All About Hops: History, Fun Facts, Brewing with Hops

Close-up image of a man’s hands holding a bunch of hops on a farm.

When it comes to brewing the best beers, there is one ingredient that can make or break a brew. Although some people may not like hoppy beers, a beer without hops would taste sickly sweet. Different varieties of beer use various amounts of hops to achieve a sweeter or more bitter flavor. 

Let’s dive into this interesting plant used to flavor and stabilize beers all over the world. 

What are Hops?

Some might consider hops to be categorized as a vegetable, though others consider it a flower. Hops are the seed cones of the plant Humulus lupulus. They grow on bines. No, that’s not a spelling error, a bine is different from a vine in that it grows in a spiral clockwise motion and tends to be a much more vigorous climber. They can grow up to an astonishing 12 feet every day!

Hops are grown all over the world and come in many varieties. Over 75 varieties are grown to create different flavored beers. While it is possible to brew beer with herbs like heather in place of hops, an overwhelming majority of brewers will go with hops for their antibacterial properties, aromas, and spoilage prevention.   

More Than Just a Beer Ingredient

Besides making beer, the plant can also be used in a variety of other drinks, such as herbal teas and soft drinks. You can even eat the flowers. Young shoots of the plants are sometimes prepared in methods similar to asparagus.

The hops plant is a close cousin to cannabis, though without the psychoactive properties and TCH. Some people do use the herb as a sleep aid, though storing it under your pillow for better sleep is an old wives’ tale. Herbal medicines made with hops can treat anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia.

Lastly, scientists are experimenting with hops in hormone replacement therapy. It contains phytoestrogens, which act like female sex hormones and can be used to alleviate the symptoms of menopause.

When it comes to creating a deliciously hoppy beer, wood aging is a superior brewing method. Should a brewery use stainless steel tanks to craft their beers, we recommend supplementing with a wooden infusion spiral to better allow air ingress and to degrade the beer’s hop character in a shorter period.

Want to learn more about mastering the art of brewing? Contact the experts at Infusion Spiral