Beer is made using four primary ingredients, namely yeast, barley, water and hops. Hops are flowers, shaped like cones, that come from the Humulus lupulus plant. They contain oils and acids that add the bitterness, flavor and stability to beer. They are generally added during boiling and need some time before they can release their “magic.”
For a small brewery, you can choose to buy hops by the pound. This way, you can control how much you spend on the ingredient versus how much beer you produce. The following are the different types of hops you can find in the market.
These hops usually have the cone dried and processed to some level. Typically, the growers pick the cone from the tree and dry it. Some of them choose to press the cones and package into quarter, half or full bales. Different markets will measure the weight of the bale and set a price against that. The cost of a quarter or half a bale will be the concurrent percentage of the full amount.
You can buy these hops only during the harvesting period. Due to the state they come in, you must use them soon. They are perishable. Wet hops are commonly sold in loose packs and have the prices set based on their moisture content. Note that these hops are perfect for use towards the end of the manufacturing process. Their freshness makes them able to inject unique character to the beer.
Plug and Pellets
Plugs are not a standard form, but they do exist in some markets. They are sold in small bales and are sometimes even measured in grams. They are perfect for making ale. Pellets, on the other hand, are perfect for a small brewery. Pellets are made from shredded dry hops. They are sticky, a factor that holds them together so that they need no binding agents. They are excellent for buying in bulk because they are easy to store and occupy little space. However, pellets can disintegrate if stored for a long time.
Commercial breweries prefer to use hops extracts. There are also retailers who stock the extracts to sell to small scale and home brewers. These extracts make it possible to regulate the amount of bitterness you add to your beer. Since they are standardized, you simply consider the percentage of acids in a scoop and do the math. Extracts are popular because they bring the flavor of hops to the brew and do not introduce vegetal matter. They are a perfect fit for brewing styles that need a high level of bitterness.
There are powder products that exist in the market that lower the storage space you will need for the product. Here, you determine the amount to use by weight and enjoy the benefits of aroma and flavor without vegetal off-flavors. Additionally, you can save on the yield lost when removing vegetal matter.
Knowing your basic beer style will help you determine what kind is best for you. You will also have to think about the level of bitterness you want. As you have noticed, every form of the hops plant comes with a set of pros and cons.