A herbaceous vine of the Cannibinacaea family of plants (whose other members are Cannabis spp.), native to Europe and introduced to the US. The unfertilized female flowers, also known as cones, are used in the brewing of beer to provide bitterness, contrasting the sweetness of the malt. Many commercial hop farms are located in the Pacific Northwest and Upstate New York.

Hops are used both for adding bitterness to beer, and for adding distinctive aroma. Brewers frequently use one variety for aroma and another for bittering.

A few common varieties of hops
Cascade -- a US variety, extremely popular. Has a citrusy aroma. Found in Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
Fuggles -- UK variety, gentle, grassy aroma.
Tettnanger German, spicy. Used in Sam Adams Octoberfest.
Saaz -- Characteristic Czech hop. Used in Pilsener Urquell.
Hallertauer -- German, mild, herbal. Found in Sam Adams Lager.

Hops are also soporific. You can take dried hops and put them into a pillow... it will really help you sleep. Also note that when you drink really hoppy beer (probably more bitter than most beer), you will feel sleepy afterwards. If you don't want to pass out, drink less hoppy beer if you're susceptible to such things (as I am).

Hops are the female flower of the perennial climbing vine, Humulus lupulus. The vine grows in almost any moist, sunny area, and can reach lengths of over 40 feet. The flowers themselves are green in color, with dust-like yellow lupulin glands, which contain the bittering and flavoring compounds prized by brewers. Most commercially produced hops in the United States come from the Pacific Northwest, and they also are widely grown in Britain, Germany (naturally) and Australia. The cones, as the flowers are usually called, are generally dried before use.

Hops are an essential ingredient in beer. Their first major contribution is to provide bitterness to balance the sweetness of the malt. The bittering compounds in hops are called alpha acids, five of which have been isolated:

humulone
cohumulone
adhumulone
prehumulone
posthumulone

These acids require an extended period of boiling to isomerize and make them soluble in the wort (unfermented beer). They are highly subject to oxidation, which will reduce their bittering power, making freshness an important consideration when selecting hops.

The second major characteristic that hops bring to beer is their unmistakeable flavor and aroma, which cannot be duplicated with other ingredients. The aroma and flavoring compounds are essential oils, and more that 250 have been identified. Unlike the bittering compounds, the essential oils are destroyed or evaporated by extended boiling, so flavoring hops are always added during the last few minutes of the boil. Sometimes dry hops are added to the fermenter to provide a distinctive aroma.

Hops produced for the brewing industry are generally packaged in one of three ways: whole hops, hop plugs, or pelleted hops. Whole hops are the whole dried cones, packaged without much treatment. Whole hops have a shorter shelf life than plugs or pellets. Plugs are whole flowers which have been pressed into small disklike plugs of about 1/2 oz. each. They are less perishible than whole hops and take up far less room. Pellets are rapidly becoming the most popular form, though some say that the processing they receive changes their character. Pellets are made by grinding whole hop cones into a fine powder and then pressing into tiny pellets which resemble rabbit food. They are the least perishable and most compact form of hops available.

Many different varieties of hops are used in varying quantities for different kinds of beers. Some varieties of hops are used mainly for their bittering power, while more fragrant and delicate varieties are used for flavoring and aroma. Beer aficionados can often tell from the aroma which variety of hop has been used a particular brew. Most American light lagers are very lightly hopped for bitterness and have almost no hop aroma. British pale ale falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum for both bitterness and "hoppiness", the characteristic aroma and flavor of hops. India pale ale lies at the high end for both characteristics.

Humulus Lupulus, meaning "Wolf Plant", is a perennial climbing vine commonly known as hops. It is used, along with malt, yeast and water in the production of beer. The hops plant is closely related to Cannabis and the nettle, and is said to have slight narcotic effect.

Hops is indigenous to Italian peninsula and was eaten as a delicacy by the Romans. As the Roman Empire expanded, so did the cultivation of hops. When the Roman Empire collapsed, it was taken north into central Europe as people migrated. The advance of hops was slow, only arriving in the British Isles in 15th century. It now grows wild in much of Europe.

The primary use of hops is in brewing, where it is used both for bitterness and flavor. The fermentation of malt creates lots of sugar, and hops provides the counter balance. From a practical standpoint, hops also acts as a natural preservative and prevents bacterial infections during the brewing process.

Beer was being made long before hops was widespread. Originally, a mixture of herbs and spices known as gruit was used as a flavoring, but some brewers in central Europe discovered hops and began using it as a substitute. The gruit market, controlled by the Church in many parts of Europe, fought hard to get hops banned, but hops eventually won out due to its superior flavor.

Hops is dioecious, meaning there are separate male and female varieties, but only the female plant is used in beer making. In the majority of cases, the males are culled to prevent it from mating with the females, as unmated females have a stronger aroma and less bitterness, generally preferred for lagers. Ale brewers, primarily in the British Isles, use mated hops, which has a more intense bitterness. The cone-like hops flower contains resins known as alpha acids (humulones) and beta acids (lupulones), plus various oils. The alpha acids provide the bitterness, the beta acids and tannins stabilize the beer and serve as a disinfectant and preservative. The oils, which attract bees and other insects to the hops for pollination, provide the flavoring that appeals to humans and bugs alike.

Hops are harvested in early autumn, and they must be dried quickly to avoid going moldy, in special oast houses close to the fields where they are grown. They are then compressed into sacks, which prevents oxidation of the alpha acids, and stored in a dark place to avoid the breaking down of the oils. Most are then milled into powder and compressed into pellets, then boiled in the wort to extract the the alpha and beta acids. Some of the the hops are used whole, particularly in the flavoring stage of ales; these hops are added later, to avoid breaking down the flavoring oils.

Hops is also a chain of microbrewery restaurants. The food and the beer are made from scratch at each Hops location.

A Bit of History: The first Hops restaurant was built in Clearwater, Florida in 1988. The concept quickly caught on and soon there were 13 locations in the state of Florida. In 1996 Avado Brands Incorporated bought the restaurants and concept. Currently there are 74 Hops restaurants in 16 states.

At each restaurant 4 signature beers are brewed:

  • Golden Hammer/ Golden Thoroughbred- a blend of two beers; Lightning Bold Gold and Hops signature red beer.
  • Nectar- a blend of two beers; Alligator Ale and Hops signature red beer.
  • Raspberry Brew- raspberry liqueur added to any Hops signature beer or seasonal brew.
  • Hops also brews five seasonal beers:

    Hops locations: Colorado (7), Connecticut (3), Florida (32), Georgia (5), Kentucky (1), Louisiana (1), Maryland (1), Minnesota (2), Mississippi (1), Missouri (1), North Carolina (4), Ohio (4), Rhode Island (2), South Carolina (4), Tennessee (3), and Virginia (3).

    Types of hops used by Hops:

    Good to know: In the year 2,000 Hops sold 13,583,456 pints of on-site microbrewed beer, enough beer to give each resident of Florida their own pint of Hops beer.

    I Am the Very Model of a Modern Teenage Hops Hostess

    (Sung to the tune of “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General")

    I am the very model of a modern teenage Hops hostess: I go to school and go to work; I am the gal with the "mostest". When it comes to seating and guest greeting, to perfection I come closest. I am the very model of a modern teenage Hops hostess.

    I wipe the tables sweep the floor I clean the windows and the doors. When a server’s mad and yells at me I seat them with the elderly. Every minute I get yelled at for forgetting menu counts So, I impress the manager with a large, yet fake, amount.

    I fold kids’ menus stuffed with crayons. The specials board I yearn to draw on. I clean the ashtrays with a napkin; I take them out and bring them back in. When it comes to seating and guest greeting, to perfection I come closest. I am the very model of a modern teenage Hops hostess.

    I spend all my paychecks on black pants and my tip share on “Safe-Tracks” I wear my hair up certainly. I teach the guests about the brewery. I hold the doors when guests come by. And when raining my umbrella keeps them dry.

    I wear a smile when we’re busy I wear a smile when I’m alone. I even make sure that I smile when taking "to-go’s" on the phone. When it comes to seating and guest greeting, to perfection I come closest. I am the very model of a modern teenage Hops hostess.

    Location information found at Hops website (www.hopsrestaurants.com); all other information comes from my employment as a Hops Restaurant hostess. Song is original. (not suprisingly I'm sure)

    A few facts about growing hops. First, only the female unfertilized flower, the catkin, is of any use. Hops is planted in two ways: as a root (obtained through a hops nursery) or rooted from pre-existing stock. This is done once the plant is established in your garden. Bury one of the vines to a length of 10-20 inches and water daily. Like a tomato vine, the tendril will send out roots, and after 2-3 weeks, this can be dug up and transplanted, thus insuring a new female root.

    The conditions that are considered optimum for growth are full-sun and lots of water. Fertilization (preferably with compost) is best done just as the buds begin to develop. This is also a critical time for pest control, at least in the Northeast. Japanese beetles can ravage a crop of hops in days. While beetle traps are of some use, it should be remembered that the plant Humulus lupulus gives off a pheremone (similar to estrogen) that will draw beetles from miles away. There is no substitute to diligence (hand picking the bugs) and your crop will thank you for it.

    Hops adds the "bitter" to ales and beers. The bitterness is calculated as the "alpha" number, lower being more bitter. Find a great beer recipe under "Beer Recipe".

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