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Hops are the dried flowers of a twining vine (Humulus lupulus) which is part of the hemp family. Hops are mainly used to add bitterness to beer, as well as flavor and aroma in many styles of beer. There are dozens of varieties of hops with significant variation in flavor, aroma, and amount of alpha acids, which are what determine the strength of the bitterness which they impart.

Hops on the vine.

Leaves from the cone flower of the hop plant, or Humulus Lupulus, have been used as a main beer ingredient and for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years. In addition to acting as a preservative, hops lend two qualities to beer: bitterness, and flavor/aroma. There is an inverse correlation between the amount of time a hop leaf spends in the boil, and the amount of actual hop flavor/aroma it imparts, while the opposite is true for the amount of bitterness that is extracted. In other words, the longer a hop leaf spends in the boiling wort, the more bitterness it imparts, but the less actual hop flavor/aroma is extracted. For these reasons, different hop varieties have different uses. Certain hops are great for adding bitterness, but don't lend much in the way of good flavor/aroma, so these are added at the beginning of the boil. On the other hand, some other hops don't add much bitterness, but lend great hop flavor and aroma, so they are added later in the boil. Other varieties do well in both roles. When purchasing hops, many retailers include descriptions, which typically tell you which role(s) a particular hop variety is best suited for.


Varieties by Country


Pride of Ringwood

Released in 1965 as a very high Alpha acid hop, this hop accounts for about 90% of Australian hop production. Cross of a wild Tasmanian hop and the English Pride of Kent. It has a distinct somewhat coarse but pleasant citrus aroma (try a Foster's lager).

Alpha Acids: 7.0 to 10.0%
Storage: 45 to 55%
Aroma/Bittering: both
Flavor: strong but pleasant citrus nose
Styles: British ales, Australian lagers and ales
Substitutions: Kent Goldings, Centennial, Galena, Cluster


Goldings, British Columbia

Czech Republic


This Saaz is the original Pilsner hop, and is a truly noble hop (try a Pilsner Urquell). To brew an authentic Pilsner, Saaz is the only choice and sets the standard for aroma hops, but it also excellent in all European lagers for both bittering and flavour.

Alpha Acids: 3.0 to 4.5%
Storage: 45 to 55%
Aroma/Bittering: aroma
Flavor: mild but very nice
Styles: pilsners and other lagers
Substitutions: Polnischer Lublin, Tettnanger, Ultra




What are noble hops?
The term "noble" applies only to four traditional German hops:
  • Hallertauer Mittelfrueh
  • Tettnang Tettnanger
  • Spalt Spalter
  • Czech Saaz

All these hops have certain features in common such as low alpha acids, poor storage life, very fine aromas and flavours. The term noble is being spread by the industry to cover newer varieties as well but this has often failed to catch on.

Brewer's Gold

Hallertauer Gold

Hallertauer Mittelfrüh

Hallertauer Tradition

Hallertauer Hersbrucker

The Hallertau is an area between Munich and Nuernburg (general region of Bavaria). It is the largest area of hop production in Europe. The Hallertau produces two main types of hops: Hersbrucker and Northern Brewer. The Hersbrucker is often called Hallertau, but really these hops should be distinguished. There is a variety properly called Hallertau, which formed the stock of the American Hallertau hop. The proper Hallertau also has notable sub-varieties such as Mittelfrueh and Tradition (famous German variety).

Alpha Acids: 3.5 to 5.5%
Storage: 50 to 60%
Aroma/Bittering: both
Flavor: mild
Styles: lagers and American beers
Substitutions: Liberty, Crystal, Tradition, Mittelfrueh, Ultra



A Northern Brewer cross with higher alpha acid levels than other German strains, but with a fine aroma.

Alpha Acids: 7.0 to 9.5%
Storage: 80 to 85%
Aroma/Bittering: bittering
Flavor: Minty with good aroma
Styles: wheat beers, and non-pilsener lagers
Substitutions: Northern Brewer


One of the classic noble hops, now grown mostly in the Hallertau region. It has a very fine aroma, similar to Czech Saaz. Use in German lagers or any beer which calls for a noble hop.

Alpha Acids: 3.0 to 6.0%
Storage: 45 to 55%
Aroma/Bittering: aroma
Flavor: fairly delicate and fine
Styles: American and European lagers
Substitutions: Saaz, Tettnanger


Tettnanger is one of the original noble German hops from the Tettnang area, but often grown with good results in the USA. Its aroma is very fine, and spicy, but it is a low yielding hop which makes it expensive. Use mostly in European and American lagers for aroma and flavour (occasionally for bittering too).

Alpha Acid: 4.0 to 5.0
Storage: 55 to 60%
Aroma: very fine, spicy, aromatic floral
Uses: especially good in lagers and wheat beers.
Substitutions: Saaz, Spalt, Ultra


A close decendant of the Hallertau Mittelfrueh, this hops is earning the title of "noble" by many many brewers.

Alpha Acid: 5.0 to 7.0
Storage: "very good"
Aroma: very fine, aromatic floral
Uses: especially good in German style lagers and wheat beers.
Substitutions: Saaz, Spalt, Ultra

New Zealand

Green Bullet


Pacific Gem

Southern Cross


Super Alpha




Styrian Goldings

United States


Distinctive aromatic hops with moderate bittering power from Washington.


Similar to Cascade, but more bitter.

Alpha Acids: 8.0%
Storage: 25%
Aroma/Bittering: Aroma
Flavor: Citrus, Flowery
Styles: IPAs, Ales
Substitutions: Cascade, Centennial


One of the most popular American hops.

Alpha Acids: 6.0%
Storage: 50%
Aroma/Bittering: Both
Flavor: Floral, Grapefruit
Styles: American Pale Ales
Substitutions: Galena, Eroica, Nugget, Bullion


A general purpose bittering hop, with a floral, citrus aroma, and a spicy clearn bittering flavor.


A strong bittering hop used in stouts and porters, with a heavy and spicy aroma.


A general purpose bittering hop with a sharp aroma and flavor.

Columbus (Tomahawk)

A high alpha bittering hop developed from Centennial, using in lagers, IPAs, and stouts.


A strong bittering hop.


A very mild finishing hop used mainly in lagers, with a clean and slightly spicy aroma.


A general purpose bittering hop used in ales, stouts, and porters, with a clean and very bitter profile.



A general purpose bittering hop, said to be the most commonly used bittering hop in America, due to its strong and clean bittering flavor.




A mild and slightly spicy hop used for finishing German style lagers.

Mt. Hood

A mild and clean aroma and flavor used for finishing European lagers.

Northern Brewer


A strong bittering hop with a heavy, herbal, spicy aroma.







A relatively new hop that is similar in character to Amarillo.


An herbal, spicy, floral, and citrusy hop with moderate bittering power


Currently the most powerful bittering hop available, with strong orange and tangerine citrus notes in aroma and flavor.


A very high alpha bittering hop from Washington with a pleasant hoppy aroma.



A very mild aroma hop with Saaz-like characteristics.



A very high alpha hop used in ales and stouts. Noticeable grapefruit character in flavor and aroma.


A finishing hop with a mild, grassy, floral, and slightly spicy aroma.

Yakima Cluster


A high alpha bittering hop with an intense aroma.

United Kingdom


Bramling Cross

Started in 1927 from a Goldings female and a wild Manitoba male. Used as a general-purpose bittering hop, lately it has been used to provide a unique fruity, blackcurrant and lemon notes in traditional ales, especially in Christmas ales. Dry hopping can produce a very interesting effect. Bramling Cross is an under-appreciated hop.

Alpha Acid: 5.0 to 7.0
Storage: 60 to 70%
Aroma: mild fruit, currants
Uses: bittering and flavour/aroma
Substitutions: WGV, Progress, Kent Goldings

Brewer's Gold


Started in 1919 from a Manitoban female hop and an English male hop. It has a spicy and intense aroma which should be controlled by a 60 minute boil.

Alpha Acid: 6.5 to 9.0
Storage: 40 to 50%
Aroma: strong, black currant, spicy, pungent
Uses: bittering, especially stouts and dark ales
Substitutions: Northern Brewer


A granddaughter of Northern Brewer, Challenger is a good dual purpose hop with good aroma characteristics and reasonably high alpha acids. This is a great hop for any English Ales.

Alpha Acid: 7.0 to 10.0
Storage: 70 to 85%
Aroma: a fine scented, almost spicy aroma
Uses: bittering and aroma; UK style ales and lagers
Substitutions: undetermined (although it is a cousin to Target)


Goldings, East Kent

The premier English hop, with a lineage going back to 1790. Sometimes these are even isolated by the area, e.g., East Kent Goldings (see the hop plugs) often considered the best. Can be used for bittering British ales as well as finishing and aroma.

Alpha Acid: 4.0 to 6.0
Storage: 65 to 80%
Aroma: gentle and fragrant
Uses: bittering, flavouring, and aroma (dry hopping too) in Pale ales, Bitters, Stouts, Porters.
Substitutions: Styrian Goldings, Fuggle, Willamette

First Gold

Early brewing trials indicate that First Gold is an extremely exciting prospect. The variety is very suitable both as a general kettle hop and also for late and dry hopping in all types of beer. First Gold has excellent aroma qualities and much of the flavour character of WGV seems to have been retained, producing a well-balanced bitterness and a fruity, slightly spicy note in ales. Considerable areas of First Gold are being planned and there is significant interest already from Britain's traditional ale brewers.

Alpha Acid: 4.0 to 5.5%
Storage: 60 to 65%
Aroma: mild, spicy or woody aroma
Uses: flavour hopping or dry hopping; best in pale ales, porters, English bitters
Substitutions: Willamette, Kent Goldings, Styrian Goldings


Fuggle is the most famous hop for English ales. It has suffered from wilts of late, and has largely been replaced by newer varieties. Fuggle provides a full British style palate and can be used alone, but is often used along with Goldings.

Alpha Acid: 4.0 to 5.5%
Storage: 60 to 65%
Aroma: mild, spicy or woody aroma
Uses: flavour hopping or dry hopping; best in pale ales, porters, English bitters
Substitutions: Willamette, Kent Goldings, Styrian Goldings



Derived from Northern Brewer, it shares many of the same characteristics, and has replaced Northern Brewer in much of the UK for all uses, including dry Irish Stouts. A clean and mild bitterness with delicate hop aroma.

Alpha Acid: 8.0 to 9
Storage: 70 to 80%
Aroma: strong, woody, minty
Uses: bittering with strong aromas in dark ales, aroma, dry hopping
Substitutions: Perle, Galena , Northern Brewer





A hop with moderate bittering power, but great aromatics too. It is a cross between Whitbread's Golding Variety and North American male hops. Somewhat similar to Fuggle, but slightly sweeter, and usually providing a softer bitterness in beers of all types. With its slightly higher alpha content, it represents good value for bitterness if a beer recipe demands aroma hops for all the bittering element. This variety has a potential not yet fully exploited, to provide excellent beer flavours.

Alpha Acid: 4.0 to 5.5%
Storage: 60 to 65%
Aroma: mild, spicy or woody aroma
Uses: flavour hopping or dry hopping; best in pale ales, porters, English bitters
Substitutions: Fuggle, WGV, Kent Goldings, Styrian Goldings


Released in 1972 in the UK as a high acid cousin to Challenger, Target was bred from Northern Brewer female and a male Goldings and is a true dual purpose hop. Alpha acids are moderately high, but the flavour profile is clean British, great in any English style ale. This hop is currently the most widely used hop in the UK.

Alpha Acid: 8.0 to 12.5
Storage: 45 to 55%
Aroma: strong typically floral English aroma
Uses: bittering (dry hopping for powerful aroma effect)
Substitutions: nothing really, Kent Goldings in a pinch

WVG (Whitbread Goldings Variety)

Developed in the 1960s to help the Goldings increase alpha acid levels, this hop dual purpose hop has great flavour and aromatics. Provides a distinctive sweet fruit flavour in beers, similar to, but generally more pronounced and robust than, Goldings. It gives a mild, clean bitterness in traditional ales, and is sometimes used with good effect as a distinctive dry hop. Used perhaps still in Archer's Bitters, Bellhaven's ale, and Young's.

Alpha Acid: 5.0 to 6.0
Storage: 60 to 65%
Aroma: mild and spicy to woody
Uses: British style ales
Substitutions: Fuggle, Styrian Goldings, Kent Goldings

Hop Cultivation

History of hops

Many breweries boast adherence to the Reinheitsgebot (German Purity Law) of 1516 which decrees that beer may only include water, malted barley, yeast and hops. "What are hops?" you might ask. Hop is a twining vine that grows rapidly in the summer months and enjoys direct sunlight. The young shoots are eaten as a vegetable and the leaves are blanched and used as a soup. But hops are cultivated mainly for the brewing industry. Hops contribute bitterness and aroma to beer, but they were not always part of the brewing process. From the earliest days of beer in 4th cent BC Mesopotamia to Medieval times, beer was seasoned with different additives. Wild rosemary, coriander, ginger, anise seed, juniper berries, even wood bark was added to flavor the beer. Hops were known to early civilizations - they grew wild among the willows in Roman times. The Romans noted it grew like a "wolf among sheep" and referred to it as Lupus salictarius, which means the "good wolf." From this colorful origin, hops took its botanical name of humulus lupulus. The Jews provide the first written account of the use of hops in beer during captivity in Babylon. They record a sicera ex lupulis confectuam (strong drink made from hops). They also believed this drink alleviated leprosy.

With the plethora of additives used to flavor beer, undoubtedly hops gained popularity for not only it's bittering ability but also its role as an antiseptic and preservative. Hops helped to clarify the wort, provided a good head and improved a beer's keeping power. Beer no longer required a high alcohol content to prevent spoilage - this meant the brewers needed less grain, which translated to higher profits.

The earliest references to hop cultivation are during the 8th and 9th century AD from the Hallertau district in Germany. Although it is not clear whether these hops were used in brewing, by the 14th century the Dutch had developed a taste for hopped German beer.

Medieval brewers were initially reluctant to use hops in beer, claiming it caused "melancholy and tormenting disease." Hops should be avoided during depression. Hop tea is a nerve tonic, a mild sedative and a muscle relaxant. The estrogen content increases lactation and is an anaphrodisiac for men. Exported by the Flemings, hopped beer found its way across the English Channel in the early 1400s. Although hops were brought to England by the Romans for use as a vegetable, the English brewers were appalled at its use in beer. It was many decades before the merits of hopped beer were accepted and hops incorporated into mainstream brewing practices in England.

Hops were brought with the early 17th century colonies to North America. American colonists brewed with imported hops, spruce bark and sassafrass root, until 1629 when the Massachusetts Bay Co. ordered hop seeds from England. The colonists employed hops in many ways. They extracted wax for use as a reddish-brown dye, used the fibers for textiles and ate the young shoots. By 1859 nearly 90 percent of the hops used in the United States were grown in New York. But as land began to fill with farmers and cities, hop farms were pushed West. California's Central Valley became a hop-growing region, and from there hop farms quickly spread North to Oregon and Washington where they are still commercially grown today.

In Continental Europe the wild male hop has been exterminated. The unpollinated female hop is higher in the alpha acids which give beer its bitter flavoring. The cone of the female hop is made of many overlapping petals. At the base of each petal is the seed where sticky yellow glands produce the resins and oils that provide aroma and bitterness. The petals also contain tannin which aids in clarifying the beer. Today one can find numerous strains of New World and Old World hops. The United States is second in hop production only to Germany! With a little practice you will begin to recognize the distinctive tastes of the different hop strains.


Hop Glossary

Alpha acid The main bittering substance; a component of lupulin
Beta acid A component of lupulin
Bine Stem of a hop plant
Blight Infestation of damson-hop aphid
Burr Female hop flower from which the cones later develop
Canker A fungal soil borne disease which attacks hops
Cohumulone One of the Alpha acids
Coir yarn Cordage and string made of coconut fibre
Cone The part of the hop plant that is used in brewing
Damson-hop aphid An insect pest
Downy mildew A fungal disease which attacks hops
Dry hopping The addition of a small quantity of hops to a full cask of beer
Dusting Applying powder fungicides or insecticides to growing hops.
Essential oils Aromatic oils found in lupulin glands
Foxy Term applied to dried hops showing a marked tint of reddish brown due to over maturity, disease or decay
Hop extract An extract of hops containing the useful brewing constituents
Hop garden Kent name for a hop field
Hop pellets Compressed hop powder
Hop yard West Midlands name for a hop field
Hopping rate Proportion of hops used in the brewing process
Hop pocket A sack, approx 6 feet long, in which dried hops are pressed and stored. Contains about 80 kilos.
Kettle hop Hop which is added to the copper or kettle in the early stages of the brewing process
Kiln Building for drying hops in a current of warm air
Lupulin The hop's resin glands at the base of the cone bracts
Oast A building used for the drying and storing of hops
Perennial A plant that will shoot and grow again, year after year
Poke Sack of loosely woven material capable of containing 8 - 10 bushels of green (undried) hops, awaiting drying
Powdery mildew A fungal disease which attacks hops
Scuppet Wooden shovel used for moving dried hops around the oast
Sett Young hop plant propagated for transplanting to its permanent position in a hop garden
Spray A lateral or side branch of a hop plant
Stock Single hop plant
Strig Central stem of hop plant
Twiddling The process of winding or training hop stems around string
Verticillium wilt Fungal soil-borne disease which attacks hops
Wirework A pole system supporting wires and strings up which the hops climb
Zentner 50 kilos, 20 zentners to the tonne


National Hop Association of England