What is Hoppy Beer?

Hoppy beer is a type of beer that is characterized by its strong hop flavor and aroma as well as high bitterness level. Although the use of hops in beer has been around for hundreds of years the heavily hopped beer trend originated in the United States and has become increasingly popular in recent years.

Just like there are many types of hops, each with its own aroma and flavor characteristics, there are also many different styles of hoppy beers, each with its own unique flavor profile. In this blog post, we will answer the question of what is hoppy beer, we will discuss some of its histories, as well as take a look at some of the more famous brands of hoppy beers available on the market today…

What is Hoppy Beer?

Hoppy beer is a type of beer that has a distinct bitterness, flavor, and aroma originating from the use of hops during the brewing process. Hops are small, cone-shaped flowers used to add bitterness to a beer in order to balance out the sweetness from the malt as well as impart flavor and the hop’s distinctive aroma to the beer. Depending on the style of beer, different types of hops can be used to achieve the desired balance between bitterness, sweetness, flavor, and aroma.

A hoppy beer tends to have more intense hop flavors than other beers due to the strain of hop used as well as a higher proportion of hops used in the recipe. This can make for an especially bitter brew, with aromas and flavors ranging from citrusy, piney, passion fruit, or resinous to name just a few.

Hoppy beers can range from light ales such as American pale ales (APA) to super hoppy IPAs like NEIPAs and West Coast IPAs. They are brewed primarily for people who are looking for a beer with bold flavors and aromas.

What Does a Hoppy Beer Taste Like?

Hoppy beers typically have more aroma, flavor, and bitterness than other types of beer. They will generally have strong floral, herbal, piney, or citrus-like aromas and flavors but may also have grassy characteristics. Their bitterness can range from mildly noticeable to quite intense, but it should never be overpowering or unpleasant as the brewer should be able to balance it out with the sweetness from the malt.

The most common flavors associated with hoppy beers include citrus, pine, spicy, earthy, and tropical fruits, versus the more earthy flavors from noble hop varieties. Depending on the type of hops used in the beer-making process, additional flavors such as honey and caramel may also be present in the finished product.

When first trying hoppy beers it is recommended to start slow and work your way up, begin with trying an American pale ale, then move to an IPA and go from there.

You may find that the complexity of these flavors takes some getting used to, but taking the time to develop your palette may be worth it as you might discover like countless other people have that these styles of beer quickly become your favorite.

What Is The History of Hops in Beer?

Hops have been used in the making of beer for centuries, and the history of hoppy beer is as rich and complex as the beers themselves. Hops were first used to preserve beer; by adding hops during the brewing process, brewers found they could increase the shelf life of their brews. This led to an increase in popularity among travelers and merchants who wanted a beverage that would last and maintain its quality on longer journeys.

As time went on, consumers started demanding beers with more of the hop flavors and aromas, and as such brewers began using more and more hops in their recipes to enhance bitterness, flavor, and aroma. The result was hoppy beers with unique herbaceous, floral, passion fruit, tropical fruit, and citrus notes that quickly gained a devoted fan base.

The desire for ultra-hoppy beers originated in North America as brewers started experimenting with IPAs and consumers started falling in love with this unique take on the older beer style. As brewers continued to experiment with new flavors and aromas they discovered how the different hop varieties could offer an extensive range of flavors and aromas that when combined with other hops could create countless different styles of hoppy beers.

Contrary to what many beer drinkers think strong hop characteristics are not relegated to IPAs alone, from IPAs to Belgian-style saisons, and now hoppy lagers, the possibilities are endless with brewers continuing to experiment with hops and releasing new takes on old styles of beer on an almost daily basis.

What Styles of Beers Use the Most Hops?

India Pale Ale (IPA), Double IPAs, and Imperial IPAs are a few of the hoppiest styles of beer. 

A hoppy beer with hops all over it, next to the words what is hoppy beer.
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IPAs commonly have several hop additions during the brewing and fermentation process, with some IPAs having as many as 10 or 15 hop additions. Imperial IPAs, or Double IPAs, are even hoppier versions of the already strongly hopped IPA style. Imperials use more hops overall but also feature unique and intense flavors from different types of hops that are not often used in other beer styles.

Generally speaking, the more hops used in a beer, the higher its IBU, or International Bitterness Unit. The IBU of an IPA typically ranges from 40 to as high as 120 with reports of some versions coming in even higher. With IBUs this high it makes them the most bitter and heavily hopped beers on the market.

Other styles that use a considerable amount of hops are Extra Special Bitter (ESB) and American Pale Ale (APA). These beers typically use fewer hops than IPAs, but still feature a good amount of hop flavor and aroma. They tend to have an IBU range from 20-40, making them quite bitter.

On the other side of the spectrum are beers like Hefeweizen and Berliner Weisse, which contain little to no hop flavor or aroma due to their low IBU levels. These beers rely more on other ingredients such as wheat or rye to create flavor and aroma.

How Hoppy Beers Are Made

Like all beers, hoppy beer is made with 4 main ingredients, hops, barley, malt, and yeast.

Grains are first soaked or steeped in warm water, which creates a sugary liquid referred to as wort. This wort is then boiled. It is during the boil that the hops are first added.

Hops can be added at various times in the brewing process depending on what the brewer wishes for them to impart to the beer, either bitterness, flavor, or aroma.

During boiling, hops provide bitterness and flavor to the beer, and when added towards the end of the boil they add aroma. After the boil is complete the wort is chilled and transferred to a fermenter where yeast is added and the wort is fermented into beer.

During the first stage of fermentation, also referred to as primary fermentation, more hops are added for extra aroma and flavor; this is referred to as dry hopping. Brewers may also dry-hop during secondary fermentation or aging which provides even more intense aromas and flavors.

By experimenting with different types of hops and combinations of them craft brewers are able to create beers with varying flavor and aroma characteristics. The type of hop and combination of hopping techniques used in each batch of beer is how brewers control the final hop character.

Popular Brands of Hoppy Beer

Some of the more well-known examples of hoppy beers on the market are brewed by:

Sierra Nevada
Lagunitas Brewing
Stone Brewing
Green Flash Brewing co
and Bell’s Brewery.

All five of these breweries produce an array of popular styles such as APAs, IPAs (India Pale Ale), Double IPAs, Pale Ales, and Session IPAs. For the most part, all of their hoppy beers are known for having strong hop flavors, aromas, and high bitterness levels that complement and offset the sweetness or maltiness of the beer.

If you prefer an APA over an IPA but are still looking for a hoppy beer that has a balance of bitterness and sweetness, Sierra Nevada pale is an excellent beer with loads of hop flavors and aromas and is a great choice, they also have great selections of IPAs.

Lagunitas offers an array of hoppy beers that are incredibly aromatic with flavors like grapefruit and citrus. Their IPA has a citrus flavor and a piney aroma and is nicely balanced by its maltiness.

Stone Brewing is known for its West Coast-style IPAs, which are very hop-forward with robust bitterness. Stone IPA has an ABV of 6.7% and 71 IBUs, it is known for having tropical, citrus, and piney hop flavors and aromas with a subtle malt flavor.

Green Flash Brewing co’s beers are full of flavor and have intense aromas. They specialize in west coast IPAs, having a traditional west coast, a hazy west coast, and an imperial west coast IPA. Their original version is brewed with 6 varieties of hops which provide flavors and aromas of grapefruit, pine, and citrus.

Lastly, Bell’s Brewery has some amazing hoppy beers with big juicy tropical flavors and aromas. Their famous beer the Two Hearted Ale is an American IPA with an ABV of 7 %. They also have a session IPA that is bursting with flavor and aroma that comes in at 4.7%.

All five of these breweries are highly respected and well-known craft breweries offering an excellent selection of hoppy beers to choose from. If you’re looking for a new hop-forward beer to try you will not go wrong with any of their beers.

Last Call

Although there are many styles of hoppy beer when it comes right down to answering the question of what is hoppy beer, the answer is they are simply any beer that’s flavor and aroma are heavily influenced by the large amounts and type of hops used when making it, it will also typically have a higher-than-normal bitterness level.

In the majority of cases when people think of a hoppy beer, they are typically thinking of IPAs, of which there are many variations and styles, each with its own unique flavor and aroma profile as a result of the hops used when brewing it.

P.S. If you brew your own beer or want to start then be sure to pick up your gift of Big Robb’s top five favorite beer recipes from his brewpub. Details are on the side of the blog or at the bottom if you are on your phone. Cheers!

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