It can be difficult for those with a gluten allergy to avoid it in their food and beverages and many might wonder if the hops in beer are gluten-free. Since I’ve heard more than one person get this question wrong, I thought it would be an interesting topic for today!
The hops used in beer brewing beer do not contain gluten as they are flowers from the Humulus lupulus plant which has no relation to gluten-producing cereal grains. Hops provide bitterness as well as add important flavors and aromas to many styles of beer.
Hops provide much of the flavor, aroma, and bitterness in most beers and the vast array of different strains allows for complex variations to be grown and combined in beer recipes. Let’s learn a little bit more about the amazing hops plant!
Do hops have gluten?
Since hops are technically a flower, they are gluten-free and you won’t have to worry about any gluten allergies if you are consuming food or beverage with hops inside.
With that said, hops are a common ingredient in beer and most beer includes malted barley and other grains that most certainly will contain gluten. As such, almost all beer that you find on the commercial shelves will likely cause issues with a gluten allergy. If you have a gluten sensitivity or allergy, be sure to check the label of any beer that you are considering drinking to avoid any health issues!
The good news is that if you do find a beer made without grains you won’t have to worry about any hops used in the recipe. For those of you that like an incredibly hoppy IPA or double IPA, this is good news!
Are hops a grain?
Hops are flowers in the Cannabaceae family of plants and aren’t related in any way to the cereal grains that contain gluten. While the stem and leaves don’t have much practical application, the flower of the plant, the hop cone, has many uses.
Once the flowery cones have sprouted, they will include a small yellow gland called a lupulin. It’s inside this gland that you will find the alpha acids and oil that give hops the aroma and flavor we expect. Essentially, it’s the concentrated flavor of the hops that dries into a fine yellow powder after the hops are harvested. This bitterness combines with the grains and other ingredients in beer to create a balanced profile full of complex flavors and beautiful aromas.
Of course, many beer drinkers care less about balancing the flavors inside beer and more about getting an extremely hoppy flavor. Hence why IPAs have become so popular in recent years! In those styles, it’s more about creating bright, distinct hop flavors that shine through the malty base of the beer’s flavor. In fact, IPA stands for India Pale Ale and it got its name from the many hops that were added to traditional pale ales during their journey from England to India in the 18th century. Back then, it was to keep the beer from spoiling. Now, it’s for the flavor!
If you enjoy the flavor that hops provide beer, but you aren’t able to drink it because of the gluten, then you can still enjoy the flavor by finding a gluten-free beer or making a hop tea.
Interesting facts about hops
Hops are an amazing plant that has a rich and storied past in the world of brewing. Here are a few things that you probably didn’t know about hops:
- The ‘lupulus’ in the hops’ plant’s scientific name is Latin for a small wolf. It was given this name because of its tendency to strangle other plants as a wolf would a sheep.
- Although similar to a vine, hops are technically ‘bines’ that can climb up to 20 feet off of the ground during a season.
- Hops are perennials that come back each season and can survive for up to 20 growing seasons.
- First known cultivation of the hops plant was recorded in Freising, Germany in the year 859 CE.
- It’s the county flower of Kent, England.
- Hops have antimicrobial properties that can allow beer to last longer.
- Homebrewers can easily grow their own hops to use in their recipes
- It has been used as an aid for insomia and anxiety