Beer ingredients: All about hops

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In our latest upcoming blog series, we’ll be exploring the crucial ingredients that go into brewing beer. Up first are the humble hops, the essential ingredient that contributes to a beer’s distinctive flavour and acts as a stabiliser and preservative.

What are they?
Hops are the flower of the hop vine, Humulus Lupulus, which originated in China. Today these plants are grown the world over, particularly because of their use in beer brewing. Hop plants have male and female plants, which grow upwards in vines along specially constructed strings or wires in fields. Interestingly, only the female plants are used in brewing.

How are they added?
Hops play a key role in the brewing process. Once cultivated, the flowers are dried in oast houses or hop houses. When added during the brewing process, the hops are boiled with wort, a sugar-rich substance produced from malt. This mixture forms the basis of beer, and once cooled, yeast is added to begin fermentation.

What do they do?
The main function of hops is to add aroma to beer, including floral, herbal and citrus notes. Hops also add a bitter and tangy flavour; their bitterness helps to balance the sweetness of the malt.

Hops and St. Stefanus
During our brewing process, we add sulphates to the water to enhance the hops’ flavour. This process, called Burtonisation, helps to create the best chemistry for brewing high fermented beers like St. Stefanus.

Hops work to enhance the flavours and aromas in our beers, by giving citrus and caramel aromas to St. Stefanus Blonde, and in St. Stefanus Grand Cru, adding notes of fruits, herbs and honey.

Watch our video to find out more about the St. Stefanus brewing process.

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