Vines vs Bines:

A quick internet search highlights the general confusion that people have over vines and bines. In fact, it seemed so unclear when I launched this blog, I also purchased and redirected it. Although both terms are sometimes used synonymously, the difference basically boils down to climbing strategies. Vines grow straight up and use tendrils, suckers and runners to wrap around and cling their surroundings (like a grape!). The hop is a bine plant which uses tough hairs on its main stem to rotate and curl around objects to reach heights. This can be clockwise or counterclockwise depending on the species of plant; however, from above the hop plant always moves in a clockwise direction no matter which hemisphere it is on.


IBU: International Bittering Units. Higher IBUs can be found in beer styles such as Imperial IPAs (60-120 IBUs) and Imperial Stouts (50-90 IBUs). Styles like American Lagers have lower levels (10-25 IBUs).

Imperial: The adjective "Imperial" is generally used to described styles of beer that have a higher ABV and therefore higher IBU to balance the maltiness.

ABV: Alcohol By Volume. A standard alcohol measurement expressed in percentage to inform the consumer how much alcohol is present in a beverage.

Wort: A sweet liquid that can be extracted from cracked malted grains by converting starch to sugar using heated water. Wort becomes beer after yeast is added to convert sugar to alcohol. Wort is basically unfermented beer.

Boil: During the process of making beer, wort is generally boiled for 1 to 1.5 hours. This brewing step sanitizes the wort which is susceptible to bacteria infection, allows for hop acid extraction, and concentrates the wort to increase alcohol potential.

Dry Hopping: This a hop addition process by which dry hops are added to beer that has finished the fermentation period. Generally this is done for 5-10 days to impart the delicate oils that provide aroma to beer.

Wet Hopping: This is a hop addition process similar to Dry Hopping but fresh undried hops are used. This requires large amounts of hops because wet hops are considerably heavier than dry hops. The wet hop equivalent of one ounce of dry hops can be as much as 6 ounces depending on when they are picked. 

Using Hops in Brewing:

There are over 80 hop varieties used in commercial brewing. Each of these varieties can impart flavour characteristics such as floral, earthy, citrus, spicy, piny, toffee, etc. into the beer that you brew. For just a moment, I will ignore these characteristics and talk about the broader categories: bittering and finishing hops. This should help develop a basic understanding of how hops are used in brewing. After the bittering and finishing concepts are understood, we will quickly discuss how all varieties of hops can be used to add their specific flavour characteristics to beer.

Bittering hops are generally (not always) used at the beginning of the boil and are therefore subjected to an hour of boil time. They tend to have an alpha acid rating of between 7-14% and impart little flavour or aroma because the oils that are responsible for these characteristics evaporate during the long boil. Examples of bittering varieties are Nugget, Target, Challenger and Centennial. The advantage to using these hops over finishing types is purely economical, as it would take far more ounces of finishing hops to achieve the same IBUs of a bittering hop. 

Finishing hops are generally used towards the end of the boil with 15 minutes or less remaining. This is done to conserve the delicate aromatic oils which present themselves on the nose. Finishing hops tend to have a lower alpha acid rating of between 3-6% and some examples of varieties are Cascade, Fuggle, Saaz, and Hallertauer. Dry Hopping or Wet Hopping can be used to increase aroma in beer after the fermentation process is complete. Generally speaking, this type of hop addition is done for 5 to 10 days.

It is common to use both bittering and finishing hops to add flavour characteristics mid boil. More complicated flavours can be achieved my mixing several types of hops together when there is 30 minutes left in the boil. Successful brewing requires an understanding of the fine balance between hops, malt and other complex flavours in wort. Experimentation is key, and understanding how hops are used in brewing will get you started!  

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