Expand Your Hop Horizons

It’s easy to develop a preference for certain hops. But with
so many choices available there’s no reason not to explore the tried and true as
well as the newest varieties.

Experimenting with flavors to make your own unique brew can
be a fun and rewarding part of homebrewing. And hop flavors provide a fertile
ground for experimentation. We asked hop dealers to tell us about some of the
hops they offer to homebrewers. Check with your retailer for availability.

Aroma Hop Profiles

Ahtanum, grown in small quantities at present, yields an
alpha acid content of 3.5 percent to 6.3 percent. The fruity flavors and sweet
and spicy aroma blend well with English and other aroma varieties. A versatile
kettle hop for all types of beer, Ahtanum can also be used as a late hop or a
dry hop.

A new aroma hop sold by Hopunion USA, the Amarillo, has an
average alpha acid level (6 percent to 7 percent) and low cohumulone level.
(See “Hop Concepts,” page 20, for definitions of hop terms.) The aroma has
floral characteristics similar to that of Cascade.

Alpha acids reported for Bramling Cross range from 5 percent
to 7 percent. Originally unattractive for its distinctive “American” aroma, the
special characteristics of this hop are arousing increased interest for specialty
beers. Used for special fruity, black currant, and lemon notes, this hop may
also provide an interesting final beer flavor if used as a late or dry hop.

The pleasant, flowery, and spicy Cascade became well
established after its 1972 release but has since declined to about 4 percent of
US production. Alpha acids range from 4 percent to 7 percent, and the mild
aroma variety provides good, soft, well-balanced bittering potential. This hop
provides an herbal or perfume-like aroma in finished beer. It has achieved a
high level of popularity with US microbreweries and homebrewers because of its distinctive
flavor. It is often used in American pale ales, California commons, stouts,
porters, and American-style wheat beers.

Crystal was developed as a substitute for European aroma
hops. It possesses a pleasant and mild aroma and reported alpha acid ranges of
2 percent to 5 percent. It is well matched for use in American and German

Czech Saaz is a classical noble aroma hop with long, strong traditions.
The very mild aroma possesses pleasant notes with a slight spice while the
alpha acids range from 2.5 percent to 4.5 percent. This hop is suitable for
Pilsner-type beers and late kettle additions. Associated with the renowned
Pilsner lager, Czech Saaz is by far the predominant Czech variety. Clones are
grown in Poland and the Ukraine. US-grown Saaz hops are available in limited

First Gold – United Kingdom has an aroma similar to Goldings
and a higher alpha acid content than traditional aroma hops (approximately 6.5
percent to 8.5 percent). The variety is suitable as both a general kettle hop
and also for late and dry hopping in all types of beer. The hop is also
described as similar to the Fuggle but sweeter. The excellent aroma qualities
produce a well-balanced bitterness and a fruity, slightly spicy note in ales.

Fuggle is a traditional aroma hop also known as Styrian
(Savinja) Golding overseas. The mild and pleasant hop offers an alpha acid
range of 4 percent to 6 percent. The relatively low alpha acid content requires
a high hopping rate to achieve desired bitterness. This traditional aroma hop
offers all the essential characteristics of flavor, aroma, and balanced
bitterness for ales (pale ales, IPAs, porters, stouts, milds) and is frequently
blended with Goldings, adding roundness and fullness to the palate.

Goldings consists of a group of traditional English
varieties with a long history of cultivation and names of hop growers or
parishes where they were first farmed. The alpha acid ranges from 4 percent to
6.5 percent and is recognized as having the most typical English aroma, the
best flavor historically coming from Kent where the majority of the crops are
produced. Currently attracting considerable interest in North America, these
hops are in demand for kettle hopping and dry hopping of traditional ales.
Goldings hops are also useful for late hopping lagers when a delicate aroma is
desired. The hop is known as East Kent Goldings if grown in East Kent, Kent
Goldings if grown in mid-Kent, and US Goldings if grown in the United States.
Suggested for use in English milds, pale ales, IPAs, porters, and stouts.

Hallertauer – German is a traditional German variety
selected from the Hallertau region. Very mild, pleasant, and slightly flowery,
this is a traditional superior aroma hop ideal for use in lagers. The alpha
acids range from 3.5 percent to 5.5 percent.

Hallertauer Mittelfrüh is the classic German aroma hop
asso­ciated with Bavarian-style lager beers. It has a mild and pleasant aroma
and 3.5 percent to 5.5 percent alpha acids. Use in all lagers, especially
German lagers.

Hallertau – Tradition is a close descendant of Hallertauer
Mittelfrüh bred for disease resistance. It is described as a high-alpha variety
with alpha acids at 4.8 percent to 7 percent. This very fine aroma hop follows
the tradition of Hallertauer Mittelfrüh yet has a more pronounced aroma and is
suitable for all mild-flavored beers.

Hallertauer – US was developed from the German Hallertau
aroma hop variety. The mild and pleasant hop’s alpha acid ranges from 2 percent
to 4.5 percent. The hop is being evaluated as a substitute for European aroma
imports and is suitable for use in German lagers and ales.

Hersbrucker now dominates the aroma hop production in the
Hallertau region of Germany. It has largely replaced Hallertauer Mittelfrüh,
which is more sus­ceptible to the crop disease wilt. Hersbrucker, in turn, is
now beginning to be displaced by newer aroma varieties. The hop’s alpha acid
ranges from 3 percent to 5.5 percent. It has a fine, slightly dry and spicy
aroma and is suitable for mild-flavored beers, particularly German lagers and
ales. It is often used for late kettle additions.

Liberty is a half-sister of Ultra, Mt. Hood, and Crystal.
The alpha acids stand at 3 percent to 6.5 percent. The mildly floral and pleasantly
spicy/herbal aroma is similar to imported German aroma varieties. The hop
provides good quality bitterness, sometimes with a fruity/floral character, and
is well suited to all lagers.

The aroma of Polish Lublin is mild and typical of noble aroma
types. Its alpha acid ranges from 3 percent to 4.5 percent. It is more freely
available on the world market since the opening of the former Eastern bloc.
This is a good substitute for Czech Saaz. (It is said that the Saaz and Lublin
are the same variety, grown in different places.)

Mt. Hood, released in the United States in 1988, is a
half-sister of Ultra, Liberty, and Crystal. The mild, herbal, and clean aroma
variety bears marked similarities to Hallertauer and Hersbrucker with alpha
acids ranging from 3 percent to 8 percent. The herbal aroma may impart a soft,
clean bitterness to American and German lagers as well as ales.

Santiam is a mixture of Tettnanger, Hallertauer Mittelfrüh,
Cascade, and others. The alpha range is 5.4 percent to 7.9 percent and it has a
low co-humulone content. Its aroma is described as similar to the European
Tettnanger, slightly spicy with a tendency toward a noble aroma.

Spalt has been around for many generations and has long been
considered one of the finest of the traditional “noble” aroma varieties. It has
an alpha acid content of 3.5 to 5.5 percent. It is often used for late kettle
additions in European-style lagers and altbier. This hop is grown in small
areas in the Spalt region of Germany but is now available in small quanitities
from US hop farms.

Used for its aromatic properties similar to Tettnanger and
Saaz, Spalter Select is an aroma hop of recent origin (introduced in the late
1980s). It is actually bred from Hallertauer Mittelfrüh and Spalt. It has an
alpha range of 4 percent to 6 percent. The flavor is fine like Spalt but is
somewhat stronger. Used in German lagers.

Styrian Goldings is a classical aroma variety. Believed to
have been derived from the English Fuggle in the 19th century, this hop offers
a mild aroma with an excellent, noble hoppy flavor that is distinctive, mild,
and somewhat richer than English Goldings. The alpha acid content of Styrian
Goldings is 3.5 percent to 6 percent. Beer prepared from this variety has good
scores for its bitterness, taste, and aroma. Styrian Goldings is often used as
a late kettle addition for dry hopping, particularly in English milds, pale
ales, IPAs, porters, and stouts (anywhere you would use Fuggle).

Tettnanger is a traditional German variety. Mild and
slightly spicy, the hop is a true traditional with a very fine aroma and is
often used in late kettle additions (in German lagers, ales, American premium
lagers, and wheat beer). In US crops the flavor tends to be slightly coarser,
more like Fuggle. The bitter value is medium to low with alpha acids ranging
from 3 percent to 5.5 percent.

Ultra is a cross between the Hallertauer Mittelfrüh and
Saaz, and is a half-sister of Mt. Hood, Liberty, and Crystal. With out­standing
aroma and an alpha acid range from 2 percent to 4 percent, the brewing quality
traits of this hop are similar to Hallertauer and other imported aroma hops and
provide a very distinctive taste.

The US Strisselspalt is a new aroma hop with low alpha acid,
2 percent to 2.5 percent. The aroma can be described as medium to strong and
slightly spicy. This variety has limited availability.

Vanguard is a recently introduced aroma hop similar to
Hallertauer Mittelfrüh. Its aromatic properties and low co-humulone content are
similar to Saaz. It has 4 percent to 5.7 percent alpha acid. It has a somewhat
noble aroma, with slightly spicy notes similar to that of the Hallertauer.

WGV (Whitbread Golding Variety) gives a mild, clean
bitterness in traditional ales. It has an alpha acid range of 5.5 percent to
7.5 percent and provides a distinctive flavor in beers, similar to (but more
robust than) Goldings. Its aroma is described as quite pleasant and hoppy,
moderately intense.

Willamette is a mild, full-bodied, and pleasant hop that has
a slight spice to it. It offers a well-balanced bittering potential with alpha
acids ranging from 4 percent to 7 percent. Willamette is still perceived as a
new but good quality aroma hop similar to Fuggle in brewing character. It can
be used in many styles, including English milds, pale ales, IPAs, porters,
stouts, and American ales.

Bittering/Dual Purpose

Admiral, originally bred as a complement to the Target
variety, has an alpha acid content of 11.5 percent to 14.5 percent. Early
brewing trials showed Admiral as a good replacement for alpha acid and
dual-purpose hops when used as a kettle hop. The variety is classified as a
versatile hop for brewing purposes.

If you ever used Aquila (6 percent to 8 percent alpha acid)
or Banner (9 percent to 11 percent), get ready to switch. These mid-range alpha
varieties came into production in 1988 and will gradually be phased out because
they have been discontinued by their major user. They are similar to Cluster.

Brewer’s Gold alpha acids stand at 6.4 percent. This is a
well-tested bitter hop, perfect for use in English ales and heavier
German-style lagers.

Also appropriate for English ales and heavier German-style
lagers, Bullion was released in 1938. It has been grown in the United States
since the 1940s, however, its use declined rapidly in the ’80s. It is a rich
hop with an alpha acid content of 7 percent to 9 percent. It is used primarily
as a bittering hop (not for aroma hopping), and its place today has been taken
over by the newer high alpha varieties. It has an intense, black currant aroma.

Centennial has largely Brewer’s Gold parentage. The alpha
acids range from 9.5 percent to 11.5 percent and are accompanied by a medium
aroma with floral and citrus tones. Good for kettle hopping in American pale
ales, wheat beers, stouts, and porters.

Challenger – United Kingdom is a cousin of Target and a
granddaughter of Northern Brewer. Fruity, almost scented with some spicy
overtones and an alpha acid range of 6.5 percent to 8.5 percent, the Challenger
is a versatile kettle hop that blends well with other English varieties and is
sometimes used as a late hop and a dry hop. One of the few recognized
dual-purpose hops.

Chinook is becoming increas­ingly popular. The 1985 release of
the bitter variety revealed a high alpha acid hop, 12 percent to 14 percent,
with a highly acceptable aroma profile, mild to medium-heavy and spicy. The hop
can be substituted for Bullion and is great for use in pale ales to lagers,
California commons, and IPAs.

Until recently Cluster was the dominant hop in the United
States — in 1980 Cluster made up 60 percent of US hop production. Now Cluster
is less than 20 percent of production. The alpha acids range from 5.5 percent
to 8.5 percent. The spicy, medium-bitter hop is excellent for general purposes
and offers a well balanced bittering potential and no undesirable aroma
properties. It can be used as a standard kettle addition in any style of beer.

The Columbus hop was bred and selected from the Hopunion USA
breeding program in Yakima, Wash. This pleasant hop offers 14 percent to 16
percent alpha acids and dual-purpose capabilities. The high oil content makes
this hop acceptable as an aroma hop in ale-type beers.

Eroica was bred in Idaho from Brewer’s Gold. The high alpha
acid hop, 9 percent to 13 percent, is suitable for general bittering and
contains a strong but not unpleasant aroma. Because it does not store well, it
is slowly being replaced with other high-alpha varieties. This hop is
particularly well suited to use in wheat beers.

Bred from Brewer’s Gold, Galena is an excellent high alpha
acids hop with a range of 11 percent to 14 percent. It was the first high-alpha
variety grown successfully in the United States. The medium but pleasant
hoppiness provides acceptable aroma. Galena is now a major US high alpha acids
hop that provides balanced bittering qualities as a kettle hop for any beer

The high alpha variety, Green Bullet, boasts balanced
bittering properties combined with an acceptable aroma profile. Developed and
grown only in New Zealand in 1972 the hop has 13.3 percent alpha acids.

Horizon’s ancestry includes Brewer’s Gold and German aroma
hops. Alpha acid ranges from 12 percent to 14 percent. Like most high alpha
hops it has a high total oil count. It has shown a susceptiblity to downy
mildew and will be grown in Washington.

Magnum, at 12 percent to 14 percent alpha, is the first hop of
super-alpha variety to be spe­cially selected for growing in the Hallertau
region of Germany. It combines high alpha with good yield and its area is
increasing substantially. It has excellent, clean bitter quality and acceptable
aroma properties and is useful in all types of beer.

Northdown is a descendant of Northern Brewer and is a
relative of Challenger and Target. Providing a less expensive alpha acid than
some varieties, 7 percent to 10 percent, it also offers a mild, clean, and
neutral flavor and can be used in all types of beer with no harshness of
palate. The high level of oil makes this a distinctive dry hop for full-bodied
ales while the quality of bitterness can be a little harder than Challenger.

Northern Brewer, a cultivar from England originated in 1934,
is a popular hop grown in several countries around the world. It is similar in
bittering value to Nugget and is considered a dual-purpose hop with medium
bitter characteristics and pleasantly floral and herbal aroma appropriate for
California commons and English ales. It is widely used as a main bittering hop,
with an alpha acid range of 6.5 percent to 10 percent. The US variety’s alpha
acids range from 8 percent to 10 percent.

Nugget offers a good aroma profile, heavy and herbal. The
Nugget, 11 percent to 14.5 percent alpha acids, has become a major
high-alpha-acids variety in the US since its release in the early 1980s. The
hop produces good bitterness and, with late addition, sometimes an interesting
aroma contribution. Its aromatic properties are suitable to all styles except
light lagers. Its flavor is mild.

Olympic’s ancestry includes Brewer’s Gold. This moderately
strong and hoppy variety possesses 11 percent to 13.5 percent alpha acids and
has yet to become established since its 1984 release.

The Pacific Gem from New Zealand is 13 percent to 14 percent
alpha acids. The hop possesses a pleasant aroma and useful bitterness level.

Perle was bred in Germany from the English Northern Brewer
variety and only recently established itself in the US industry. This pleasant
and slightly spicy hop provides German-type aroma properties, sometimes with
floral or fruity effects nice in American pale ales, porters, German lagers,
and ales. With moderate bittering potential, the alpha acids in this
dual-purpose hop range from 5.5 percent to 9.5 percent.

Phoenix, a seedling of Yeoman, has an alpha acids range from
8.5 percent to 11.5 percent. The variety appears to be an excellent alternative
for high-alpha and dual-purpose hops. Brewing trials have suggested the large,
if unexplored, potential of this hop.

The Australian Pride of Ringwood is predominantly a bittering
hop with pronounced but not unpleasant aromatic qualities. Alpha acid levels
stand at 7 percent to 10 percent and,  at time of release in 1965, represented the highest alpha
acid hop in the world and gradually dominated more than 90 percent of the
Australian crop. It is closely associated with such famous beers as Foster’s

Progress, derived from WGV, was released for commercial growing
in 1964 as an alternative to the Fuggle, and its popularity as a useful
substitute aroma hop is increasing once more. It is slightly sweeter than
Fuggle and usually provides a softer bitterness in beers of all types. With the
slightly higher alpha acid content (5 percent to 7.5 percent), the hop represents
a good value for bitterness if aroma hops for bittering are required.

The high alpha variety Southern Cross was developed in New
Zealand in 1994. The hop possesses an excellent essential oil profile and low
co-humulone level with approximately 12.2 percent alpha acids.

Sticklebract was developed in 1972 in New Zealand. The hop
contains around 13.1 percent alpha acids.

Sun is a new super alpha hop now available from Steiner. It
has an average alpha content of 15.4 percent.

Super Styrians, the most common of which is Aurora, is bred
from Northern Brewer to provide a higher alpha complement to Styrian Goldings.
It has a rich and full flavor, somewhat like Northern Brewer, but without any
harsh characters. This versatile kettle hop has an alpha range of 8 percent to
10 percent and is appropriate for use in any style beer.

Target, a cousin of Challenger, provides alpha acids ranging
from 9.5 percent to 12.5 percent. The aroma provides robust English flavor and
good bittering qualities. Dry hopping with whole hops gives positive floral
aromas in some of the stronger ales. Use in all styles of English ales and
lagers. Many brewers who have experimented with Target see it as an underappreciated

Tomahawk is another name for Columbus with super-high alpha
levels ranging from 14 percent to 16 percent.

The Yakima Cluster hop originated from mass selection of the
Cluster hop, an old American cultivar. With alpha acids at 6.5 percent to 8.5 percent,
Yakima Cluster is primarily used as a kettle hop for bittering.

Yeoman was developed as a high-alpha complement to Target.
The pleasant aroma produces a well-balanced bitterness with no harshness, and
alpha acids range from 10 percent to 12 percent.

Zuess is a new super alpha hop available this year from
Steiner. It has an average alpha content of 14 to 16 percent.


Hop Concepts

Alpha Acid Content: When isomerized (rearranged at a
molecular level through boiling), alpha acids provide the main bitter compounds
associated with beer. The alpha acid content varies widely among hop varieties
from levels of 3 percent to 4 percent in aromatic hops to 13 percent to 16
percent in bittering hops.

Aroma Hops: Aroma hops can be characterized by low alpha
acid and are used as finishing or conditioning hops.

Aroma: There appears to be a general relationship between
the type and heaviness of a hop aroma and the flavor and aromatic properties of

Bittering Hops: Bittering hops have a much higher level of
alpha acids. These are generally used in the boiling process to extract

Cohumulone Content: Alpha acids exist in three forms:
humulone, adhumulone, and cohumulone. The proportions of these forms vary with
variety. Hops with relatively low co-humulone levels are strongly favored.

Dual Purpose Hops: Some hops are considered dual purpose,
such as Northern Brewer and Centennial. These can be used either for aroma or

Noble Hops: Certain hops grown in Europe that are prized for
their aromatic flavor characteristics. The definitive noble hops are Saaz,
Hallertauer Mittelfrüh, Spalt Spalter, and Tettnang Tettnanger. Any other hop
is measured against these four. Why they are called “noble” is anyone’s guess.

Pedigree: In a description of a hop, it is interesting to
trace back the crosses involved in creating a particular hop. In the case of
very old varieties, such as Saaz or Hallertauer, we know only that the
particular type was selected over many years by growers and brewers in a
particular area.

Trade Perception: Over a number of years, a hop variety will
find a particular role or niche within the brewing industry. Its particular
properties will become known and accepted. This general perception is helpful
to brewers considering the use of a variety new to them.

Information provided by Hopunion USA.


Super Simple Hop Bitterness Calculations

by Mark Garetz

The bitterness in hops comes mainly from the alpha acids
they contain. The alpha acids are not very soluble (able to be dissolved in
liquid). When hops are boiled, the alpha acids begin to be converted into
iso-alpha acids, which are much more soluble. The longer the boil, the more
acids are converted. The percentage of alpha acids contained in your hops
directly affects the amount that will end up in your beer. But many other
factors affect the final bitterness in your beer including: wort gravity, yeast
strain/type, boil temperature, finings, and filtration, to name just a few.

Beer is rated for bitterness in IBUs, which stands for
International Bittering Units.

The IBU is roughly equivalent to milligrams of iso-alpha
acids per liter of beer. A beer’s IBUs are often included in published recipes.
If you follow the recipe closely (boil time, total gallons boiled, and so
forth), your beer’s IBUs will be approximately the same.

Figuring Your IBUs

Brewers can use formulas to figure out the IBUs of a beer
they created or to create recipes to hit a target IBU. Since the conversion
from alpha acids to iso-alpha acids is not perfect, we need to calculate how
many IBUs we’ll get in our beer based on the brewing conditions and the amount
of alpha acids we put into the wort (as hops).

A lot of homebrewers shy away from messy calculations, so
this example of how IBU formulas work assumes much about the brewing
conditions. This is a very simple formula for calculating your IBUs. As
simplified, this formula will get you in the ballpark.

The assumptions are that you’re a typical homebrewer with a
stove-top partial boil of 60 minutes and you’re doing a five-gallon batch of
medium-strength beer with a single addition of bittering hops at the start of
the boil. In the formula, multiply 3.5 by the hop alpha acid percentage. The
correction factor, 3.5, takes into account the boil time, amount of wort
boiled, and strength of beer. You’ll need to know the alpha acid content of
your hops.

First decide how many IBUs you want to have in your beer.
Then use the formula:

Hop weight in ounces =
__IBUs desired
(3.5 x hop alpha acids)

For example, let’s say we want 35 IBUs in our beer and our
hops have 5 percent alpha acids. To figure out how much of the hop to use:

3.5 x 5      = 2 oz.

First multiply 3.5 times 5 (the amount of alphas in our
hops) to get 17.5. Then divide 35 (the number of IBUs we want) by 17.5 to get
two ounces of hops. That’s it, but remember all of the assumptions we’ve made.
If your conditions don’t match the assumptions, you’ll need a different
formula. More detailed formulas are available in homebrew literature.

IBUs vs. HBUs

HBU stands for Homebrew Bittering Units and is simply
shorthand for saying how many ounces of hops of a given alpha acid you put into
your beer. The HBU is the percent alpha acids times the hop weight in ounces.
Thus two ounces of 5 percent alpha hops is 10 HBUs.

The HBU tells us very little about the actual bitterness of
the beer. Put 10 HBUs in a five-gallon batch and we’ll have a certain bitterness,
but change the batch size to 10 gallons and use the same 10 HBUs and our beer
would be half as bitter. Or change any of the brewing conditions and the
bitterness of the beer will vary for the same HBUs going in. HBUs are also
known as AAUs or Alpha Acid Units. This was the original designation.

Keeping Recipes Up to Date

While AAU/HBU information will not tell you much about the
beer’s overall bitterness, AAU/HBU makes it a little easier to re-calculate the
amount of hops in a recipe when your alpha acids of the same hop change or if
you want to substitute a similar hop.

Let’s say the recipe calls for two ounces of 5 percent alpha
Cascade hops. You have some

6 percent alpha acid Cascade. If  your brewing methods and the recipe have not changed, then
you can simply calculate the HBUs of a hop called for in the recipe and divide
it by the new hops’ alpha to get the same bitterness. In this case two ounces
of 5 percent alpha Cascade is 10 HBUs. Divided by 6 percent alpha acid for the
available Cascade, we need 1.6 ounces of hops to get the same bitterness.

You can use this technique to correct any recipe you are following
for different alpha acid contents.

Issue: June 1998