Hops are an essential ingredient for brewing beer. From its conveniently dried flowers, lupulin is extracted, an essential element that provides the bitter taste and aroma characteristic of beer. Taking advantage of the fact that we are in full special dedicated to Oktoberfest, I want to tell you things about this product.
Also, hops make beer foam is more stable, helps to preserve its freshness and gives it other properties. Spain is one of the leading hop producers, sixth in the European Union and tenth worldwide.
Outside of its use for brewing beer, its medicinal and cosmetic properties have made it a interesting plant for man since ancient times, with data on its cultivation dating back to 4,000 years before Christ.
Uses of hops in ancient times up to the making of beer
Originally, hops were one of the plants used to flavor beer. This plant of the hemp family, had sedative and antiseptic effects, its action against bacteria being valued.
The Babylonians already used hops to make a drink called Sikar and in India a drink called Soma based on hops. The Romans used hops also for cooking, as a seasoning element to enhance some dishes.
In addition, other peoples of Europe in later times used it for its sedative and antioxidant properties, due to its psychoactive components for being a plant of the cannabinoid family.
Today we also know that hops are an appetite stimulantTherefore, its consumption – when drinking beer – tends to open the mouths of those who consume it and there are ongoing studies on its properties as a sedative and antidepressant.
Using hops to brew beer
Although it is assumed that it began to be used for brewing beer in the 8th century, there is no documentation of its use until the year 868, when it is used in the manufacture of Lobbes Abbey beer (Belgium) for hygiene and conservation reasons. Later its use is extended throughout Europe, also reaching Spain.
When the Laws of Purity pointing out the ingredients allowed for brewing in 15th century Europe, hops are included along with barley or wheat and water, as the third ingredient authorized by the Bavarian Duke William IV.
Today, hop acid – called alpha acids or alpha acids – is used for its mild antibiotic effect against Gram positive bacteria and because it favors the activity of the malting yeast. In addition, since the malt is somewhat sweet, its flavor is balanced with the bitterness of the hops.
In the flowers of female hop plants, under its outer leaves or bracts there are glands that contain the lupulin, which is the one who gives the beer the bitter taste and aromas. The male hop plants are discarded to prevent them from pollinating the female ones, which would cause the flowers, also called pineapples or specks, to fill with seeds.
Hop varieties and their properties
Of hops there are different varieties, some more or less rich in acidic and bitter elements and others richer in the presence of aromatic elements. Both are selected to be able to make the desired mixture for each manufacturer to make their varieties of beer.
Bitter hops like varieties brewer’s gold and the northern brewer or nordbrauer or cascadeThey are the ones that provide more bitter than aromatic. Aromatic hops such as the saaz / zatec varieties that define the pilsener style of beer, the spalt, the tettnanger, the hallertauer, the kent goldings and those of the fuggle varieties are used to impart aromas to beers.
In Spain, mainly different hops are grown: those of the variety Nugget, Magnum and Columbus They are considered super bitter category and the variety Perle as representative of the aromatic hops.
There are also mixed hops that have both aromatic and bitter characteristics, although without standing out in any of them. In another post I will tell you in detail how and where it is grown, and how it is processed to obtain the pellets that are sent to the brewing industry for flavoring use.
The ways to use hops They are fresh, in the form of an extract or concentrate, and in the form of pressed powder or pellets, the latter being the one most used in Spain and America due to the good preservation of alpha acids and essential oils.
The reason for its conversion into pellets is that hops are very delicate. In the northern hemisphere it can only be used fresh during the months of August to October, as it loses its properties afterwards.
Sources | Wikipedia and Sociedad Anónima de Fomento del Hops En Directo al Paladar | A beer with alcohol that does not produce a hangover En Directo al Paladar | Concentrated beer. Ideal to take to the beach or the mountains