The Secret Life of Hops

Written by Andy Sparhawk and the staff at


You probably know that hops provide much more to craft beer than just bitterness, but how much do you really know? After a recent trip to Hopunion’s Hop & Brew School in Yakima, WA,’s Andy Sparhawk returned with his mind officially blown! Here are just a few of his revelations about this amazing plant:

1. Hops grow clockwise, but not on vines. -Whaaahh?!

Hops are vigorous growers, averaging several inches a day at minimum. Maybe they shoot up because they plan their route? Hops always grow clockwise. On hop farms, they grow up heavy twine or rope, but in the wild they use other plants for support to get to sunlight. Oh, and hops are not vines, they’re bines. Whereas vines have suction cups and tendrils for support, hop bines have strong stems and prickly hairs to help in their ascent.

2. Some hops are alpha and others are “aromega.”

The hop market can be divided into two categories, alpha hops and aroma hops. Alpha hops refer to the higher percentages of alpha acid in certain varieties’ lupulin glands. Alpha hops provide more in the way of bitterness, while aroma varietals are lower in alpha acids and have a higher percentage of essential oils, which impart the characteristic flavors and aroma to beer.

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Who Needs Pumpkin Pie—Pumpkin Beers are Here!

Written by Meghan Storey for

Even thinking about baking a pie from scratch is making me tired! First it’s the fancy French baking terms—personally, I think à la mode is the only important one! Then it’s the obscure ingredients that you know you don’t just have lying around the kitchen—can we say finely chopped crystallized ginger?

For those of us who aren’t best friends with our convection ovens (or even acquaintances), fall brings a beer with flavors so much resembling a favorite autumn dessert it’s often referred to as “a slice of pumpkin pie in a glass.”

Pumpkin beers, which surprisingly can be made with or without actual pumpkin as an ingredient, are often added to a brewery’s menu during the fall months. This style relies heavily on the seasonal flavors and aromas of nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and allspice.

To find the latest and greatest of the pumpkin beers available this fall, we asked Brewers Association member breweries to share their pumpkin lineups. Here’s what they shared with us.

Avery Rumpkin PumpkinRumpkin Pumpkin Ale | Avery Brewing Co.
Boulder, Colorado

Rumpkin is brewed with pumpkin and spices and aged in Gosling’s Old Rum barrels. We wondered what would happen if a monstrous pumpkin ale, plump and full of spicy gourdiness, was aged in fine, fresh rum barrels to add suggestions of delicate oak and candied molasses—Rumpkin is what happens!
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