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Volume 35, Number 2, 1998, Pages 55-57
The Nobel Hop. The Vitality of Beer

By T. Inglis

Malt is the soul of beer and yeast gives it life but the kiss of the hop is the vitality of that life. Many beer purists believe that a really good brew signals its quality by it's hoppy "Nose." The level of maltiness and other flavor factors in the overall mix may give a brew many special qualities but the hops are the key to the aroma and bitterness, which together is an acquired taste that is internationally more acceptable to the working man than any other alcoholic beverage. Man has known for centuries that beer in moderation is good for you. Well there is more good news for hop producers and brewers. Beer contains a significant amount of compounds reputed to protect against certain cancers. This appears to be a factor in beers made with hops and hop pellets but it is believed at this time that these compounds do not exist in hop extracts. It is also now accepted that beer in moderation is also good for the heart. It is also possible in future that it may be possible to synthesize alpha acids and whilst this would surely affect hop producers it may also be far less attractive for beer consumers who have traditionally demanded a pure clean and natural product. From a producer and beer drinker's perspective, brewers should be very careful in the winding up of the chemical clock. Hops are very latitude sensitive plants and this is a major factor concerning their economic performance as a commercial crop is the length of daylight hours, especially during the flowering period. In order to flower successfully the hop plant must at a certain stage of its growth(usually expressed as a minimum height) be subject to specific hours of daylight (and darkness which must be continuous). In the Southern hemisphere a large part of this area of latitude consists of the great Southern oceans. Hops, although native of the Northern hemisphere, can grow quite successfully in both hemispheres. This applies to aroma type hops as well as dual purpose and bitter type hops as has successfully been established in New Zealand in recent years. Diseases in hops fields vary in the commercial production areas of the world but in the northern hemisphere production, especially in USA and China, is concentrated on the dry arid areas that are not the natural home of hop lants but which give the grower the benefit of reduced fungal infection. In the Southern hemisphere most hop diseases such as Powdery Mildew, Downey Mildew, Verticillium Wilt and pests such as aphids are unknown in hop production. Most hop breeding has concentrated on evolving new cultivars with increasing higher alpha acids and the replication of the aromas of the Noble aroma hops of Europe. The essential oil profiles of these newly bred hops, whether genetically diploid or triploid, can be tailored to meet the needs of individual brewers' requirements. Not all brewers will require the same hop flavor profiles in their grist and this leads to the individuality of beer styles.
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