For those who wish to know a little more in-depth information about one of the core ingredients brewers use on a daily basis, please read on. For those who don’t, no worries. Its really just beer nerd stuff anyway. This post takes a little closer look at hops and breaks down their contributions based on what is called a Certificate of Analysis.
Each hop grower who sells hops on the professional market provides what is called a Certificate of Analysis for each hop. Many brewers use the information on said Certificate for many reasons including recipe development and making changes on the fly to existing recipes. All of the information provided on the Certificate of Analysis can be a little intimidating but there are a few core pieces of information that can be very useful and applied to every recipe.
The first section of the Certificate will provide a brewer with the date of the certificate, the lot number, specific variety (Chinook in this case), crop year, product type and the date the analysis was performed. All of this information stays the same until a new crop year analysis is performed on the same variety or the lot number changes for the same crop year.
The second section of the analysis is the nitty gritty information that every brewer drools over. Crop year is something to definitely pay attention to since we all want the freshest of the fresh hops, right? But traits such as alpha and beta acid content and total oil amount provide brewers with most of the information they will need when putting together a recipe or altering an existing recipe.
Alpha acid content will essentially tell a brewer how much a particular hop will contribute bitterness to the final product. Alpha acid content in hops can range from as low as 2% to as high as 20%. In general, the lower the alpha percentage the more one will have to use. The higher the alpha content, the less you will have to use. Again, these are just general parameters and every brewer wants something different for their beers. In general, you don’t have to worry about Beta acid content too much. Think of beta acids as a buffer for when you’re aging a beer for an extended period of time. Beta acids don’t isomerize in boiling wort but they do oxidize in solution over a period of time. So, while they don’t contribute bitterness during the boiling process, their exposure to oxidation in solution will eventually offer some bittering affect to the final product. For most of us, the total oils measured for a hop variety is where the hop really has an opportunity to shine. If you’re making a super juicy hazy IPA, a high total oil amount is what you want. In a nutshell, the total oils represent the amount of all the essential oils that are present in that specific variety. Some oils affect aroma and flavor while others are not perceivable at their specific levels or not at all. The total oil amount is also a trait that is affected by factors such as varietal and growing location. Keep in mind, the total oils amount itself does not indicate which flavors or aromas that varietal will provide. There are dominant and less dominant oils in every hop that offer different perceptions.
All of that being said, if you’re interested, please take a look at the Certificate of Analysis for Chinook. There is so much more to be said about the biochemical composition of hops. But I hope whoever reads this was able to use this as a launching point for further discovery. After familiarizing yourself with some of the content, try looking up other analyses for your favorite hops. You might be surprised by what you find. Information on hop analyses can be found at Yakima Chief Hops and Yakima Valley Hops websites.