Quick Guide on Hop Aroma and Flavor

Explore the vibrant world of hop aroma and flavor using this guide’s advice on regional specific varieties.

| July 2019

Getty Images/LlCreate

The aromas associated with hops come from their essential oils (next section), and these oils contain roughly 500 different chemical compounds that have been identified so far. Many exist in only the barest of trace amounts, while others, such as myrcene, can make up 50% of the total essential oil content. The interaction of these compounds is very complex. Brewing scientists have attempted to recreate the aroma of a particular hop by combining the primary individual oils in the appropriate proportions and failed miserably. Of course, there is nothing wrong with adding hop oils to a beer to enhance its hop character, but the whole of hop aroma is greater than the sum of its parts.

Hop flavor is a combination of hop bitterness, resin (mouthfeel), and aroma. Hop aroma from the essential oils is hard enough to describe; flavor is much more difficult. Suffice to say that midvarieties dling short boil times that contribute a combination of isomerization and residual oil and resins to the wort can be perceived as flavor in the final beer. Generally, these are boil times of less than 20 minutes. Hop steeps, where the hops are soaked in hot wort before cooling, will also contribute hop flavor to the beer.

The following lists seven primary characters that are often used to describe hop aroma: floral, fruity, citrus, vegetal, herbal, resinous, and spicy. Of course, this listing is subjective, and if you ask three different experts you will get three different lists. Some characterization plots break the aroma down into 12 or more different characters, but these seven get the point across. It is important to understand that aroma is subjective, and different people can perceive a particular aroma differently. For example, some people might describe mint as herbal and others would describe it as spicy, and they both would be correct.

For more discussion of the essential hop oils, see Stan Hieronymus’s book,

Aromas of the Main Essential (Aromatic) Oils Found in Hops

Mycene: Sweet carrot, celery, green leaves
Humulene: Herbal, woody, spicy clove
Caryophyllene: Spicy, cedar, lime, flora
Farnesene: Woody, Citrus, Sweet
β-Damascenone: Honey, berry, rose, blackcurrant, concord grape
β-Lonone: Raspberry, violets
Linalool: Floral, lavender
Geranol: Floral, rose, marigold, geranium
Nerol: Floral, wisteria
Citronellol: Citrus, lemon, citronella oil
Terpineol: Citrus, fruity
Humulenol: Spicy, pineapple, cedar, sagebrush
Humulol: Spicy, herbal, hay
4MMP2: Muscat grapes, blackcurrants, onion



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