What are Hops?
The Hop Plant (Latin name; Humulus Lupulus) is vital to the brewing industry. It is a perennial vining plant that is grown in areas that are typically temperate in climate. They consume a lot of water during their growth phase and thus need moist soil conditions to thrive.They are a dioecious plant, meaning that each hop vine will produce either male flowers or female flowers. It is the female flowers that brewers are most interested in.
When brewers refer to Hops, they are generally talking about the flowers of the female plant. The female flowers are known as cones and have been used for beer brewing for hundreds of years.
Hop flowers are usually green in color with yellow lupulin glands between the petals that provide many of the essential oils and alpha acids giving each variety its characteristic flavour and aroma.
Hops provide bitterness to balance the sweetness of malt. They also add flavour and aroma and help stabilize and preserve beer.
The bitterness level of a beer is measured in International Bitterness Units (IBUs). The more IBUs a beer rates, the more bitter it will be on your palate. The concentration of alpha acids in the lupulin glands has a large bearing on the level of bitterness the hops may impart on the beer. A higher percentage of alpha acids in the hop and the longer the hop is boiled, the more bitter the final product tends to be.