Noble Hops – Brewing Hop Groups

by Brad Smith on September 15, 2023 · 0 comments

Hallertauer Mittelfrueh Profile
Src: Hopsteiner

This week I take a look at the Noble hop group which are varieties of hops primarily grown in Continental Europe for use in European lagers and ales.

Noble Hops

The noble hops group are varieties of hops mainly grown in Central Europe that are characterizes by rich aroma and flavor. They are widely used in German lagers and ales but also in other European styles including many Belgian and Eastern European pilsners.

The original four classic Noble hops are as follows:

  • Tettnang
  • Saaz
  • Spalt
  • Hallertauer Mittelfruh

These hops are actually named after the regions where they were traditionally grown. This is a reflection of the fact that the hops take on the “terrior” or character of the region.

There is some confusion as there are a ton of related hops that are not necessarily from the same region or even the same cultivar. For example “Hallertauer Gold” is not the same as “Hallertauer Mittelfruh”. The same is true of “Spalter Select” which is a different variety than Spalt. A hop widely called “Tettnanger” is grown in the Pacific Northwest is not the same as “Tettnang” grown in Germany.

That being said there are many varieties derived from the original four hops that are widely grown worldwide that still make great beer, so you should not discard a variety just because it was not grown in Central Europe, but you do need to be aware that these relatives of the original four are not precisely the same.

To aid in differentiating true Noble hops from those grown elsewhere, noble hop growers will often prefix the name with the area in which the hops are grown. So for example if you purchase “Hallertau Hallertauer” or Tennang Tettnanger” then those are hops that were actually grown in the Hallertau or Tettnang regions.

Flavor and Aroma Profiles

These hops tend to have a profile similar to the spider chart shown above for Hallertauer Mittelfrueh. They are low in alpha acid, and bred for their aroma. They tend to be dry, herbacious, somewhat spicy with citrus and piney notes. The Saaz variants are even more spicy and resinous with hints of fruits, lemongrass or other complex aromas.

Noble Hops Usage

Noble hops are widely used in almost all of the German beer styles including both lagers and ales. In addition they are widely used for Czech and Vienna pilsners, many Belgian beers and other styles common to Continental Europe.

The low alpha acid and great aroma make noble hops perfect for low to moderately hopped light colored beer styles. They work very well in lager beer styles and in fact classic lagers like the Czech Pilsner use Saaz hops.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s article on Noble hops. Please subscribe for regular weekly delivery, and don’t hesitate to retweet, link, like or mention any of my articles on social media.

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