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What Is Hoppy Beer & What Does It Taste Like? (2023 Updated)

What Is Hoppy Beer

Last Updated on October 25, 2023 by Lydia Martin

Beer is a fermented beverage that can get beginners, or even seasoned enthusiasts, confused and overwhelmed with the wide range of varieties. 

Hops is one of its traditional ingredients, historically used as paper fiber, salad plant, and medicine. But for beers, hops add bitterness and act as a flavor enhancer.

So what is hoppy beer? What makes a beer hoppy?

Understanding Hoppy Beers

man pouring beer on a glass

Traditionally, beer is made of yeast, malt, water, and hops. The brewer decides how to combine the ingredients to produce the final flavor of the finished beer. 

Hops provide balance to the beer with its bitter flavors, along with its fruity and floral notes.

It is a flower of the Humulus Lupulus plant, adding stabilizing and antibacterial properties to beer and helping it ferment cleanly [1]

Simply put, a hoppy beer has a strong hop flavor and aroma.

What Does “Hoppy” Mean?

Hoppy means having the aroma and taste of hops, mainly in beer or ale [2].

Of course, beers described as hoppy must not only be bitter, but they must also contain all the characteristics of hops in their flavor profile.

The first documented use of a hop plant was around the 8th century, and it most likely came from China.

As the use of hops grew more widespread, the un-hopped beer varieties started to decline.

Why Is It Called A Hoppy Beer?

hops plant

It is called a hoppy beer because the hops are added at the beginning of the brewing process, extracting its maximum bitterness.

Like any other bitter herb, hops are essential to beers because they balance residual sugars and keep the beer fresh longer. 

In a process called dry hopping, the bittering hops would be added during fermentation, creating complex aromas of fruit, citrus, and pine.

Read: Blue Moon Beer Flavor Profile

Its Alcohol Content

The alcohol content of hoppy beers ranges from 5% to 15% ABV, slightly higher than the average regular beer with 3% to 5% ABV.

“Beer is defined by its ingredients. The malted grain-based brewing process and the use of hops are unique to beer.”

– Matt Brynildson, Brewmaster at Firestone Walker Brewing Company 

Despite that, hoppy beer is not always stronger than regular beer as it depends on the makers and brands. 

What Do They Taste Like?

hands holding glasses of beer

Hoppy beer showcases the extra hops used in the brewing process, usually ending up with intense hop flavors and aromas. 

Its bitter flavor helps balance the beer’s malty sweetness, while some develop fruity, floral, earthy, and citrusy flavors. 

However, some makers would incorporate so many hops into the beer, but it would only be a bit bitter. 

Read: Top Beers For Beginners

What Makes A Beer Hoppy?

A beer described as hoppy is one with a distinctive taste of bitterness or with fruity, floral aromas. It can also refer to the volume of hops included in the recipe. 

The beer’s bitterness is stated in IBU or International Bitterness Units. The IPA, or India Pale Ale, is among the most popular hoppy beers.

American-style IPAs are heavy with Centennial Columbus and Cascade hops.

Dark beers, like stouts and porters, are dominated by the flavor of the malt component, so they were not defined as “hoppy.”

Common Hoppy Beer Styles

Pilsner

Bitterness Level: 20-40 IBU (Lower-mid) 

Hop Flavor: High Hop

Pilsner has pale yellow to light gold appearance and contains 4.5% to 5.5% ABV. These hop-forward beers are clean, crisp, and refreshing.

There are also malts and citrus flavors on the palate. 

Classic Bitter

Bitterness Level: 25-55 IBU (Medium) 

Hop Flavor: Medium Hop

The classic English bitter is a popular style during the 20th century and is even considered the national drink of England by some.

The bitter taste is not that dominant, but it’s enough to balance the beer’s sweetness. These beers are around 5% ABV, with a gold to-copper appearance.

New England IPA

glass of beer with pool on the background

Bitterness Level: 25-60 IBU (Medium)

Hop Flavor: High Hop 

NEIPA or New England IPA beer is a popular craft beer, containing 5% to 7% alcohol and tastes like fresh fruit juice when drinking.

The hops and yeast impart the fruit flavors of the beers, and many fans called them “juicy beers.”

Pale Ale

Bitterness Level: 30-50 IBU (Medium) 

Hop Flavor: High Hop

Pale ales are a popular beer that started in 1703 in England, but Americans, Belgians, and other countries have adopted it with varying flavors.

It usually contains 4% to 6% ABV, with a gold to amber color. 

This style has a balanced hoppy and malty taste, with hints of citrus imparted by adding more hops.

India Pale Ale

Bitterness Level: 50-70 IBU (High) 

Hop Flavor: Very High Hop

The India Pale Ales were developed in the 1820s by British brewers [3]. It is golden to amber, with 5% to 7% ABV, and it has taken the craft beer scene recently.

Double Or Imperial IPA

glass of beer

Bitterness Level: 65-100 IBU (Very High) 

Hop Flavor: Very High Hop

Double or Imperial IPA is an American IPA that reaches an alcohol content of more than 7% ABV or higher.

It has a bold and complex hop-forward flavor as it uses double or even triple the amount of hops that American IPA uses. It is considered one of the hoppiest beers.

American Barleywine

Bitterness Level: 50-100 IBU ( Very High) 

Hop Flavor: High Hop Flavor

The American Barleywine usually has 8% to 12% ABV and is amber to rich copper.

The hop here is less dominant than in the Double IPA, but flavors like caramel and bready sweetness balance the bitter taste of American hops.

Hoppy vs Bitter Beer: How Do They Differ?

Hoppy and bitter beers differ mainly because of their tastes. Hops act as the bittering element, but the resulting bitterness depends on other factors like the number of hops, type, and how it is used. 

Hoppy beers would highlight all the quality of hops and contain more alcohol, while bitter beers focus on bitterness and are usually lower in alcohol. 

FAQs

Can a beer be ‘hoppy’ but not bitter?

Yes, beer can use loads of hops but still not taste bitter. It depends on the variety you use, but the beer would be overly sweet without hops.

How do you drink hoppy beer?

You can drink a hoppy beer cold or pour it into a chilled glass. You can also add ice cubes or mix them with other refreshing drinks like soda or juice.

In Summary

Beers described as hoppy are not only bitter but must also showcase other characteristics of a hoppy flavor.

Hops add bitterness to all beers, balancing the sweet flavors of the drink. The bitterness is stated using IBU or International Bitterness Units.

Craft beers like the Pale Ales, IPA, and Double or Imperial IPA are popular hoppy beer styles.

References:

  1. https://www.insider.com/guides/kitchen/how-is-beer-made 
  2. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hoppy 
  3. https://www.thespruceeats.com/india-pale-ale-ipa-profile-history-ingredients-352843 
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