As the brewing industry continues to explore ways of expanding the flavor profile of its beloved beers, engineers are working to unlock the potential of hops, the go-to ingredient for making beer. Beyond its traditional bitterness, flavor and aroma, hops provide a range of other benefits, including helpful foam stabilization and anti-bacterial protection. With further study, there could be even more great potential of hops to come, including antioxidants that can enhance body and flavor. As we venture into this new era of brewing, get ready for an entire revolution of hop-infused beers yet to come!
Hops are the unsung heroes of beer brewing. Their bitter, floral aromas and intense citrusy flavors add depth and complexity to beer. It also helps to preserve beer and keep it from going stale. It's no wonder hops have been used in beer making for centuries. But it is only in recent years that scientists have begun actively experimenting with hops to truly bring out its potential.
By engineering new varieties of hops, the brewing industry stands to benefit in a big way. In addition to their bittering, flavor, and aroma properties, hops help stabilize beer foam, kill unwanted bacteria, and, according to some studies, impart body-boosting antioxidants. Future breeds might bring an entire revolution to the brewing industry.
Thanks to advancements in genetic research, hop breeders now have the tools to identify and manipulate different traits in hops to give them desirable characteristics. Over the past decade, many new hybrid varieties have been created, creating a vast array of flavors and aromas that are popular among beer drinkers.
These new hops have been engineered to have higher levels of certain oils, such as linalool, geraniol, and myrcene. These oils help to contribute to a beer’s aroma and flavor, as well as balance out its bitterness. They also can produce beers with aromatic notes such as floral, spicy, citrusy, and fruity.
Certain types of hops are even bred for their preservative properties, giving beers a longer shelf life. Others are engineered to be disease- and drought-resistant, allowing farmers to coax out the best flavor in a variety of growing conditions.
There are two main types of hops: bittering hops and aroma hops. Bittering hops are added early in the beer-making process and they impart a strong, bitter flavor. These hops are generally categorized as alpha hops or beta hops. Alpha hops are known for their intense bitterness and are often used in IPAs and stouts.
Aroma hops, on the other hand, are added later in the brewing process and are known for their fragrant aromas. These hops often have high levels of desirable oils, such as myrcene, linalool, and geraniol. Aroma hops are often used in wheat beers, saisons, and Belgian-style ales.
Hop breeding offers numerous benefits for brewers. It allows them to create custom varieties of hops with specific characteristics that suit their beer styles. For example, some breweries may opt for hoppy beers with intense bittering or fruity aromas. Others may want to create beers with a unique terroir, like one featuring earthy flavors from a specific region.
Hop breeding also offers sustainability benefits. By creating disease- and drought-resistant varieties, farmers can cultivate hops with greater efficiency, leading to lower costs for brewers. Additionally, hop breeding gives brewers the ability to create unique, complex beers with distinct flavor profiles.
Hop breeding is still in its infancy and the possibilities of what can be achieved are limitless. Currently, scientists are working on creating more potent hops that can be used to create high-alcohol beers. They are also experimenting with techniques such as “flavor hopping,” which involves the use of hop extracts that are ethically sourced and highly concentrated in certain flavors.
In the near future, we can expect to see even more wild and exotic hops created to create one-of-a-kind beers and encourage brewers to push the boundaries of flavor. After all, hops are what make beer beer. And with the help of science, the possibilities of what can be achieved with hops are almost infinite.
Hop breeding might seem intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. Here are some steps to get you started: