BrewingTechniques
Book Review
Using Hops: The Complete Guide to Hops for the Craft Brewer

Mark Garetz (HopTech, Danville, California, 1994),
222 pp., price $12.95.

Republished from BrewingTechniques' September/October 1994.

With over two years of home brewing under his belt, and nearly as much time writing about home brewing, Mark Garetz has published his much-anticipated book about hops. Using Hops claims it is "the only book on hops with an emphasis on how they are used in brewing, and the only book on hops geared to the homebrewer and microbrewer." The book is 222 pages long - plus advertisements in the back - and has the same size pages and typestyle as the Beer Styles series of books from Brewers Publications (Boulder, Colorado). Using Hops is available from the author's company and through homebrew supply stores.

Although most of the home brewing community first met Garetz through his dry hopping article in zymurgy ("Boost Hop Bouquet by Dry-Hopping," Summer 1993, pp. 42-52), those of us participating in the Home Brew Digest on the internet read his first post in April 1993. Over the next several months, it became evident that what Garetz lacked in experience, he more than made up for in tenacity and willingness to ferret out hard-to-find information. Garetz founded HopTech, a mail-order source for hops and hop products (which has recently evolved into a full-scale homebrew supply store), and he was one of the featured speakers at the 1994 American Homebrewers Association National Conference in Denver. As if all of that isn't enough, he recently took on the role of Brewing Arts Editor for the Celebrator Beer News.

We needed a book like Using Hops. Before this book, a lot of hop information was available to home and microbrewers, but it was scattered throughout homebrewing how-to books, brewing magazines, brewing science texts, and academic journal articles. To make things worse, much of the information either contradicted other references or was hopelessly outdated. I have spent hundreds of hours locating and reading - sometimes even translating - hop-related literature. It is definitely not something the average home brewer would find exciting, but fortunately Garetz is not your average home brewer. To write this book, Garetz must have spent hundreds of hours sifting through the literature and interviewing experts.

WHAT'S IN THE BOOK

I divide the contents of Using Hops into two categories: summaries of existing information about hops, and new ways of thinking about hop storage and use. I am very enthusiastic about the former and somewhat wary of the latter.

Using Hops begins with an excellent chapter on the history of growing and brewing with hops. The writing is at times rough, but the information presented is very interesting. A luke-warm chapter on the hop plant itself follows - nothing new or exciting here. Readers interested in the anatomy and physiology of Humulus lupulus should look to Neve's excellent book, Hops (R.A. Neve, Chapman and Hall, London, 1991).

One of the highlights of this book is the chapter on hop varieties. I read with interest about land race hop varieties, the characteristics of noble hops, and famous hop growing regions and the varieties that grow in each. A brief tutorial on hop naming makes it much easier to figure out not only what hop you're buying, but also where it came from. Descriptions of 36 hop varieties, some of which you'll probably never see in your local homebrew supply store, made me want to fire up the brew kettle and start brewing. Who knew that Polish Lublin hops are very similar to Czech Saaz and very close to being considered noble?

In other chapters, Garetz discusses the wide variety of hop products available to homebrewers, how to evaluate hops and hop suppliers, and how to properly care for hops at home.

Much of the center of the book is dedicated to hops' contributions to beer and how best to make consistent use of hops in your brewery. Garetz uses three categories to discuss hop contributions: bitterness, character, and aroma. Bitterness is obvious, and in Using Hops aroma is used to denote dry hop aroma (or fresh hop aroma). Garetz describes character as the flavor, mouthfeel, and aroma attributable to finish hops (late kettle hops). I have a couple of problems with this approach. To me, and to a lot of my hophead friends, the hop character of a beer is created by the unique combination of hop varieties and methods of infusing the hops into the beer, including finish and dry hopping. Hop character is certainly not created only by late kettle, hopback, or whirlpool additions of finishing hops. I think that since the phrase hop character already has a well-used and widely accepted meaning, attempting to redefine it is a mistake.

In the chapter on estimating bitterness, Garetz spends a lot of time introducing and walking the reader through his modified IBU calculations. The new equations, based on Jackie Rager's IBU equations from the zymurgy special issue on hops ("Calculating Hop Bitterness in Beer," Special Issue 1990, pp. 53-54), attempt to provide a way to estimate a beer's bitterness while accounting for boil time, wort gravity, boil temperature, hop rate, yeast flocculation characteristics, and filtration losses. Although I applaud this attempt to further our ability to fine-tune our beers, I have some misgivings about these equations (see below).

The final chapter in the book was contributed by Dave Wills of Freshops (Philomath, Oregon). Wills is one of the major suppliers of hop rhizomes and whole hops in the United States, and his chapter on growing hops at home is excellent.

WHAT I LIKE

The best thing about this book is the fact that it is a collection of information that has never been gathered in one place before. As a reference on hops it is unmatched in scope and breadth. Nothing like it is available on the market today. I particularly liked two chapters: "Hop Varieties" (chapter 4) and "Growing Your Own Hops" (chapter 12, by Dave Wills of Freshops). Chapter 4 contains 37 pages of information on hop varieties, including average alpha acid percentage ranges and oil composition data. The chapter includes information about storage quality, typical usage guidelines, and possible substitutes. This sort of information is usually available only from the big hop brokers, who rarely deal directly with home brewers. If you have questions about an unfamiliar hop variety, I'd bet that the answer is in this chapter. Chapter 12's 15 pages of clear and concise instructions on home growing hops take you from soil preparation to drying the harvested crop. Very few people know more about growing hops on a home brewer's scale than Dave Wills, and this chapter reflects that fact.

Another thing I like about this book - its low price (only $12.95). Other books on hops that cover only part of what Garetz covers, and that are a lot harder to read, go for $75-125. This book is a bargain!

WHAT I DON'T LIKE

My biggest complaint about some of the new ground that Using Hops covers is that it has no basis in practical brewing trials. All of the adjustments to Jackie Rager's IBU calculations that Garetz suggests are based either on intuition, data from scientific papers, or large commercial brewers' records. The new equations add quite a bit of work for the home brewer who desires accurate IBU records, and I for one want to know that they work before I put my confidence in them. Although I do recommend this book, I don't suggest that you embrace Garetz's new IBU calculations until additional home brewing and small-scale microbrewing data confirm their accuracy.

On a related note, the book recommends that brewers use hop oil percentage values to calculate finish or dry hop additions. Garetz believes that potential hoppiness is correlated with a hop's total oil percentage. Unfortunately, available data contradict this claim. Because both the amount and composition of a given hop's essential oil can change from season to season, and even as the hop ages, reported oil percentages are not as helpful as Garetz wants us to believe. Like the new IBU calculations, the information on oil and aroma content is based more on theory than on practical brewing tests.

I am already familiar with most of the references that Garetz used to write this book, so I was able to sort the wort from the trub without too much trouble. It would not be so easy for home brewers less obsessed with hops because Using Hops is not referenced - nothing in the text indicates which of the bibliographic entries was used for a given tidbit of information. How can I track down the details when I am given no clues as to where to look. A book that presents this kind of scientific information should be referenced.

Although Using Hops is fairly easy to read, the writing and the design of the book lack the professional polish that sets books apart. A real edit cycle and a little design work would have made this book more visually appealing and more consistent. I am not alone when I say that homebrewing texts often fail to be held to high enough standards. If we demand better, we may eventually get it.

THE BOTTOM LINE

If you have an extensive brewing library, buy this book. If you own Papazian's New Complete Joy of Home Brewing or Miller's Complete Handbook of Home Brewing and are content, you probably don't need this much information on hops. If you buy the book, take heed of the warnings about Garetz's modified IBU calculations and aroma hop total oil content claims. Put them to the test and see how they work for you in practice.

In all, Using Hops is a welcome addition to my bookshelf. Let me be the first to ask any budding authors out there for similar works featuring malt and yeast.

-Glenn Tinseth Silverton, Oregon

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