Hops are my favourite flowers. Capable of turning a brew from bland to sublime, they give beer its intoxicating aromas – everything from fresh and floral through citrus and tropical to herbal and spicy.
There are more than 200 hop varieties, each with its own unique qualities, which in turn are affected by the growing conditions, so the same variety grown in Washington State and Worcestershire will have different accents and aromas.
Hops grown in the Pacific Northwest of America have strong citrus, stone fruit, melon and piney qualities. With similar fruitiness, the hops of New Zealand and Australia come with more of a tropical lilt. In Germany and the Czech Republic, the classic hops are herbal, floral and grassy, with a bitter citrus depth. In Britain, traditional hops evoke an English garden, with flowers and leaves, stone fruit and berries, wood and spice. Look out, too, for new British varieties such as jester, harlequin, olicana and godiva, which have tropical aromas of passion fruit, pineapple, peach and lime.
As we ease into summer, we’re reaching for blonde ales, golden ales and modern hoppy pilsners, all pale, light and aromatic with fresh and fragrant hops.
Did you know?
Brewers add hops in varying amounts and combinations in the same way chefs add herbs, spices and seasonings. Hops are usually added during the boiling stage – the later the hops are added, the more aroma they give.
A ‘dry hopped’ beer means the hops were added very late (after boiling) – like a chef adding fresh herbs before serving a dish.
Five of the best hoppy beers
Fyne Ales Jarl, Scotland 3.8%
American citra hops give Jarl a mango, grapefruit and lemon aroma, showing off a big flavour for a lower-alcohol brew. Brilliant with burgers. Available from Fyne Ales (£1.85).
Utopian British Pilsner, England 4.4%
Its peach and gooseberry aromas come from jester, olicana and boadicea hops. Great with grilled halloumi and veg or juicy halloumi and sweet potato burgers. Available from Utopian Brewing (£13.80 for six).
Long Man Brewery Long Blonde, England 3.8%
Fresh with grapefruity cascade hops, with a crisp body of English malts and a citrus pith bitterness. One for fish and chips. Available from Long Man Brewery (£28 for 12).
Duration Cuttin’ Grass, England, 4.5%
This dry-hopped Pilsner has floral, grassy, lemon peel and bergamot aromas and a crisp herbal bitterness, all from German hops. Perfect with pizza. Available from Duration Beer (£4).
Hop Back Summer Lightning, England, 5.0%
This classic quenching Golden Ale is brewed with East Kent Golding hops, giving floral honey and dried orange aromas. Try with grilled lemon and herb chicken. Available from Waitrose (£1.80).