Are you a fan of craft beer? Then you’ve come to the right place! You may be familiar with some types of hops found in Canadian-made beers, but let’s take a deeper dive and explore the variety of flavours and aromas that can be added to different styles of brews using hops grown in Canada. Let’s hoppy-fy your taste buds!
Introduction to Hops
Hops are one of the four primary ingredients of beer – along with barley, yeast and water – and they play an important role in creating its unique flavour. Hops, also known as Humulus lupulus, are climbing vines that produce flowers called cones. Hops contain flavonoids and essential oils responsible for providing beer with bitterness, aroma and flavour, depending on the variety used.
Canada is home to several world-renowned hop varieties. Each type of hop has a unique set of characteristics that creates distinct aromas and flavours when used to brew beer. Subsequently, different styles of hops should be thoughtfully chosen based on their specific traits in order to create a balanced recipe tailored towards the desired flavour profile. There are six prominent hop types grown in Canada: Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Columbus (Tomahawk), Northern Brewer and Willamette.
Cascade hops are considered one the most popular varieties grown in Canada due to their bright fruity aroma that contributes notes of citrus fruits such as oranges or tangerines to beers. Centennial hops bring an intense bittering effect with subtle floral notes such as lavender making them suitable for brewing American Pale Ales or IPA’s due to their intense bitterness at alpha acid levels higher than 10%. Chinook hops have high alpha acid content making them ideal for bittering but also provide a pleasant piney character when added during boil or dry hopping offering the sensation of evergreen undertones combined with subtle hints of spices like black pepper or clove aftertaste.
History of Hops in Canada
Hops have been cultivated in Canada since the late 19th century, first in Québec and later in Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta. Since then, hops have been an integral part of Canadian brewing culture. Hops from eastern Canada are renowned for their robust flavour and high alpha acid content, while hops from western Canada tend to be spicier and more earthy.
In recent years, the craft beer movement has caused a surge in demand for hops. To meet this increased demand, numerous small-scale hop farms have emerged across the country to supply craft brewers with locally grown varieties. In addition to those plants that were already present in the region, new varieties are being imported from Europe and the United States to create unique flavour profiles that reflect local terroir.
This growing diversity of local hops has inspired brewers to experiment with new recipes using exotic flavours such as citrus and floral notes. By supporting local farmers as well as through continued innovation in hop production methods, Canadian brewers are continuing to give traditional and newly crafted beers distinctive flavours specific to our nation's culture.
Varieties of Hops Found in Canada
Hops have been used in brewing beer since the Middle Ages, but their role has changed dramatically over time. With the rise of craft beer, brewers now have an extensive variety of hops to choose from to achieve a desired flavour profile. Canada has its own distinct variety of hops due to its temperate climate and long growing season.
The four basic types of hops that can be found in Canadian breweries are aroma, bittering, dual-purpose, and specialty hops. Aroma hops produce fragrant aromas and subtle flavours like honeydew melon, lemon grass and grapefruit. Bittering hops are used for boiling beer to add balance between sweetness from the malt and hoppy bitterness for a clean finish. Dual-purpose hops can do both depending on when you add them during the process. Specialty hops add interesting flavours like saffron or licorice that can create unique beer styles not found anywhere else in the world.
A few of the most popular varieties of seasonal Canadian grown hops include Cascade, Norther Brewer, Centennial Chinook, Columbus or Tomahawk, Amarillo, Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe, Willamette. Depending on where you are in Canada, these varieties may vary as some regions prefer certain varieties over others. It is important to ask your local craft brewery what type of hop they use so you can get the exact flavour profile you want from your beer.
Growing and Harvesting Hops in Canada
Hops are a key ingredient in beer, as they provide flavours ranging from citrus to pine. Canada’s cool climate provides a unique geography for growing and harvesting hops to create amazing craft beers.
Hops have been grown in Canada since the early-1800s, but were traditionally sourced from the United States until the late 20th century. Nowadays, Canadian craft brewers are embracing local hops and producing flavourful beers with an unmistakable Canadian character and quality. Numerous varieties of hop plants can be found in Canada, each producing distinct aromas and flavours that differentiate their beers from the typical global brews. This means you can expect any brew made with Canadian-grown hops to be fresh, flavourful and locally inspired!
The types of hops grown in Canada vary depending on geography and climate. Hops have been divided into two major types: Aroma Hops (also known as Noble Hops) and Specialty Hops (also known as Exclusive Aroma Hops), both of which produce different flavours when used in brewing.
Aroma hops are more commonly found across Canada and include varieties such as Willamette, Cascade, Centennial and Columbus. These varieties offer pleasant aromas of floral heather or earthy licorice root when used wisely by expert brewers.
Specialty Hop varieties come from specific farms; each variety has individual characteristics that make it attractive to brewers seeking something unique - such as Nelson Sauvin, Mosaic or Galaxy - which are popular for their tropical fruit aroma/flavour profiles or Sorachi Ace for its unique lemon flavour notes. Specialty Hop usage is rapidly growing across North America due to the versatility hop oils can add to any beer style - adding depth to a pale ale or complexity to any IPA!
Brewing with Hops in Canada
The use of hops in brewing is a centuries-old tradition, and the unique characteristics of hops help to create the distinct flavour profiles of craft beers. Canada is a major producer of hops with dozens of varieties available for purchase at local home brew stores. As a brewer, it can be difficult to choose which variety will provide the desired flavour profile for your beer. To assist in making this decision, it is important to understand the types of hops available and how they are used in brewing.
Aroma Varieties: Aroma varieties are most commonly used for both bittering and flavouring in Canadian craft beer recipes. Popular choices include Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, Columbus, Cluster and Tomahawk. Aroma varieties are low on Alpha Acid content and have base bitterness ratings between 4-6%. These varieties contain a higher level of essential oils which adds complexity to Canadian beers.
Alpha Varieties: Alpha varieties contain higher levels of Alpha Acid content which makes them ideal for bittering recipes. Popular choices include Zeus, Magnum, Nugget, Galena and Warrior which can range anywhere from 8-14% base bitterness rating depending on usage in the boil or dry hop cycles.
Dual Purpose Varieties: Dual purpose varieties such as Willamette, Northern Brewer and Mount Hood provide brewers with a balanced bitterness/aroma combination due to their moderate alpha acid content (6-8%). These versatile hops work well when bittering complex malt bills or adding hop aromatics during whirlpool/dry hopping phases.
Specialty Hops: Specialty varieties such as Chinook DDH (Double Dry Hopped), Vic Secret Cryo(all) or Riwaka Cryo(all) strain feature intense aromatics that create layered depth to modern beer styles like New England IPA’s or Milkshake IPAs. They can also be used as stand-alone additions for single hop efforts balancing tropical fruit & citrus qualities with an assertive bitterness level that works very well in various light lagers & ales!
Health Benefits of Hops
Hops, a type of herb belonging to the cannabis family, have long been used in the production of beers to create bitterness and enhance the flavour. Native to Northern Europe, Asia, and North America, hops are also known to have many beneficial health properties.
Hops contain flavonoids and phenolic acids which act as antioxidants in the body, helping reduce inflammation and oxidative damage. Hops also have antibacterial effects that may be useful in preventing cavities and other dental diseases. Hop derived compounds are also known to affect neural pathways involved in learning and memory as well as provide some relief from symptoms associated with neurological disorders such as anxiety and depression.
For many Canadian craft breweries, local hop varieties play an important role in creating unique varieties of beer that differentiate their product from competitors. From East coast-style pale ales made with Fuggles or Cascade hops, to darker stouts containing Chinook or Willamette hops; no matter where you are in Canada there is likely a beer available with locally sourced hop varieties.
Not only can you enjoy a great tasting variety of beers brewed with Canadian Hops but these hops come with added health benefits too!
Environmental Impact of Hops Production in Canada
Hops production in Canada has been steadily increasing due to the high consumer demand for craft beer. Hops are used to give beer its unique complex flavour, and they also act as a natural preservative and provide a unique bitterness and aroma. However, while hops production has many benefits, it can also have serious environmental consequences if appropriate measures are not taken.
To ensure sustainable practices, hop producers need to focus on energy efficient irrigation systems and responsible pesticide usage to reduce water consumption and contamination. In addition, careful consideration of the climate is essential for successful hop yield; shortages in water supply or longer dry seasons can cause significant challenges for hop farming in different regions of the country.
The Canadian Hop Growers Association (CHGA) sets industry standards that promote best practices related to hops farming that allow producers to effectively balance quality production with environmental responsibility. These standards include:
- Reducing the negative impact of insecticides on important pollinator species.
- Reducing water pollution through preventative measures such as proper nitrogen storage techniques.
- Encouraging soil conservation techniques such as minimum tillage practices and crop rotation techniques.
The CHGA also works with growers across Canada to ensure that these environmental regulations are met, which helps protect both human health and native habitats from potential damage caused by intensive hops production.
The types and varieties of hops used in Canadian craft beer have evolved as rapidly as the craft beer scene itself.
The majority of commercial-grade beers still rely on imported hops from Germany, America, and other countries, but an increasing number of craft brewers are beginning to employ more locally sourced hop varietals in their recipes. This shift has resulted in an incredible diversity of popular hop types found throughout Canada, ranging from the mild Spalt to the intense Simcoe.
No matter the style or variety of hops used, all Canadian hopped beers have their own distinct characteristics that appeal to a wide range of tastes and preferences. The combination of skillful brewing techniques and diverse selection of high-quality ingredients continues to entice local and international tastebuds alike.