Hops are known as a key ingredient for making beer. It has three main roles: to provide the bitter taste, to add a layer of citrusy or fruity flavor, and to act as a stability agent. Before the use of hops, beer was made using a combination of various bitter herbs and flowers, but when they discovered that hops can make beers last longer, many stopped using herbs and flowers and used hops instead.
During the 1400s, beers from Holland made from hop had reached Britain. How it was received is uncertain, what is sure is that Norwich banned the use of hops in making beer in 1471 and the hop plant was described as a wicked and pernicious weed in 1519. But Protestants would prefer beers made from hops, probably because there is no tax on hops to be paid to the Catholic church.
Species: H. lupulus
Binomial Name: Humulus lupulus
- Hops are dioecious. This means that a plant is either male or female.
- Growth spurt: hops can be a foot taller in 24 hours!
- There is an old practice of placing hops under the pillow to get a good night’s sleep.
Hops Buying Guide
Since hop is not a common household item for cooking or eating, these are not sold in groceries and supermarkets as you would other herbs or vegetables. Breweries source hop from growers, who grow one or several of these different types of hops categorized based on the country from which the variety came from.
- New Zealand
Hops Production & Farming in Texas
By 1524, the cultivation of hops started in Kent thanks to Dutch farmers settling there, making the country less dependent on importing hops from France, Holland, and Germany. In turn, English farmers alongside Dutch farmers began the cultivation of hops in the present-day United States in 1629, specifically in New York (which struggled with powdery mildew and downy mildew in the 1920s), California, Oregon, and Washington.
In Texas, large-scale commercial growing of hops is hampered by one major obstacle: daylength. It grows dark too soon. There are solutions like using grow lights which have to be turned on from 8 p.m. till midnight for 6 weeks, but it poses problems on the cost and impact on residents living nearby. Somehow, some growers were able to find a workaround, and hops are grown in select parts of Texas (like central Texas and west Austin) in recent years, although for local consumption and use mostly.
The upside of having Texas breweries use locally-sourced hops is impacting carbon footprint. Transporting hops from sources outside of Texas requires the burning of jet fuel. If sources are available inside the state, it provides for a more eco-friendly and sustainable dynamic.
The space where you grow hops is called by many names: hopfield, hop garden, or hop yard. The basic requirement is access to direct sunlight for as long in a day as possible. Space for vertical growth is also important since hop plants are known as vigorous climbers. The soil should be loamy with a pH of 6.5 to 8 fertilized with potassium, phosphates, and nitrogen in the form of manure compost and commercial fertilizer.
Downy mildew (Pseudoperonospora humuli) is a common problem for hops growers. To address this, the use of various chemicals are necessary, including the following:
- Copper hydroxide fungicide
- Fungicide with metalaxyl as an active ingredient
- Aluminum tris
In Europe, the main importation of hops originates from any of these locations: Hallertau (Germany), the Žatec (Czech Republic), Kent, Herefordshire, and Worcestershire (UK). In the US, hops are grown in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. In 2017, the US leads all countries in hop production.
Once cones are removed from the vines during harvest, it is placed inside a burlap or plastic bag called bales. Homebrewing or micro-breweries buy hops packed in N2 purged, vacuum sealed poly, Mylar, or foil bags. The size of the bag varies; from small bags that can load a few ounces to bigger bags with a carrying capacity of 110 kg (242 lb.) usually used for large commercial brewers.
Because hops are always associated with beer, it is not surprising if we don’t see it as an edible item. Opinion varies regarding eating hops. Some discourage ingesting hops because it will result in headaches and stomach problems. Others believe hop shoots are edible and should be recognized as regular food to eat. This is cooked the same way as asparagus. If you have cats or dogs at home, make sure they do not eat hops because this is dangerous for animals. Some breeds of cats and dogs that ingest hops can suffer a fatal condition known as malignant hyperthermia.
Hops are used to make herbal tea, while in some select countries, hops are used to make soft drinks like Julmust (a Swedish soft drink which is popular during December), Malta (a Latin American soft drink), and kvass (Russia).
Ideally, hops should be stored in temperatures of 1°C-5°C (or lower) at all times. An important thing to consider about hops storage is knowing how a particular variety responds to oxidation so that a more appropriate storage condition is put in place to avoid losing quality. Breweries that need hops in optimum quality seal hops in oxygen barrier laminated foils that have been back-flushed with carbon dioxide. Storing hops this way helps the hops retain its quality. Hops sealed in unopened foils resting at a 1°C-5°C temperature will hold for three years. Once the foil pack is opened and there are unused hops inside, quickly reseal using a commercial chamber vacuum sealer and return to storage temperatures of 1°C-5°C (or lower). This will make the hops last for two months. Make sure to mark the bags after resealing to know if the hops inside are still good or spoiled.
Harvest the earliest shoots appearing in the spring. This should be purple. You can also harvest in late spring but make sure to snap off the soft green tips only. You can eat it as it is. Wash it clean and it is good to go. It should taste like green beans. You can add this to your vegetable salad also, or saute in olive oil. If you want to add a smoky flavor to it, you can also grill it. If you enjoy eating pickled food, go ahead and pickle hop shoots!
The hop is a source of minerals and vitamins (C, E, and B6). A particular interest in hops is the nutrients found in it that have antioxidant properties that help protect the body from many different kinds of diseases as well as boost the immune system and slow down the body’s aging process.
Studies are being made regarding the use of hops for potential relief of menstruation-related problems. When used as herbal medicine, hops helps treat anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia.
When Are Hops in Season in Texas?
To find out when Hops are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.