The Language of Hops: How to Assess Hop Flavor in Hops and Beer

Georg Drexler (1), Elisabeth Wiesen (1), Mark Zunkel (1), Sebastian Hinz (1), Alicia Muñoz Insa (1), Victor Algazzali (2), Tim Kostelecky (2), and Christina Schönberger (1). 1. Joh. Barth & Sohn GmbH & Co. KG, Nuremberg, Germany. 2. John I. Haas Inc., Yakima, WA, U.S.A.
Hops are the soul of beer, yet not easy to characterize in terms of flavor expression. The aim of this work was to improve the way of describing the flavor of raw hops and hops in beer. In the last 10 years, the hop usage in brewing has changed tremendously. Before then, a subtle to moderate hop aroma achieved with kettle additions was standard. Now, with the importance of dry hopping and the addition of high amounts for hop aroma in the brewing process in general, the need for a uniform hop sensory language is apparent. Many of the new “flavor hop” varieties such as Citra®, Mosaic®, Galaxy™, Mandarina Bavaria, Monroe, or Relax do not allow an accurate evaluation with, for example, only five descriptors, as was done for a long time. If one uses only citrus, floral, hoppy, fruity, and herbal as descriptors, this nowadays is not enough information to assess the aroma and flavor of these intense hop varieties. With the help of flavorists and beer sommeliers, we have developed a tasting scheme for hops and hoppy beers that works with defining intensities for 12 aroma categories and identifying specific aroma attributes. This tasting scheme results in a defined aroma profile for the relevant hop variety or beer. It is meant to help speak the same language about hops so that an easier comparison of hop varieties and hoppy beers in a sensory context is possible.

Keywords: Hops, Flavor, Language of hops, Sensory evaluation, Aroma categorization