Beer is officially composed of four ingredients: water, yeast, malt, and hops. Hops are the cone-shaped flowers of the female hop plant that preserve the beer, clarify it, help retain its head, and, of course, give it its classic bitter taste. If you brew your own beer and want to be more involved in the process, growing your own hops is a great place to start. But how do you know which hop plant to grow? Read on to learn more about hop varieties and their uses.
Hop Plant Types
How many hop varieties are there? This question is difficult to answer because there are many. Currently, there are about 80 different types of hop plants available on the market, but this number is not fixed.
Beer brewing is a complex industry, with new varieties constantly being cultivated and developed. Even 80 is a large number if you want to choose a variety to grow. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to narrow down your options.
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Hops can be classified into three main categories: bitterness, aroma, and dual-purpose.
Bitter hops tend to have high acid content and contribute to the recognizable bitterness of the beer.
Aromatic hops have lower acidity but a more pronounced taste and aroma, and they are used to give beer a specific flavor and scent. Most beer recipes call for a combination of both types of hops.
Dual-purpose hops have medium to high acidity and possess a pleasant smell and aroma that can be utilized for both flavor and bitterness. If you simply want to brew your beer with homegrown hops, choosing one of these dual-purpose hop plant types is a good option.
Best Hop Plant Varieties
The best hop varieties that offer a dual effect of bitterness and aroma have a strong fragrance and a moderate to high percentage of alpha acids (typically between 5% and 15%). If you wish to follow recipes when using hops, it’s also advisable to choose common hop plant types that are popular and well-documented in recipes.