If you’re like us, no matter what convenience store or local grocery chain you find yourself in, you’re always in search of the beer fridge. And thanks to a booming industry, there’s no shortage of options. IPA’s and Pale Ales continue to inundate the craft beer scene, due in part to the bounty of hop varieties available to make these beers with. Change the hop in the beer, and you alter the taste completely. But what exactly is a hop?
The hop is a flower of the Humulus lupulus hop plant. It is a key ingredient in the beer making process, especially in IPA’s and Pale Ales. There are literally hundreds of variations of hops, each giving off different character notes in the beer, such as citrus, zest, peat, earth, herbal, pine, etc., and most have a distinct bittering agent to them that many people love. Sure, some folks take a little longer to warm up to the taste of hoppy beers, but if you’re on the road long enough, you’ll eventually find that hops, more than any other beer ingredient, are truly what drive the locomotive.
This “hoppy” factor we speak of is actually measured by the brewer in the form of IBU’s. The IBU scale measures the amount of a particular acid found in hops that gives beer its bitterness. The higher the IBU, the hoppier the beer.
Believe it or not, hops have also been used for medicinal purposes. Maybe that’s why we love them so much. I mean come on…to drink IPA’s knowing you’re doing something good for your body? Maybe the old adage needs to be changed to, “A hop a day keeps the doctor away.”
Here are our top 5 favorite hop varieties (in no particular order):
Mosaic – The king of hops in our opinion. Heavy notes of citrus, such as grapefruit and tangerine, with great bitterness. Our go-to hop, especially on those hot days.
Galaxy – A hop similar to Mosaic, with strong citrus notes, although it doesn’t pack as much of a punch.Citra – The name implies the character of this hop: citrus. Notes of lemon, orange, and grapefruit are most prominent. An interesting fact – the Citra hop is a variety funded by Sierra Nevada, Deschutes, and Widmer Brothers, which are all very successful domestic craft breweries.
Centennial – This popular hop has a nice, strong citrus aroma, but is much softer on the palate compared to some other citrus hop varieties. Beers with these hops are very drinkable.
Simcoe – Unlike the rest of our favorite hops, this one has a very earthy, herbal character to it. Many wet-hopped beers are brewed with Simcoe. When done fresh, this hop can completely change the way you think about IPA’s. Heavy notes of earthy pine flood your palate and also pack a strong bitter punch.