Beer Lesson: Hops versus Malts

September 25 2011, 10:39 AM

For beer to be beer it needs four things: water, yeast, hops, and malted barley. (Of course, you can add other ingredients from there, like fruit extracts, coffee beans, or even bacon). But what exactly is the difference between a hoppy or malty beer?

Hops: The historical use for this dried relative of the cannabis plant was to preserve beer during transportation to help prevent spoilage. Once brewers realized that hops has other benefits, it became the choice of brewers everywhere. There are two types of hops: bittering hops (which do as much as the name implies) and aroma hops (which add more of a pungent citrusy flavor and are usually significantly less bitter). Hop varieties are chosen for the style of beer they are being used in.

Malts: No, these malts are not the same as the ones in your milk shake or used in making Whoppers. “Malt” refers to several things associated with maltose (or malt sugar). In the case of beer, malt adds sugars for fermentation and generates most of the flavor, like nutty honey malts or spicy rye malts.

TRY IT AT HOME: Use these beers for a homemade taste test.

A hoppy beer: Odell Brewing IPA (Ft. Collins, CO)

A malty beer: Great Divide Brewing Yeti Imperial Stout (Denver, CO)

Photo courtesy of VISIT DENVER