties. Firstly they impart bitterness. Secondly they combine with the malt to give the beer its flavour. Their third contribution is the wonderful bouquet associated with the finest Real Ales and Pilsners.

To obtain the maximum bitterness from hops, they must be boiled in the wort for a minimum of one hour. The alpha acids, which provide the bitterness are insoluble until they have been isomerised by the long boil. Unfortunately all of the aroma and much of the flavour is driven off with the steam. It is common practice, therefore, to add hops to the boil in stages.

At the beginning of the boil the bittering or 'copper' hops are added. Although much of the flavour disappears during boiling, each hop variety has its own characteristic bitterness. In general high alpha hops give a somewhat harsh bitterness, which could be unpleasant in a heavily hopped beer. These should be used in mildly hopped beers or in Stouts where the main flavour is derived from roasted grains. When brewing beers with a high hop profile, such as Bitters, Pilsners, Altbiers etc., only the finest aroma hops should be employed. Late in the boiling process, about 5 to 10 minutes from the end the flavour hops are added. These should always be aroma varieties. There are several methods used to create bouquet. Certainly only the freshest aroma hops should be used and these can be stirred into the wort when boiling is over and left to steep for a while. Alternatively the beer can be dry hopped after fermentation. This is conducted either in a conditioning tank (secondary fermenter) or in a keg or cask.

Hops are generally divided into three categories:

1.      AROMA HOPS. These varieties are usually low in alpha acids but high in essential oils. Brewers wishing to create high class, heavily hopped beers should use aroma hops for all three purposes. The bitterness imparted by aroma hops such as Goldings or Tettnang is totally different from that derived from high alpha varieties such as Northern Brewer or Target.

2.      DUAL PURPOSE HOPS. Some varieties, although high in alpha acids, have quite acceptable aroma properties. These can be used for boiling and late additions but are usually unsuitable for dry hopping.

3.      COPPER HOPS. Use only where low bitterness levels are required. Can be used in dark beers employing large amounts of roasted grain.

Many recipes in home brewing books have been formulated without regard for the alpha acid content of the suggested hops and rarely advise late hopping. This type of recipe will often produce a completely unbalanced beer with precious little hop flavour and aroma and should be used for guidance only. A far better way is to brew to alpha acid values as is practised commercially. The internationally recognised standard for measuring bitterness in beer is the European Bittering Unit (EBU). Most beers fall between EBU 25and EBU 65. The following is a guide to typical EBU levels for the more popular beer styles:


Mild, Brown Ale, Sweet Stout, Wheat Beer, British and Munich type Lagers - EBU 15-25

Pilsner - EBU 28-40

Bitter, Pale Ale, Porter - EBU 30-50

Irish Stout, Imperial Stout, Barley Wine - EBU 4O-75


There is a simple formula for determining the weight of hops in grams required to brew to a specified EBU value. This formula assumes a 20% hop utilisation. Some brewers may better this utilisation so adjustments may be necessary.





 EXAMPLE: You decide to brew 25 litres of Bitter at EBU 45 using East Kent Goldings with an alpha acid content of 7.6%. The calculation is as follows.


(45 x 25) / (7.6 x 2) = 74grams


IMPORTANT. Only the 'copper hops' should be included in the above calculation as little or no bitterness will be extracted from late hops.


The following contains details of all hop varieties currently available from Brupaks. They have been divided into the three categories described above to show their most common usage. 




Worcester Goldings (UK) - Alpha Acid 5.0 - 7.0%

Originally grown in Kent and Surrey , the majority of Goldings are now produced in Worcestershire. The beautiful, flowery Goldings aroma is highly prized by brewers, but supplies are becoming harder to obtain due to poor yields and low resistance to disease.

East Kent Goldings (UK) - Alpha Acid 5.0 - 7.0%

This year we are again fortunate to be able to offer East Kent Goldings to the trade. Use these for your best Pale Ales and Bitters.

Fuggles (UK) - Alpha Acid 3.5 - 5.5%

Fuggles are used extensively in Bitters and Pale Ales but are unsurpassed for flavouring the darker British styles.

W.G.V. - Whitbread Golding Variety (UK) - Alpha Acid 5.0 - 8.0%

Originally bred by Whitbread's Brewery, this variety displays both Goldings and Fuggles characteristics. Although very fine ales can be made using WGV exclusively, they are usually used in combination with other varieties.

Bramling Cross (UK) - Alpha Acid 5.0 - 7.0%

Originally bred from the Bramling Golding and a wild American hop, Bramling Cross is a low yielding variety grown in Kent and Sussex. Although an easy hop to grow, it is very low yielding so not an attractive proposition to the farmer. It has a very distinctive aroma, which is best suited to stronger, darker styles of beer. Although its popularity has been declining over the past 20 years or so, it is now making a comeback amongst the new breed of microbrewers.

Progress (UK) - Alpha Acid 5.0 - 7.5%

Originally grown as a Fuggles replacement, Progress is a very versatile hop that combines fine aroma properties with a respectable alpha acid content. It seems to be at its best when combined with Goldings in high class Bitters and Pale Ales.

First Gold (UK) - Alpha Acid 8.0 - 9.0%

One of the new exciting varieties of 'dwarf hops', First Gold is a very fine aroma hop reminiscent of the Golding. It is a seedling of WGV and has been bred to grow to a height of just 2 to 3 metres to aid harvesting. Its delicately spicy aroma renders it particularly suitable for late and dry hopping. The fairly high alpha acid content makes for economy in the boil. First Gold is certain to gain popularity with brewers and farmers alike.

Hallertauer Hersbrucker (Germany) - Alpha Acid 2.0 - 5.0%

Grown in the Hersbruck district of the Hallertau, the largest hop-growing region in the world, this is the classic Lager hop.Its fine aroma properties are world renowned, ideally suited to all Lagers and can even be used to good effect in Bitters.

Hallertauer Mittelfrüh (Germany) - Alpha Acid 3.0 - 5.5%

Hallertauer Mittelfrüh (Middle Early) is arguably the world's finest aroma hop. Brupaks is proud to be able to offer this variety to the home brew trade. Much of the production is shipped to the USA where it is used in the production of the multi-award winning Samuel Adams beers. The remainder is used primarily in premium quality Pilsners.

Tettnang (Germany) - Alpha Acid 2.0 - 5.0%

Although grown in southern Germany, the distinctive Tettnang aroma is more often found in the well-hopped Pilsners of the north. Jever and Bitburger are two famous brands that employ Tettnang. Large amounts of this hop can be used for bittering without imparting harshness so it is highly recommended for very bitter beers, including Bitters and Pale Ales.

Perle (Germany) - Alpha Acid 5.5 - 8.5%

Although generally regarded as an aroma hop, the moderately high alpha acid content of this variety will find more brewers employing Perle in the copper. Its high resistance to disease has made it a favourite with German farmers. Perle is now grown all over southern Germany and is suitable for all types of lager beers.

Styrian Goldings (Slovenia) - Alpha Acid 3.0 - 6.0%

After their indigenous varieties were exterminated by powdery mildew in 1930, the Yugoslavians imported Fuggles from England , probably under the name 'Fuggles Goldings' as at that time Fuggles were considered to be inferior to Goldings. Since then they have been known as Styrian Goldings. Although essentiallyFuggles, they have a beautiful perfumey aroma which lends itself to both Continental Lagers and the less malty English ales. Many English brewers use these for late and dry hopping Bitters.

Saaz (Czech Republic) - Alpha Acid 2.0 - 5.0%

The classic Pilsner hop from the Czech Republic is used in many of the world's finest beers, including the exceptional Pilsner Urquell. It's beautiful aroma and delicate bitterness make it suitable for many styles. The Altbier brewers of Düsseldorf use vast quantities of Saaz to achieve the very high bitterness levels required for this style.  

Mount Hood (USA) - Alpha Acid 4.0 - 7.0%

Originally developed from the German Hallertauer Mittelfrüh variety, Mount Hood has evolved into a very versatile hop. It can be readily used in both lagers and ales where a mild aroma is required. Grown now in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

Willamette (USA) - Alpha Acid 4.0 - 6.0%

Although originally bred from the Fuggle, Willamette is now regarded as an aroma variety in its own right.Its blackcurrant/herbal aroma is quite distinctive and can be used to great affect in all ale styles.

Cascade (USA) - Alpha Acid 5.0 - 7.0%

Due to the somewhat abnormal levels of some of the essential oils, Cascade has an aroma which is all its own. It is very popular among the new breed of American microbrewers and the Cascade 'nose' is immediately evident in their beers.This variety is now being introduced into some English micro brewed beers with good effect.

Liberty (USA) - Alpha Acid 3.5 - 5.5%

Tests made in a number of British breweries have produced very favourable results and Liberty will gain much wider recognition in the future. It is bred fromHallertauer Mittelfrüh and retains some of that variety's characteristics. It can, however, be used to great effect in English style ales where it displays someFuggles notes.

Crystal ( USA ) - Alpha Acid 4.0 - 6.0%

Bred from Hallertauer Hersbrucker and Cascade, this is a hop of the very highest quality.Use for all beers where a distinct, floral aroma is required.

Centennial (USA) - Alpha Acid 6.0 - 11.0

Often described as Super Cascades this variety will give Pale Ales and IPA’s that characteristic powerful hop flavour and aroma found in the very best American ales.

Hallertauer Aroma (NZ) - Alpha Acid 7.0 - 9.5%

Bred as per Pacific Hallertauer, this variety has a similar, but richer, aroma which keeps its freshness even in older beers. Perfect for strong lagers and robust bitters.




Challenger (UK) - Alpha Acid 5.0 - 9.0%

Originally developed as a Goldings replacement, Challenger is a very versatile variety. Many brewers have found that excellent beers can be brewed from Challenger alone. It has fine bittering properties and a respectable aroma. More commonly, though, it is combined with a dedicated aroma variety. Challenger is gradually commanding less and less acreage these days as it gives way to more disease resistant varieties, such as the dwarf Pioneer.

Aurora (Slovenia) - Alpha Acid  8.0 - 10.0%

This dual-purpose variety has an intense but pleasant aroma is great for bittering and aroma. It can be used in all ales (and judiciously in some lagers).

Northdown (UK) - Alpha Acid 7.0 - 10.0%

Northdown is a seedling of Northern Brewer, which is no longer grown in Britain. It retains much of its parent's fine bittering properties but has a much-improved aroma.. Although Northdown can be used on its own to good effect, especially in darker styles of beer, it is the ideal accompaniment to aroma hops such asFuggles or Progress. It is particularly suited to Irish Stout

Pioneer (UK) - Alpha Acid 8.5 - 9.5%

Pioneer is one of the new breed of 'dwarf hops' developed at Wye College in Kent. These plants grow to a height of around eight feet which makes harvesting them much easier than the usual eighteen feet varieties. Brewing trials by commercial breweries have been encouraging, with a fine aroma and a delicate bitterness in evidence. These are likely to become a firm favourite with home brewers in the future.

Brewers Gold (Germany) - Alpha Acid 5.0 - 9.0%

Very popular in Germany as a copper hop. Its bitterness is highly suited to Lager beers as it shows no sign of harshness. Brewers Gold is at its best when used in conjunction with 'noble varieties' such as Tettnang and Hallertauer Mittelfrüh.

Amarillo (USA)  Alpha Acid  8.0 - 10.0%

Exceptional quality hop with an orange-citrus flavour. Use sparingly for flavouring as the orange flavour can dominate. Superb for late/dry hopping.

Green Bullet (New Zealand) - Alpha Acid 11.0 - 13.0%

Exceptional quality hop which has a pleasant aroma as well as a very high alpha acid content. Used in New Zealand for many lager types, Green Bullet can be economically substituted for Styrian Goldings.

Pacific Gem (NZ) - Alpha Acid 14.0 - 18.0%

Although it has one of the highest alpha acid contents in the world, Pacific Gem has a delicious berry-fruit aroma much prized by many commercial brewers. More suited to ales than lagers.




Target (UK) - Alpha Acid 10.5 - 11.5%

Target is by far the most widely grown variety in Britain due to its heavy cropping, excellent resistance to disease and high alpha acid content. It now takes up almost a third of the total acreage although this is sure to decrease as the new dwarf varieties become more popular. Although recognised by some brewers as an aroma hop, Target is at its best in the copper for the production of beers with a low bitterness. Commercially, Target is used extensively in keg beers for economical reasons. Its powerful flavour would be overwhelming in more assertive brews. Used with discretion in combination with fine aroma hops, however, excellent Bitters and Pale Ales can be produced.

Northern Brewer (Germany) - Alpha Acid 10.0 - 11.0%

Although originally developed in Britain, Northern Brewer is now grown almost exclusively in Germany . It is very versatile in that it can be used to provide bitterness in both Ales and Lagers. Its low aroma requires it to be used with other, more flavourful hops for the best results.

Galena (USA) - Alpha Acid 13.0 - 14%

Galena is now by far the widest grown hop in America . It is a heavy cropper and has good resistance to disease. Brewing tests have revealed a Bullion-like flavour and Galena can be used as a replacement for this variety, which is now almost extinct.

Last update: November 12, 2018

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