There are 80 types of hops currently available on the market; that’s 80 flavors available to craft a unique beer. And given that a successful brewery should always be on the cutting edge of what people want to drink, you must familiarize yourself with these varieties. But it’s not enough to simply know about a hop—knowing how to compare and select hops will help you apply that knowledge to make truly great beer.
Alpha Acid Percentage
If you pull up any hop comparison chart, the first column after the name of a hop will be that hop’s alpha acid percentage. This unit measures a hop’s potential bitterness. Hops are organized into four different levels based on this stat.
- Low-alpha aroma varieties (2.5%-6%)
- Dual-purpose varieties (6%-10%)
- High-alpha bittering (10%-15%)
- Super-alpha bittering (14-18%)
The low-alpha hops are typically used to add a good aroma to beer, like golding, spalt, or Polish Lublin hops. The high- and super-alpha hops, like magnum and admiral hops, are typically added for the sake of bittering. Dual-purpose varieties, like Perle and sterling, tend to have the qualities of both aroma and bittering hops.
The level of bitterness is not only dependent on the hop itself but also on how long it is boiled. The longer you boil a hop, the more bitterness it will add to the beer.
At the far end of the hop comparison chart, you will find a column describing the hop’s characteristics. This column will briefly overview the flavors and aromas associated with various hops. Some potential flavors you may find in a hop include:
- Resin or pine
Different hops will contain different combinations of these flavors. Amarillo hops are known for having citrus and floral characteristics, while brewer’s gold is known for being fruity and spicy. Different hops will also put across their flavor more strongly than others. There are also some hops that, when paired, will help the flavors come across more strongly than larger amounts of an individual hop.
As distinct as they are, there are hop varieties that can be substituted for each other. Often, these are hops with similar AA percentages or flavor characteristics, such as liberty and Mt. Hood hops. However, when comparing and selecting hops to substitute, don’t only focus on completely similar ones. For instance, cascade and Amarillo hops can be substituted for each other even though cascade’s AA percentage is smaller.
As beer brewers, you have the know-how to craft unique and delicious hop combinations. At Cedarstone Industries, we have the stainless brewing equipment to help you brew them.