Hoppy Beer: What it is, Taste and Brands

Hoppy Beer

What is Hoppy Beer?

Hoppy beer, as the name suggests, uses hops as a major ingredient in beer. Hops are green cones, resembling pine cones, that come from the Humulus Lupulus plant, inside which are sticky yellow pods called lupulin.

These pods contain resin, which is the source of alpha acids, and essential oils that give the beer a bitter and flavorful taste along with a distinct aroma. Since they enhance flavor, hops are known as beer spice. Aside from the flavor and aroma, hops also act as a preservative. 

While beer is as old as the dawn of civilization, hops are a recent addition. The first evidence of their use comes from the 8th century, i.e. the middle ages, when monks from the Benedictine monastery used wild hops for brewing beer.

Before hops, gruit, a mixture of local spices and herbs containing mugwort, yarrow, sweet gale, heather, and others, was used to preserve the beer and add bitterness and flavor to it. While hops weren’t well received initially, the 21st century saw a rapid rise in their use. 

Addition of Hops in Beer

Alpha acids do not dissolve very easily in water and hence need to be boiled in a mixture of water, grain, and grain sugar called a wort. This happens before fermentation.

The bitterness of the beer will depend on how long the hops are boiled in the wort. Longer boiling results in a higher IBU or International Bitterness Unit. If you want to make the beer less bitter but more flavorful and a little aromatic, hops should be added when boiling is almost done. 

It is preferable to use low-medium heat for boiling the wort as opposed to a high flame for two important reasons. The first is to make sure that the enzymes don’t denature and the two main enzymes in beer are alpha amylase and beta amylase.

The second is that boiling the wort leads to the coagulation of tannins and protein, leading to a foam buildup on the surface. As this foam expands due to the trapped water vapor, the mixture can overflow resulting in wastage and a complete mess. 

Fermentation begins when yeast is added to a cooled wort. Hops added after fermentation, called dry hops, make the beer more aromatic.

Categories of Hops

Hops are either the aromatic kind or the bitter kind, but they can be both as well. Aromatic hops give the beer a distinctive aroma and have a lower level of alpha acid, meaning they do not make the beer too bitter. Cascade hops are a popular example of this kind. Bitter hops, on the other hand, add bitterness to the liquid as they have a higher amount of alpha acid. A well-known bitter hop is Magnum hop.

What does Hoppy Beer taste like?

Hoppy beer tastes amazing thanks to the bitterness, aroma, and flavor that the hops bring. Plus, the bitterness balances out perfectly with the sweetness from the malt. Aside from the bitterness, the beer can taste like citrus or pine, or have an earthy, floral, or fruity sensation depending on the kind of hops used in the process. The aroma and flavors come from the terpenes in the hops. Two examples of terpenes that give a citrusy flavor are Valencene and Limonene.

Hoppy Beer Brands and the International Bitterness Unit

You can tell whether a beer brand is hoppy by looking at its International Bitterness Unit or IBU. This can go from zero all the way up to infinity. Beer is really hoppy if it has an IBU of 25 or above. The more hops used in the recipe, especially early on when the wort is being boiled, the more the beer will be bitter and hence higher the IBU. While almost all beers contain hops, brands with an IBU of less than 25 will not be considered hoppy because you won’t be able to taste the hops.

Beers that are the hoppiest include ales, IPAs, pale ales, and stouts. Examples include Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Guinness, which is a stout beer, and Goose Island IPA.

The Least Hoppy Beers

The BJCP or Beer Judge Certification Program says that Bock, Rye, German Wheat, and Sour Ales have the lowest hop flavor, and the ones with zero bitterness include Dark Lager and Sour Ales. Beers that are non-aromatic include Bock, Strong Ale, German wheat, Rye, Sour Ale, Porter, and European Amber Lager.

Hoppy Bear FAQ

Is Lager a Hoppy Beer?

Lager beers require colder temperatures to ferment and use yeast that ferments at the bottom. With a low IBU (ranging from 8 to 18), lagers are some of the least hoppy beers around. An example is the Sapporo Premium beer. If you don’t like your beer bitter, then you will like lager. 

Is Coors Light a Hoppy Beer?

Coors Light is a light lager and has an IBU of 10, making it a beer that is not hoppy. It is an adjunct lager according to the Beer Judge Certification Program, which means that it uses ingredients like rice or corn (non-malt fermentable). While brewing and packaging, the beer is kept cold for a fresh, crisp, and light taste.

Is Blue Moon a Hoppy Beer?

Blue Moon is a non-hoppy white beer with an IBU of 9. It contains coriander, orange peel, wheat, and malted barley, and the wheat and orange peel give it sweetness and a citrus flavor. 

Is Budweiser a Hoppy Beer?

Budweiser is not classified as a hoppy beer since its IBU is only 12. It’s a pale lager that doesn’t use a lot of hops, has been around since 1876, and is quite popular due to heavy marketing. It contains water, rice, hops, barley malt, and yeast.


The most common hops (70%) used in the production are Saaz, Tettnanger, and Hallertau while others (30%) come either from Europe or are the non-Germanic and high-alpha varieties such as Willamette. The hops are only used as a preservative and not for giving the beer flavor, taste, or aroma.

Whether you like hoppy beer or not is a matter of personal choice or preference, but it’s interesting how the discovery of hops has led to so many varieties of beer that we know today.

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