Beer is one of the oldest, most complex beverages known to man, and is constantly evolving due to the advent of new brewing methods, new hop varieties, and the ongoing refinement of consumers’ palates.
With more breweries opening up in more places than ever before, quality control is becoming a more and more important topic of discussion in the beer industry than it ever has.
While beer can be complicated, it is basically the combination of a few ingredients: water, grain, yeast, and hops. While having good water, grain combinations, and yeast strains is of utmost importance to the end quality of beer, it is the last ingredient, hops, that has been taking center stage for the last few decades or so.
Hops are the flowers (also known as cones) of the hop plant Humulus lupulus. The word Humulus comes from the Latinized form of the Germanic humel or humela which means “fruit-bearing,” while the word lupulus comes from the Latin for “little wolf.” So hops are basically “the fruit of the little wolf,” which might be why it’s not too far-fetched do describe them as having bite, but we’re getting carried away now.
Well, enough linguistics, let’s get down to some details. The hop cone is a very interesting flower that is composed of three main parts: bracts, bracteoles, and lupulin glands.
Bracts, and bracteoles (small bracts) are leaf like structures that surround the entire cone, attaching to a central axis. Underneath the bracteoles is where the magic of the hop plant is found, the lupulin glands. Lupulin glands contain the resins and oils most envied by brewers for their distinct attributes that add bitterness, aroma, and flavor to beer. Although a multitude of chemicals are present in these glands, the three main ones are alpha acids, beta acids, and essential oils. Maintaining the quality of these three components of the hop cone is of key importance for brewers striving to get the most out of their hops.
The best way to ensure that hops maintain their magical qualities while they go from hop farm to the brewer is to package them in nitrogen-flushed packages. Nitrogen-flushing hops ensures that all of the oxygen has been removed from the environment in which the hops are stored, thus ensuring that there will be no chance of oxidation taking place and diminishing the fragile nature of the a-acids, b-acids, and essential oils in the hop.
Nitrogen-flushing hops is important, but being able to verify that the flushing process is working accurately and consistently is of equal importance, and this is where Bridge Analyzers comes in.
We have a series of Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) Gas Analyzers that are used by some of the biggest food companies in the world to ensure that they are continually delivering the best, most flavorful products possible to their customers.
For Hop Quality Control we recommend our Model 9000 MAP Oxygen Analyzer. This is a great low-cost way to ensure that your packaging and nitrogen-flushing processes are working properly and that you are getting the best hops to your customers every day.
Better hops plus better quality control equals better beer.
Who doesn’t want that?