Image of hops used in beermaking. What are hops?

If you’re new to brewing beer, you’ve probably heard several terms being tossed about as far as the ingredients that make up a delicious, frothy beverage. In addition to water, yeast, and grain, hops are a key component that every beermaker should pay heed to when brewing.

Often times, we drink beer and describe it as “hoppy”. But what does it mean to be hoppy? Or, better yet, what are hops? Hops are actually the female flowers of the hops plant, which are a member of the hemp family. They contain an oil that imparts a bitter flavor, which acts as an excellent counterpart to the sweetness of malt.

Using hops in beermaking

Beermakers play a delicate game of balancing the ratio of sweet malt to bitter hops flavor when crafting the perfect beer.  Every small change can impact the final taste of the beer, such as the type of hops used, when they’re added to the wort, or how long they’re boiled for.

Types of hops

Bittering hops are a type of hops added early in the wort boil to affect the overall bitter-ness of the beer.
Flavoring hops are a different variety, and are added closer to the end of the boil to lend the beer a floral, fruity flavor.
Aroma hops (which are also known as finishing hops) are added at the end of the boil and provide a subtle change of aroma in the final beer that is created.

Depending on your preference, you can purchase hops in two different ways: as a whole leaf, or as condensed pellets. Some prefer one over the other, but both play the same role: an essential ingredient for great beer.