When it comes to the ingredients that make up beer – water, malt, yeast and hops – each play their own role.
“Water is beer’s foundation,” Summit Brewing Company’s President and Founder Mark Stutrud said. “And hops are like the spice.”
Just like spices hops can have a very strong or very subtle impact on a beer. Like cardamom or rosemary, hops can create intoxicating aromatics. Or, like cumin or oregano, they can enhance the flavors of the other ingredients. The type you use, how much you use and when you use them all come into play when tasting the final product.
Most importantly, just like salt in any dish, no beer is complete without them.
Yet, as is often the case with spices when tasting a complete dish, when tasting a beer it can be hard to parse out which flavor is attributed to which hop. That’s why we’re here!
In our Picking Apart the Hop series we’re breaking down different varietals of hops and explaining just how they impact each of the Summit beers they can be found in. Thus far, we’ve explored Fuggle hops from Summit Extra Pale Ale, Centennial hops from Summit Sága IPA and Loral Hops from Summit Dakota Soul Craft Lager.
Next up, we’ll dig into Huell Melon!
Hops are the flower, or cone, of the female hop plant – humulus lupulus. They contain alpha acids and essential oils that bring bitterness, flavor and stability to beer. Their flavor can range from fruity to floral to funky.
They are generally separated into two categories: bittering and aroma.
Hops used primarily for bittering generally have higher alpha acids and are added during the beginning of the boil stage, as it takes a long time to release these flavors. The increased time at high temperatures tends to lead to a higher conversion rate of the hop alpha acids to isomerized alpha acids, thus providing a more efficient bitter in the final beer.
Hops used for aromatics generally have more essential oils and are added later in the brew, so the oils don’t boil off. Hops added just for flavor are added in between the two.
As with many plants, each variety of hop varies in flavor, aroma, bitterness and intensity level of any or all three of these characteristics.
Make-Up of the Huell Melon Hop
In the world of hops, Huell Melon is relatively young. First released in 2012, it was created by the breeding program at the Hop Research Institute in Hüll, Germany. A fun aside, the program was headed by Anton Lutz who earned the name “der Hofenflusterer,” or “Hop Whisperer,” for his work there.
Huell Melon was bred from a cross between the Cascade hop and an unknown Hüll breeding line. It was the first of its kind to come from the institute, as previously they had focused on breeding classic, noble varietals.
This New World hop is used primarily for aromatics. Given its Cascade heritage, Huell Melon also possess a citrus bouquet. However, it is much subtler and lighter than its predecessors, giving off just a hint of sweet orange notes. True to its name, the main aroma from this hop is that of a honeydew melon. Strawberry, apricot, pear and even vanilla are other scents often found in this varietal.
Due to its light aromatics and sweet-leaning flavors, this hop is extremely versatile and can be used in nearly any style. At Summit Brewing Co., Huell Melon can be found in Summit Slugfest Juicy IPA and Summit Keller Pils.
In Keller Pils, however, its impact is much more subtle. The light hint of citrus, honey and melon of the Huell Melon complement the more traditional hop varieties, such as Tettnang, beautifully. As traditional German hops tend to be spicier or more herbal/floral in character, the fruit notes help brighten the overall profile of the beer.
So, now that you know how Huell Melon can be both the star or supporting hop, see if you can taste it the next time you’re enjoying one of those brews!