What Are Hops?
They’re vibrantly green, cone shaped, and in our opinion, one of the most important parts of any beer. You guessed it. We’re talking about hops — the little powerhouses packed with oils and flavors.
Whatever your favorite beer style is, whether it’s an IPA, a lager, or a stout, you have hops to thank for making your delicious brew possible.
With some beer styles, hop flavors are more potent than others. Have you ever taken a sip of an IPA and thought, “Wow, this tastes hoppy,” but after the fact, you weren’t really sure why or what “being hoppy” means? Well, we’re going to walk you through everything you need to know about these little, flavorful flowers and give some insight into how we use them here at Hi-Wire Brewing.
What are Hops Used for?
Hops are the hanging flowers of the Humulus lupulus plant. They’re a climbing perennial, and tucked inside each cone are tiny yellow pods called lupulin which contain resin and essential oils — the driving source of bitterness, aroma, and flavor in all of your favorite beers. And craft brewers especially love lupulin to pack flavor into IPAs.
Near or far, you can find hops growing all over the world. But for most American craft beer (and for our beers,) brewers source hops from the beautiful Pacific Northwest where the climate is milder, and rain is more predictable. Both factors create the perfect conditions for growing juicy, flavorful hops.
Types of Hops Used in Our Lineup of Hi-Wire Brewing Beers
Every year, our team here at Hi-Wire takes a trip to “The Evergreen State” for the annual hop harvest, where we get to go through and smell, rub, and test out various hops to make sure they’re going to give us the aromas and flavors we want in our recipes.
There are a whopping 250 different varieties of hops, but for our beers, we use six main types: Columbus, Centennial, Citra, Simcoe, Tettnanger, and Mosaic hops. Each of these varieties contribute different flavor notes and aromas to our beers. Here’s a little breakdown so you know what hops go into making some of your Hi-Wire favorites.
For any IPA, bitterness is key, so we use Columbus hops to give our IPAs that classic bite. Columbus hops are actually in most of our beers, to not only give bitterness, but earthy and spicy notes too.
Are you a big fan of our Hi-Pitch IPAs? You have Mosaic and Centennial hops to thank for them! The Mosaic variety offers notes of berry, stone fruit and a nice sweetness. And then we use Centennial hops to add woodiness and citrus notes to round out our two Hi-Pitch IPAs.
For those who enjoy sipping on a cool Hi-Wire Lager, Tettnanger hops are the main flavor contributor here. They give off floral notes, earthiness, and a hint of citrus. Fun fact: these hops cross the Atlantic and come to us all the way from Germany.
Lo-Pitch fans, raise your hand! This beloved IPA uses Citra hops to add a citrusy, lemon zest aroma and Simcoe hops for piney and earthy flavors with a little touch of grapefruit.
When we’re searching for perfect hops, whether we’re looking for citrus notes for our Lo-Pitch Hazy IPA or bitterness for our Double Hi-Pitch IPA, one thing always steers us in the right direction: our tried and true recipes. We want the beers you love to taste exactly the same, year after year, so we’re really particular about choosing hops that match the flavors in our recipes to stay true to our brand and our delicious beers.
Hops in Beer: Flavor to the Max
From our Bed of Nails brown ale to our Hi-Pitch Mosaic IPA, hops make these beers burst with flavor. To get that iconic “hoppiness,” the magic happens during the brewing process.
Inside the tiny particles of resin are acids that aren’t very water soluble, so when our brew team wants to bring out bitterness, they add hops during the kettle boil. However, sometimes our brewers want to utilize the essential oils in hops too which are far more volatile and can boil away. In this case, when the brew team wants to bring out specific flavors or aromas in a particular beer (like the earthy, fruity, or citrus flavors we love), our team adds hops either during fermentation — also known as dry hopping — or after fermentation. That’s why when you’re sipping on our Double Hi-Pitch IPA or our Lo-Pitch Hazy IPA, you’ll notice some really bright citrus aromas that make these beers so hoppy and delicious.
What do Hops Taste Like?
This is a question we hear a lot, especially from folks who are a little hesitant to dip their toes into the world of IPAs. Some people can’t get enough of the bitter, floral qualities of hops, and some turn the other way and stick to light beers, like Mountain Water, that have all the flavor and none of the bitterness. Whatever your preference, we say keep on enjoying your favorites! But if you’re a first-timer to hoppy beers and feeling curious, here’s what you can expect.
Right off the bat, hoppy beers hit you with delicious notes of tropical fruit, citrus, and stone fruit — that’s typically a guarantee. But there’s a good reason for it too. These hop flavors help create the perfect juiciness while balancing bitterness and that classic malt backbone.
As you can see from the many different varieties we use, hops play a big role in flavor. And we like to get creative with our flavors, so our brew team often experiments with different hops. Our head specialty brewer, Peter, will often play around with new varieties of hops as he works on new beer recipes. Thanks to our South Slope Specialty Brewery, we’re able to experiment with small batches of hops (around 40 pounds or so) to work on making new, creative beer recipes for you to enjoy.
Try Some Hi-Wire Brewing Hops!
Now that you’re an expert on hops, we hope you’ll have some fun doing a little taste test of your own. Check out our beer finder to grab a pack of our Hi-Pitch Mosaic IPA or our Hi-Wire Lager to see what flavor notes you can guess, or come in and grab a pint in one of our taprooms. We hope to see you soon. Cheers!