“Let no man thirst for good beer.” This saying, as quoted by Sam Adams, is probably one of the most universal adages that all master brewers can agree on. Apart from the ingredients, the quintessential values of beer as a venerable beverage are the age-old traditions and the naked science that moulded it into perfection today. As one of the oldest concoctions known to man, it is certainly no surprise that millions of beer buffs around the world consider beer a beverage of gusto and of life’s profusion. But with all the labels and tags given to beer, have you ever wondered what exactly makes this ancient concoction transcend cultural boundaries across the globe?
The distinct flavour, the captivating aroma, and of course, the clean after-taste of beer are most likely the crucial areas judged by both beer critics and recreational drinkers. Thanks to the discovery of hops as a brewing agent in the 11th century. The emergence of hops in 1079 has redefined the home beer making process for the rest of history. These perennial vines (bines) have revolutionized home brewing traditions in more ways than one.
The Tempting Aromas
The beta acids in hops are responsible for the scent that you smell in beers. Aroma hops have a relatively low concentration of alpha acids and are generally added on the latter part of the boiling phase to avoid the sudden evaporation of the essential oils. Depending on the style and the type of handcrafted beer, a process called dry hopping may also be used where aroma hops are added after the wort has cooled down and while the beer is undergoing fermentation. For most hop varieties, the major essential oils that comprise about one third of their overall oil content are the Farnesene, Humulene, Myrcene, and Caryophyllene.
These oils are responsible for the floral, piney or earthy scents attributed to certain beer types. Hops that have high aromatic properties and low bitterness characteristics categorically fall under the Noble Hops group. This group includes four major English hops namely Saaz, Tettnanger, Hallertau, and Spalt. If you encounter a beer where the smell is good enough to guzzle, chances are they’re made from these hop varieties.
Outright Fascinating Flavours
The flavour of home brewed beers is what makes them stand out, regardless. Whether they came from a remote European village or a highly urbanized city in Germany, their taste can certainly define most of their character. The role of hops in terms of giving beers their inimitable tang can be credited to another acid content, the alpha acids. The quality and taste of these alpha acids greatly differ according to hop varieties.
The Cluster, for instance, boasts a robust and uniquely bold bitter taste while the Galena will leave you with a well balanced palate in spite of its high alpha acid content. The Tomahawk will have herbal undertones while the Chinook variety hops showcase a distinguishing spicy character. Whether you’re thirsting for brawny-tasting flavours, or you simply want to enjoy a fruity or a light and clean beer finish, you’re sure to find that perfect mouth-feel with virtually dozens of handcrafted beer essences.
Herb combinations in the history of home beer making were believed to have become archaic when hops were discovered for brewing. This was because home brewers apparently noticed that ales made with hops tend to have longer shelf lives. Their antibiotic properties inhibit the growth of microorganisms in the fermentation process, and offset the bacteria levels.
As a result, the hops act as natural preservative to beers. Without the hops, your much-loved beers wouldn’t last just as long. This sense of resilience and endurance in beers are indeed great substantiations that hops are way beyond giving you aromatic and flavoursome ales.
With the brewing process being more than a century-old tradition, the “hops innovation” has certainly become one the most significant discoveries that ever happened to our modern day beer snifter. So the next time you decide to give your beers a bottom’s up, you may want to think twice and drink it down slowly…after all, you wouldn’t want to miss that great, flavorsome hop experience.
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