The Resurrection Of British Hops

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The most fascinating thing about brewing and the reason why we all dedicate our time to this wonderful process is that there are a myriad of different possibilities, combinations, aromas, flavors that can all be produced by personally varying the brewing procedure and ingredients. This means that, whatever the occasion, whatever the weather, whatever the mood there is a pint, your pint, which will perfectly complement it. One of the most important contributors to these varieties in flavor and aroma is the choice of or combination of hops we use. In this article I am going to take you through the history, demise, science and resurgence of some of the most varied hop varieties in the world and focus in on the how and why these variations occur.
During the 20th century Britain was at the forefront of Hop breeding with four scientists contributing greatly to the evolution of hop growing.
Prof E.S. Salmon, 1906 created new alpha variety which greatly increased the potential bitterness that could be achieved in the final brewed product, how this is achieved is discussed later. This made the hops more marketable and pioneered the movement of selective hop breeding that has produced the plethora of varieties we have available today. Salmon worked as part of the breeding program at Wye Collage, Kent, here he created Brewers Gold and from Brewers Gold he produced Northern Brewers. These 2 high alpha varieties are the ancestors of all British bitter hops.
Dr W.G. Keyworth, 1949 produced hop varieties that were resistant to wilt, increasing the harvestable yield and therefore, making hop growing more financially attractive. It also meant that growers could be more experimental with their breeding programs because they were not limited to the few naturally resistant varieties.
Dr R.A. Neve, 1953 further increased wilt resistance across hop varieties and also developed disease resistant strains.
Dr Peter Darby, 1981 was a leader in developing the dwarfed varieties of hops that were easier to pick by machines therefore again reducing the production costs as well as the environmental impact.
The reason for their Demise?
The rise of the American craft beer had lead to the a dip in the popularity of British hops, however, the variation in characteristics that British hops offer has meant that they will always offer something a little different and a little more British. Recently, the increased international interest in craft beers and the creative possibilities on offer when using British hops has led to this present resurgence.

The Lupulin glands contain resins and oils important to brewing beer
The Science of Hops
The most important part of the hop to brewers are the strobilies, commonly seen cone, of the female hop plant, shown right. Within this structure are the Lupulin glands. It is within these glands that the resins and oils that are so important to brewers are found. Of these chemicals, the 2 that are of great importance are: alpha acids (mentioned previously) and essential oils.
Alpha acids:
These give the bitterness to the brew as the alpha acids are converted to iso-alpha acids (a molecule with the same chemical formula as the original compound, but with a different chemical structure) this transformation can be seem in the image below with Humulone as the example. The conversion occurs during boiling and therefore, the longer you boil your wort for the more bitter your beer will become. Alpha acid also have antiseptic properties that prevent the growth of unwanted gram positive bacteria and also enhances the yeasts ability to grow and carry out the fermentation of the wort to beer. These properties are what produced the very popular IPA. The story goes, in order for the original pale ales to stay preserved for the long journeys from Britain to India, brewers used increased amounts of hops with high alpha acid levels which were therefore highly antiseptic. The new flavors and increased bitterness that was introduced as a result, gave rise to this much enjoyed style of beer.

The essential oils are what give beers there distinct flavors and aromas. Hops that are produced to contain high levels of essential oils and low levels of alpha acids are known as finishing hops, these are added to the very end of the brewing process and infuse the beer with the desired characteristics. The main oils are:
Is robust on the senses and carries earthy, woody and herbal characteristics. It provides a woody, spicy flavor that I can most closely link to coriander.

Produces more green, peppery aromas with slightly fruity undertones in combination with citrusy flavors

More of a floury aroma comparable to magnolia, with a green, woody background that produces full herbal flavors.

Although we can see that high levels of certain oils provide hops with specific qualities, it is not just this high percentage alone that produces these flavors and aromas in your home brew. The flavors and aromas are also dependent upon many other factors such as: when they are added to the brewing process, for example are they a finishing hop; how long they are brewed for; whether they are used in combination with another hop or how the different compositions of the essential oils interact.
How British Hops Differ
British hops are grown in the west midland counties of Worcestershire and Herefordshire and the southern counties of west Sussex, East Sussex and Kent. If we compare these locations on a world map to those of other hop growing areas we see that they all sit on a latitude of between 35-55, perfect for hop growing. The areas within these latitudes have one of three main climates that produce the differences in hop characteristics; these are semi-arid, maritime or continental. Along with the hop growing areas of southern Australia and New Zealand, Britain has a maritime climate. However, due to the lower levels of sunlight that Britain receives compared to Australia and New Zealand it has a unique climate known as dull maritime.

A map of the English counties with the hop growing areas circled
The way in which British hops are grown also differs from that of other hop growing areas. In the majority of these areas irrigation is used to assist growth. Irrigation is the artificial application of water to land or soil, it is not required in Britain because of the greater amount of rainfall throughout the year compared to other areas. The more natural and seasonal watering that British hops receive results in alterations of the levels of chemicals, mainly the essential oils, in the lupulin glands of the hop. Compared to the American versions say, British hops usually have lower myrcene levels. This means that most British beers have more delicate flavors.
It is this rare climate as well as the long breeding history and unique growing methods that produce the quintessential British hops that deliver bitter, gentle flavors and aromas.
For those of you who want a more detailed education of the science behind the difference it can found at
Varieties and their Characteristics
So what are these characteristics that make the perfect British pint and what style of beer are they best suited to? Well, the British hops offer perfectly delicate, gentle flavors alongside stimulating, complex aromas which produce the ideal Pale Ale, IPA, Porter or Stout.
There are twenty seven varieties of British hops here are a few favorites of mine:

A very popular English aroma hop grown prior to 1790, Goldings produces smooth and sweet honey like flavors in combination with wonderful earthy aromas perfect for your very own British pale ale. Its smooth flavors make it a perfect drink to enjoy with Asian spiced meals. Goldings also work great in combination with another famous British hop, Fuggle.
Alpha acid: 4-9.5%
Beta acid: 1.9-3.0%
Co-Humulone: 25-30%
Total oils: 0.4-0.8%
Humulene: 36%
Myrcene: 25%
Farnesene: Trace

This fascinating hop is a modern variety released in 2004 by Horticulture Research International (HRI) at Wye College in the UK. Not only does it have a very interesting name it was also the first aphid resistant variety making it the most environmentally friendly hop around. If that does not get you jumping of your seat, maybe the soft floral and spicy tones it produces along with the appealing grassy, pine aroma might. This is a top choice to make a great delicate golden ale.

Alpha acid: 7-10%
Beta acid: 3-4%
Co-Humulone: 26%
Total Oils: 1.4-2.0%
Myrcene: 33%
Humulene: 20%
Farnesene: 5%
Selinenes: 5%

A name that ties in perfectly with the theme of this article, Phoenix is quite a unique hop with a high oil content making it a great alternative to a bittering or dual-purpose hop. It offers slightly spicy, chocolate flavors with fresh pine and floral aromas. This hop is highly versatile and will produce a bold IPA, bitter, golden ale or stout.

Alpha acid: 8-12%
Beta acid: 3.8-5.4%
Co-Humulone: 30%
Total Oils: 1.2 " 2.5%
Myrcene: 24%
Humulene: 30%
Farnesene: 1.5%
All these hops can be used in combination with other hops whether they are British or not so go ahead and get creative. These British hops will provide something different that no other varieties will and they might just possess the characteristics that make your perfect pint, if not I am sure they will come very close.
For a full list and description of British hops visit
I hope this article has provided you with a better understanding of how the magical hop plant produces the amazing and aromas that we enjoy. I hope I have enlightened you to the variety and opportunity that British hops offer and above all I hope I have further increased your desire to experiment, personalize and perfect the most enjoyable and popular science project in the world.[URL="//"]// t=_self// t=_self//[/URL]


Well-Known Member
Dec 19, 2012
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Fuggles are great for spicy woody character and target is a great bittering hop. Challenger is not my favorite, but widely used; to me has a touch of a lemony aroma/flavor.


Well-Known Member
Apr 28, 2013
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I love using Admiral hops for saisons in combination with American citrusy hops. They lay a nice orange backbone. Sadly my LHBS doesn't carry them so I have to either order online or use something similar, but it never seems just right.


Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Dec 5, 2007
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I believe it is the same author Gavin. If you go to Home on that link there is a post by Jonny which probably is not a coincidence.

Gavin C

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Jul 21, 2014
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Yea I know. Same author but articles on HBT are supposed to be original content and not just copy and pastes from previously written stuff on the blogosphere.
I don't understand the rationale in doing that especially given the fact that it is a specified requirement of article content.
No effort made to alter or amend the original to make it more readable. Poor form IMO.