Hop Chemistry and Beer with James Altwies – BeerSmith Podcast 38

by Brad Smith on May 13, 2012 · 4 comments

This week my guest is James Altwies, the President of Gorst Valley Hops. James is an expert in hop chemistry and this week we’re going to discuss what alpha acids, beta acids and hop aroma oils are and how they can help you make better beer.

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Topics in This Week’s Episode (43:34)

  • James Altwies, the President and CEO of Gorst Valley Hops is my guest this week. James is working to reintroduce through small farmers in Wisconsin. He is also an expert in hop growing and hop chemistry.
  • Our topic for this week is Hop Chemistry and how hop chemistry affects home brewers.
  • We start by discussing his project promoting the reintroduction of commercial hops into Wisconsin. James has been working with hop growers to produce very high quality hops without destroying fragile hop aroma oils.
  • We start with the basic hop growing process and how hops are dried, pelletized and stored for our use.
  • James explains where hop bitterness comes from – and what the alpha acids are.
  • We discuss the various hop alpha acids (humulone, cohumulone, etc…) and how these are isomorized during the boil.
  • James talks a bit about what the various humulone’s contribute to the beer.
  • We talk about what IBUs measure and also some of the limitations of IBU measurement – which really only measures one aspect of hops flavor
  • James explains what beta acids are and what they do for the beer
  • We talk about hop storage and how rapidly hops can degrade if not stored properly
  • He discusses in depth what the various aroma oils are and how they boil off at different temperatures. Often the oil flavor you are looking for drives what temperature and when you need to add your aroma hops.
  • James explains how different uses of hops come together to create a complex hoppy beer like an IPA.
  • He talks through the importance of understanding the chemistry of hops and how it drives beer brewing

Thanks to James Altwies from Gorst Valley Hops for appearing on the show and also to you for listening!

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