With summer in full swing we see alcohol consumption go up, but despite the gallons of beer people drink many will have never even seen a hop. Knowledge of what actually goes into our beer has spread over the past couple of years, but how and what exactly these ingredients come from is still not common knowledge. Hop plants are bines which grow up structures by wrapping themselves around them. At one time just considered another weed, they eventually showed to have useful properties in cooking and eventually brewing.
Hop plants come from the genus Humulus, with the variety commonly used for brewing being Humulus Lupulus. They prefer a temperate climate which is partly why they flourished in Europe. As you likely know there are a huge variety of hops, so of course we need to name them. It is usually only the female hops which are given a name, the male varieties don’t flower and are really only important for breeding. The male will instead be named after the female or not named at all. Much of the time when you look up the history of a hop you’ll see it came from an “unspecified male hop”, poor thing robbed of its place in history.
All hops varieties started with the noble hops. These are the older varieties, usually found wild a very long time ago. The propagation likely changed them a bit but they have become mostly standardised these days. The European Noble hops are Hallertau, Saaz, Splat and Tettnang. There are also the English Noble hops, Fuggles and Goldings. From these all other hops are in some way related, for example Cascade is a relative of Fuggles. But it is also common that two descendants will be used for breeding. Noble hops are simply the origin of the varieties we use today.
Of course there will also be variation between the same varieties. The most obvious example would be Goldings and East Kent Goldings. To most people there is very little difference between them, though you can make others very angry by saying that. The main difference is where they are grown. East Kent is grown exclusively in, well you should be able to guess that one. Now the difference this can make should not be ignored, the soil composition, weather and how a plant is looked after can have large effects on the hops produced. This applies to any hop. But this does show how seriously some people take their hops, what could be considered a very minor difference is a very important distinction to some.
Hops are deciduous, which means they will only grow in the spring and summer while they die back in winter. When they do grow though it is incredibly rapid, over night you can see them shoot up a trellis. They are pretty hardy plants but like everything will require watering in extreme temperatures.
Being such easy plants to grow hops are a great addition to any garden. Whether you are a brewer looking to grow your own, or just a keen gardener looking for something different. Hops are gaining popularity as we see a rising interest in craft beers. We currently have a batch in stock so check out what is in season.