Of course, the best way to learn about hops is to taste them. We always share which hops are used in our beers to help more knowledgeable drinkers make an informed choice and to help newcomers along the road to becoming beer connoisseurs. So, once you’ve read this guide, your homework is to order our beers online and put theory into practice.
Hops are what make modern beer special. They contribute massively to flavour and aroma and provide the bitter edge to balance the sweetness of the malt. The bittering potential of hops comes from compounds known as ‘alpha acids’. However, the alpha acids are not bitter in themselves, they are only converted to bitter ‘iso-alpha acids’ by boiling the hops in the wort.
Dry-hopping, a technique we often use at Powderkeg, takes advantage of this quirk of chemistry. By infusing dry hops in the beer at low temperatures we can extract masses of the essential oils that provide aroma, without extracting any additional bitterness that might unbalance the beer.
It is the aromas trapped in the beer from dry-hopping that are the key to exceptional flavour. Technically speaking, the ‘taste’ of beer, as sensed by your tongue, comes mainly from the sweet malt and the bitter alpha acids. It is your sense of smell that offers up the floral, fruity, herbal and spicy highlights that make all the difference.
Here is a brief guide to some of our favourite aroma hops, along with tasting notes.
Amarillo – Originally found growing wild – proof, should you need it, that nature often knows best. Intensely fruity (citrus, melon), a touch spicy, this is perhaps our favourite hop.
Bramling Cross – A UK crossbreed with Bramling and Brewers Gold parentage. Awesome blackcurrant aroma.
Chinook – Another very popular hop that has become a hallmark of US Pale Ales and IPAs. Contributes a complex, resinous fruit/pine combination.
Centennial - One of the ‘Three Cs’ - the hallmark of hoppy US beers. Fans call it “super cascade”, although it tends to be slightly less citrusy, and more uniquely floral as it contains the same aroma compound as roses.
Citra – One of the modern greats. In the right hands Citra can contribute a raft of tropical fruit flavours including lychee and passion fruit. A truly special hop, much in demand.
Cascade – One of the ‘Three Cs’ - the hallmark of hoppy US beers. A game-changer when it appeared in 1972. The aroma depends on where it’s grown, but it generally has a very punchy citrusy, floral and most notably grapefruit characteristic.
Galaxy – A relatively new hop from Australia. Rich in passion fruit, apricot and melon; you have to take it a little easy or it can get fairly intense.
Hersbrucker – A mainstay of traditional German pilsners, this complex hop has classic spicy, herbal notes but also brings hints of citrus and stone fruits.
Mandarina Bavaria - A subtle aroma hop, floral and citrussy with notes of tangerine and a resinous, herbal follow-up.
Mosaic - Mosaic Hops have been called Citra on steroids, carrying flavours of earthy pine, citrus and herbs and aromas of tropical and stone fruit.
Nelson Sauvin – A distinctive aroma hop from New Zealand, much in demand because of its sauvignon blanc characteristics, but beyond that it has great rich fruity notes as well.
Palisade – A floral, grassy hop, Willamette-esque in character. Often noted for hints of sweet nectar fruits – apricot in particular. Provides a great canvas for a more ‘special’ citrusy aroma hop.
Saaz – An old-world ‘noble’ hop classically used in Czech pilsners. Elegantly complex with earth, spice and herbal notes.
Simcoe – Intense fruit and pine character. Another modern classic that has become a staple of dry hopped pale ales and IPAs.
Wai-iti - brings forth a fresh splash of lime zest and stone fruit such as fresh peaches and ripe apricot. A rounded, clean bitterness.