A WHOLE LOT OF HOPPIN’ GOIN’ ON!
Your favorite Beer of the Month Club, as well as every brewer, knows that one critical component in every beer recipe, without exception, is hops. And the quality of the hops is critical to the end product. Your nose is a great tool for discerning if hops are fresh or not. If a hop sample smells like cheese, it’s old and oxidized. Quality hops create beer with great aromas and flavors. Hops with off flavors and aromas will produce brews with those same off nuances. Hops are usually found in one of three different configurations:
1) Whole Leaf Hops look like small pine-cones. Delicate, the leaves are easily damaged and quickly degrade. Those that are brown and curled are past their prime. Healthy leaves will be a light lime green color and the small lupulin glands will be yellow, not orange. Fresh whole leaf hops need lots of precious freezer storage space.
2) Pellets are made of pulverized compacted hops, about the diameter of a pencil. They take up roughly one-quarter of the space whole leaves utilize. When the hops are pulverized, the hop lupulin glands are also pulverized, so the pellets must be packaged in nitrogen and/or oxygen barrier bags to guard against oxidation. However, when the lupulin glands are pulverized, the resins and acids within the glands dissolve more easily, thus requiring less boiling time during the brewing process.
3) Puck-like Plugs that measure 1″ in diameter and 1/2″ thick combine the freshness of whole hops with the convenience and ease of storage of the pellets. Why the 1″ diameter? Those plugs fit perfectly through the bung hole in most kegs and casks!
ASK MR. BEERHEAD: ASHLYN HUMPHREY OF PEPPER PIKE, OH ASKS:
“IN A NUTSHELL, WHAT PART DO HOPS PLAY IN BREWNG BEER?”
Briefly, hops add needed bitterness, flavor and aromatics to the brews they bless. When added skillfully and carefully, these characters will work in blissful balance and perfect contrast to the flavors and complexities lent by the malt that graces every batch. The balance between these two ingredients (with water and yeast needed to make beer) signifies the fine art of brewing.