As pop beers grow ever less bitter, there’s a smaller but vigorous move in the opposite direction as boutique makers crank up the hops component of their brews.
And the hops expression varies enormously thanks to the use of many different varieties added at varying stages of the brewing process.
Wonderfully named hops variants such a fuggles, amarillo, goldings and saaz each inject their own character to a wide spectrum of aromas and flavours and to the bitterness of a brew.
Before hops made its way into brewing beer was probably sweeter than it is today. And makers used a variety of botanicals, including herbs, spices and tree bark, to offset this.
However, only the flower of humulus lupulus, a rapidly growing summer climber, provides the complex mix of resins, alpha and beta acids, oils and polyphenols that profoundly influence the structure, aroma, flavour and bitterness of modern beers.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2007