Hops play a crucial role in the flavor profile of beer, and with the rise of the craft beer industry, hop varieties have taken center stage. While beer can be traced back to the days of hunter-gather tribes eking out an existence 9,000 years ago, hops are not recorded as a brewing ingredient until the 9th century. Pliny the Elder is credited with first cataloguing the plant in the 1st century. He was a Roman academic, and he described it as a naturally growing plant with no reference to its use in beer. He perished in dramatic fashion during the eruption of Mount Vesuvias and the destruction of Pompeii. His part in the history of hops has been recognized respectfully by Russian River Brewing and the famously hoppy Pliny the Elder Double IPA.
Hops were used to cure sleeplessness and settle upset stomachs through Roman times, but in 822 CE we get our first record of them used in brewing out of Picardy in northern France. A Benedictine Abbot by the name of Adalhard wrote instructions about harvesting both wild and domestic hops to use in beer. It isn’t clear if it was being used as a preservative or a flavor enhancement, but it did begin to slowly replace the mix of spice and fruit that had been used to preserve beer for centuries. After a few hundred years the practice spread to Germany, and after an English invasion of Picardy in the 16th century, ‘hopped’ beer began to spread across the English Channel.
With all that history, it is really only in the last 40 years that hops have gone under the microscope. The USDA and Oregon State University released the Cascade hop in 1971, Centennial and Crystal hops were released in the 90’s, and since then the floodgates have opened for all sorts of new and exciting types.
Here you will find information on some of the more popular hops used in brewing today. This list is still a work in progress.