Those that grow hops or homebrewers that find themselves with extra hops on hand might wonder what to do with hops besides making beer. Fortunately, there are many different potential uses for hops that have nothing to do with beer.
Fresh, dried, and even pellet hops have a variety of uses besides brewing beer. When used correctly, hops can be used to make teas, yeast, decorations, garden additions, soap, sauces, dressings, and more!
I sometimes find myself with extra hops or older hops that I no longer want to use for brewing and I have to admit that I was surprised to find so many other uses for hops besides making beer. Let’s check out what I discovered!
What are hops used for besides beer?
The hop plant has a long history within the beer brewing community but people have been using this amazing plant for many other things over the years that you might be surprised to learn about.
While hops are most well-known for adding bitterness, aroma, and flavor to beer, these characteristics can provide a unique twist in traditional food and beverage recipes. Meanwhile, hops’ ability to help provide relief for anxiety and insomnia means it can be used for nighttime beverages, soaps, or lotions.
Truly, there are lots of fun alternatives for hops! So if you have some extra ones lying around or have some hops that have gotten a little too old to use for brewing then stick around.
Let’s check out nine awesome ones!
Steep hops and other ingredients to make tea
While hops are best known for providing bitterness and flavor in beer, they have probably been used to make teas for at least as long throughout history.
People add hops to tea because certain compounds make them naturally relaxing. It’s no surprise then that you will usually find hops in bedtime teas or other drinks meant to help calm a person and help them fall asleep.
These days, hop teas are pretty popular and there was even a special ‘Teamaker’ hops strain released back in 2008 by the ARS Forage, Seed, and Cereal Research Unit. This special strain has low amounts of the highly bitter alpha acids and higher levels of beta acids. Combined with the spicy, floral aroma and flavor, it makes better tea than the highly bitter strains often used in beer brewing.
Making the tea is pretty easy. Using these instructions from Kegerator, here is how to make a cup:
- Since you probably don’t have Teamaker hops, choose a variety that is relatively less bitter, such as Fuggles or Williamette.
- Add about a quarter of an ounce per cup of tea to a tea ball or strainer.
- Heat your water and place the hops holder in it to steep for a few minutes.
- It’s okay to press or strain your hops.
- Add sweeteners such as honey, cream, etc. based on your preferences
- Add other flavors such as citrus, chamomile, lemon, ginger or herbs such as lavender that combine well with hops!
Make a dream pillow with hops
This one is a bit weird, but hear me out!
We just mentioned that hops have calming properties that can often help people relax and fall asleep more easily. Taking advantage of this fact, you can even make a ‘hops pillow’ to bring that calming sensation straight into bed with you!
A dream pillow is essentially just dry crushed herbs mixed together, added to a fine muslin bag, and then placed inside a pillowcase on top of the regular pillow. The fragrance will easily come through the pillowcase material and you will have a pleasing aroma to comfort you all night!
If you have the ingredients, making the dream pillow is pretty easy. According to Mount Rose Herbs, you will just follow these steps:
- Mix together the dry herbs in a large bowl.
- Add any essential oils (optional) one drop at a time to the mixture and mix well.
- Dump or spoon your mixture into the muslin bag and tie it tightly.
- Place the ‘pillow’ inside your pillowcase or even just beside your bed.
Make soft hop yeast for breadmaking
People can be allergic to almost anything and that includes baker’s yeast which is used to make bread.
Fortunately, those with yeast allergies can likely benefit from making a simple hop yeast at home. This yeast can then be used as a replacement for traditional baker’s yeast in almost every bread recipe. You can check out the whole recipe over here, but briefly:
- Simmer your dried hops in 6 cups of water for about half an hour, letting the steam escape, to make a strong tea.
- Sterilize a jar and lid in boiling water.
- Put 1.25 cups of whole wheat flour into the jar and strain your tea over it. Stir thoroughly.
- Cover the jar loosely and let cool.
- Add .25 teaspoons of dry active yeast and stir.
- Allow the mixture to sit loosely covered to ferment for about 6-12 hours.
- When it’s done, put the lid on the jar and store in a cool place.
Even if you don’t have an allergy, those wondering what to do with hops can try a batch of this bread out to see if you like it!
Eat young hop sprouts like asparagus
If you have done any gardening then you know asparagus can be difficult to grow because you can’t really eat it until it’s the third year in the garden. This is part of what makes asparagus more expensive than other vegetables and definitely why I don’t grow it personally (who has that kind of patience!).
Fortunately, hops are also known as the ‘poor man’s asparagus’ because you can actually cut young hop shoots and use them just like you would asparagus. That means you could saute, steam, or even fry hop shoots as a unique new side dish at the dinner table!
Use hops to make hot-processed soap
I’m not a soapmaker, but I learned that it is definitely possible to use hops to make quality homemade soap.
According to those educated on the topic, you will need to make hot-processed soap instead of a cold-processed version because the hop aroma comes from the oils within the hop plant. In cold-processed soaps, that aroma will be largely lost.
Here is how to prepare your hops and add it to your soap recipe:
- Grind up your dry hops or hop pellets into a fine powder and make a warm-oil infusion with about .5 ounces of hops per 2 ounces of oil.
- Be prepared to squeeze out some of the oil and use extra oil to superfat.
- After saponification is complete, superfat using that infusion
- Add some of the ground hops back into the soap mixture to provide texture and exfoliation.
Infuse hops into salad dressings and sauces
As long as you mind the bitterness, hops can make a great addition to salad dressings and sauces, especially to balance out sweeter flavors.
Rather than adding hops directly into a dressing, you could make a simple vinaigrette by using hop-infused vinegar as your vinegar addition. To make it, just add whole hops such as Cascade or Centennial to a small bottle of cider vinegar and let macerate for about a week.
Here is a quick recipe for a fruity, citrusy hop-infused vinaigrette:
- About a half cup of your hop vinegar
- One cup of olive oil
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- One teaspoon of honey
- Half a teaspoon of dijon mustard
Mix all ingredients together except for the olive oil and then whisk in the olive oil to that mixture.
Simmer hops flowers in stews or sprinkle on savory dishes
If you have whole hops on hand then it will be easy to find a few traditional dishes that could benefit from a new flavor.
One way that you can use them is to pull a few petals from the hop flower and add them to a soup, stew, or chili in the same way that you would add a bay leaf. The petals will provide some bitterness along with their unique aroma and flavor, so be careful to balance it out with other ingredients.
Outside of the cooking process, you could even grind or mince up some of the hops and sprinkle them directly onto dishes such as cauliflower mash or pizza like you would oregano or basil. Just be careful not to add too much or it can quickly overwhelm the other flavors!
Use hops as floral decorations in the home or outdoors
I’ve mentioned lots of things to do with hops besides make beer that involves cooking, but there are other things that you can use them for as well. If you are really struggling with what to do with hops then check this out.
For instance, hops are a beautiful bine (similar to a vine) that can grow up to 20 feet long. You could make use of this beauty by taking the plant down and using it as an outdoor decoration at a venue or eating area
Add hops to the garden for wall and fence coverage
Even if you have no plans on brewing beer with hops, cooking with them, or using them for decorations you could still plan to grow them in your garden if you need some extra coverage.
Since hops are a bine plant (similar to vines) they will climb up surfaces and can reach lengths of up to 20 feet. If you have an ugly fence or wall in your backyard or garden area then you could use the hop plants to cover it up and create a more natural look in your space. With a little effort, you can train your hop plants to travel in certain directions and multiple plants can really provide some good coverage!