Mission Status: By 2010, crew expanded to 13. Customer Service Agents long for deep hibernation. Total beer kits sold each year measure in hundreds... OF THOUSANDS.
Mission Analysis: Brew. Bottle. Repeat as neccessary.
You may have noticed that we’ve been slowly, quietly and purposefully stocking up on hops for quite a while now. Please, don’t be alarmed, this is just part of our plan for complete world domination—err, I mean for spreading hoppy cheer across the land.
In conjunction with this incredible increase in available hop varieties, you may have noticed that our recommended hop additions for certain recipes have changed. In most cases, we are merely returning recipes to their former (pre- Great Hop Shortage of ’08) glory. In a few instances, we said, “Hey! Columbus would really kick this IPA up a notch…” or something like that.
So now that we have all these hops, what are we gonna do with them? Make some hoptastic beer, of course! Before we do, let’s talk a bit about what hops are and what they do for us.
Hops are the flower cones found on female plants of the species (Humulus lupulus). The hop plant is a climbing, perennial vine, growing up to 25 feet in a single season. They are grown on large trellises, not unlike grapes in a vineyard. So what exactly are these flowers good for?
Here's a basic overview of the anatomy of a hop flower. The cone consists of a strig, or central stem (if you will) that runs down the center of the cone. From this strig emerge the bracts, or tough outer leaves/petals (which protect the tender inside bits from harm), as well as the bracteoles, which are smaller inner petals with lupulin glands huddled near the base. Lupulin glands are sticky, yellow globules that carry all of the hard resins (alpha and beta acids, which ultimately provide the bitterness) and soft resins (which provide volatile aromatic and flavorful compounds). Essentially, lupulin glands are the object of every brewer's desire.
Continuing on, we'll take a closer look at each of the parts and pieces of the cone, so we all have a better idea of what these things are all about.