Hop heavy beers remain some of the favorite styles at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver every year. Today on Beer Notes, we will learn about hops.
The hops that we use in the brewing process today are actually the flower of the Humulus Lupulus plant. The flowers grow on vines and are heavily cultivated in Germany and the Pacific Northwest in the United States.
There has been a 77% increase in the amount of hops grown in the United States since 2012. With this overwhelming demand for hops comes the expansion in the geographic regions across the country and the world in which this plant is grown including regions heretofore almost devoid of this plant. Even… “in Maryland, 24 varieties of hops have been established at the University of Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station in Keedysville.”
This plant has a very storied history: In ancient Rome, Pliny the Elder, referred to hops as the “willowy wolf” and called it a delicacy, probably referring to the wild version of this plant where the shoots were eaten like asparagus A hop garden was mentioned in Charlemagne’s father’s will. This ancient plant has been used to flavor beer for centuries and when brewers discovered that hops actually helped preserve beer, its popularity increased.
While typically identified with a flowery aroma and bitter flavor, hops today can run the gamut of flavors and aromas. Hops remain one of the key ingredients in your favorite local craft beers.