Hops cones on a plant.

Northern Brewer Hops

If you’re in the mood to try a classic European hop used in the breeding process of many other plants, Northern Brewer is for you. Northern Brewer is a slightly bitter, dual-purpose hop often used in beers that need mellowing out. While it’s mainly added as a bittering agent, Northern Brewer still imparts minty, evergreen, and herbal flavors.

Let’s dive a little deeper into what Northern Brewer is and how to use it.

Closeup of hops cones on a plant.

History of Northern Brewer Hops

Northern Brewer is an older hop invented in 1934 at Wye College in England. It was created by crossing a Canterbury Golding female with a Brewers Gold OB 21 male. While it was first bred in England, it’s now grown mainly in the United States, Belgium, Germany, and Spain. Northern Brewer was one of the first hop varieties used in the breeding process at Wye College. Even today, planters still use it in the breeding process of hops such as Hueller, Perle, Record, Northdown, Challenger, Viking, Saxon, and many others.

General Characteristics

The first thing that will jump out to you about Northern Brewer is its distinctive green leaves that few other hops plants possess. It has a moderately high alpha content mixed with an overall pleasant and mellow flavor and aroma. This makes Northern Brewer the ideal hop to add later in the boiling process to add a slight bitterness.

Flavor & Aroma Profile

Because it’s mainly used as a bittering agent, Northern Brewer isn’t overly strong in the flavor and aroma category. However, it does possess woody and minty flavors with a dash of lime. If desired, you can add extra myrcene oil to Northern Brewer, which will result in a more robust herbal and peppery aroma.

Greenish brown hops pellets.

Brewing Values of Northern Brewer Hops

Here are the brewing values for Northern Brewer hops. Keep in mind that every year produces different quantities and qualities of Northern Brewer, so these numbers are based on what is usually produced.

  • Alpha Acid – 7-10%

Alpha acids are the primary source of bitterness for beer, and the longer you boil Northern Brewer hops, the more bitter it will be.

  • Beta Acid – 3.5-5%

Beta acid might have acid in the name, but it doesn’t contribute to a beer’s bitterness, unlike Alpha. Betas’ purpose is to contribute flavor and aroma profile to a beer.

  • Alpha-Beta Ratio – 1:1 – 3:1

The ratio you use for adding Alpha and beta acids will determine how bitter your brew is.

  • Co-humulone as % of Alpha – 27-34%

The lower the cohumulone % is, the less bitter your beer will be. Higher levels will result in a more bitter taste.

  • Total Oils 1-2 mL

Oils will also add flavor and aroma to the final product. Here are the different oils used with Northern Brewer hops.

  • Myrcene – 35-45%
  • Humulene – 27-31%
  • Caryophyllene – 11-15%
  • Farnesene – 0-1%
  • All Other Oils – 8-27%

These oils add spice, fruitiness, woodiness, and other accents to Northern Brewer hops.

Beer Styles That Use Northern Brewer Hops

Northern Brewer sticks true to its origins in the types of beer that often use it. Porter, ale, Kolsch, Munich Helles, ESB, German Lager, and English Pale Ale use Northern Brewer.

Glass of dark beer.  Northern Brewer Hops are used to make dark beers, such as porters.

Beers That You Can Buy That Use Northern Brewer Hops

Northern Brewer can be found in a significant number of beers. However, it’s often mixed in with other hops and isn’t always used alone. Here are a few specific beers you can sample that uses Northern Brewer.

  • Anchor Steam Beer – Anchor Brewing Company Flat Earth Brewing Company
  • Element 115 Lager Old Elephant Foot IPA – Tampa Bay Brewing Company
  • California Common Beer

Common Substitutions For Northern Brewer Hops

Because it’s used in the cross-breeding process with so many other hops plants, Northern Brewer has many substitutions.

  • Galena
  • Perle (US)
  • Magnum (GR)
  • Magnum (US)
  • Chinook

How to Grow Your Own Northern Brewer Hops

Have we got you curious and thirsty enough to try to grow your own Northern Brewer hops yet? If so, here is some crucial information that you’ll need.

Water

Like all hops, Northern Brewer needs plenty of water, especially in the first two years of growth. Water Northern Brewer regularly so that the soil remains moist but not flooded. You should be able to stick your finger two inches into the ground at all times and feel moisture.

Light

Northern Brewer requires 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day. Full sun is ideal unless you live in warmer climates with high temperatures. Where the temperature is consistently in the 80s and 90s, your plant will need a mixture of sun and shade.

Soil

Sandy, well-drained loam soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0 is best for growing Northern Brewer hops. You’ll want to plant your rhizome at least four inches deep in the ground and allow enough space for your plant’s roots to spread. Planting each Northern Brewer hop plant 3 to 5 feet apart should be sufficient.

Closeup of a hops rhizome being planted.
A hops rhizome.

Zones

Hops plants are hardy and can thrive in hardiness zones 3 through 8. It’s best to plant Northern Brewer hops between the months of February and April because they can withstand cold temperatures for the most part. However, you want to avoid planting them until after the last frost of the year.

Pruning

Keep your hop plants trimmed to maintain good growth and reduce pests and diseases. Trimming is also key to keeping hop plants growing vertically instead of horizontally. If needed, use a pole or post to help train your plants to grow in a vertical direction. At times, you may need to also introduce a fungicide or herbicide into the hop growth process to keep mildew and pests at bay.

Outdoor

Northern Brewer will grow to a height of 20-25 feet tall, so you’ll want to plant them outdoors. You should also provide a trellace or support system to aid them as they grow tall.

Where To Purchase Northern Brewer Hops

If you’re interested in creating your own homebrew using Northern Brewer, you can purchase the hop pellets at Amazon. For more great homebrewing tips, visit our website and check out all of our awesome recipes and equipment recommendations!

Final Thoughts About Northern Brewer Hops

Hops cones on a hops plant.

Northern Brewer is a hop plant that’s rich in history and has been extremely useful in many ways. Whether you’re adding bitterness, herbal or minty flavors or want to cross it with another plant, Northern Brewer is an excellent hop to add to your repertoire.

Are you a fan of Northern Brewer hops? We’d love to hear about your home brewing experiences in the comments section below! For information about other kinds of hops, click here for our blog posts about brewing ingredients.

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