Many of you already know that the four basic ingredients used in the beer making process are water, malt, yeast and of course, hops. Water, by far, is the largest ingredient used. The beer making process would not be possible without yeast so you can’t down play its importance. The malt provides the sugars needed to be turned in to alcohol. So after stating the importance of the other ingredients you may ask yourself why hops have turned into the rock star getting so much of the attention as of late.

Many breweries are making single hop beers to showcase a specific type of hop. Others such as Knee Deep Brewing in Auburn, CA are naming beers specifically after a certain type of hop used. Citra Extra Pale is made with one hop named Citra. One of their Triple IPAs is made with two hops, Simcoe and Citra merging together to provide not only a delicious beer but the name itself. Take the first three letters of Simcoe and add the last three from Citra and you get a witty name for a two hop beer, Simtra.

Hops are cone shaped dried fruits from a species of a flowering plant in the Cannabaceae family named Humulus lupulus, a climbing herb that is native to Europe, western Asia, and North America. Early settlers to New Zealand planted hops there well over a hundred years ago as well.

Hops provide beer aroma, flavor and bitterness. Preservation by fighting off bacteria is another benefit of using hops. I have heard home brewers describe hops as being like the spices that add so much flavor and character to a favorite dish. Picture a piece of steak without any spices or marinating and the point really hits home.

With dozens of hop varieties and such little time in the day I want to highlight just a few that you quite likely are enjoying in your beer as we speak, or you read, to be specific.

Amarillo – Originating in the Yakima Valley, Washington, these hops are considered a dual use hop, providing great citrus aroma and flavors. Grapefruit, orange and subtle metallic flavors are characteristics that you may pick up on.

Cascade – Released for cultivation in the early 1970s, it was named after the Cascade mountain range that runs from British Columbia through Washington, Oregon and up to Northern California. Known best for being an aroma hop it provides citrus and floral notes in the nose.

Citra – A hybrid of three hops, Citra originated in the U.S. Expect tropical fruit, citrus fruit and some stone fruit flavors and aromas.

Chinook – Along with pale ales and IPAs, Chinook hops are occasionally used in porters, stouts and barley wines. You may expect to get piney, herbal and spicy aromas.

Simcoe – Considered a great dual use hop for both aroma and flavor. A staple among IPA loving brewers. Expect a combination of fruity, piney and earthy notes.

Three Cheers to hops! Hip, hip, hooray…..hip, hop, hooray…..hop, hop, hooray.

– Peter Lopez