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Northern Brewer Hops: A Guide to Characteristics and Usage

Northern Brewer hops are a versatile and well-established variety, initially developed in England in 1934 for Scottish & Newcastle Breweries. Bred for robustness, it became a favorite for brewers thanks to its clean bittering qualities and a distinctive aroma profile that boasts hints of evergreen, wood, and mint. Its characteristics lend themselves well to a wide range of beer styles, making it a staple in many brewers’ collections.

For the avid homebrewer and hop enthusiast, growing Northern Brewer hops is also an option, with many suppliers offering hop rhizomes for personal cultivation! Read on to learn more!

Key Takeaways

  • Northern Brewer hops originate from England and are renowned for their bittering and aromatic properties.
  • Their versatility makes them suitable for a spectrum of beer styles and they can be used at different stages of brewing.
  • The hops are available in multiple formats and can also be grown at home for a more hands-on brewing experience.

Northern Brewer Hops Profile

Northern Brewer hops are a versatile ingredient valued for their moderate alpha acid levels and dual-purpose application in brewing. Originated in Europe, these hops have become a staple in various beer styles for their unique bittering qualities and distinct aroma profile.

Origin and Characteristics


  • Europe: Bred in England in 1934, predominantly grown in Germany and the US.


  • Aroma: Woody, pine, and mint-like qualities.
  • Cone Size: Medium
  • Cone Density: Moderate
  • Seasonal Maturity: Mid to late season


Growth Rate and Yield:

  • Yield Amount: Moderate to high
  • Growth Rate: Vigorous

Disease Resistances and Susceptibilities:

  • Resistant: Generally resistant to pests and diseases, specific resistances vary.
  • Susceptible: Susceptibility to certain fungal diseases, depending on the region.

Oil and Acid Composition

Alpha Acids:

  • Composition: 6-10%

Beta Acids:

  • Composition: 3.0-5.0%

Oil Composition:

  • Total Oil: Moderate levels
  • Myrcene: Notably present, contributing to hop’s aromatic profile
  • Humulene: Contributes to woody and piney notes
  • Caryophyllene: Provides spicy elements
  • Farnesene: Trace amounts, minor contribution to aroma

Brewing Applications


  • Bittering: Strong bittering capabilities often used in early boil applications
  • Aroma: Though primarily used for bittering, can implore subtle flavor and aroma if added later in the brewing process

Beer Styles:

  • Ale: Especially English styles
  • California Common
  • Porter and Stout: Compliments roasted malt flavors
  • Pale Ale

Brewing Notes:

  • When used for bittering, Northern Brewer hops impart a clean bitterness without overpowering.
  • For subtler flavor notes and to capture hop aroma, additions can be made late in the boil or during dry hopping.

Utilization in Beer Styles

Northern Brewer hops are commonly embraced in a variety of beer styles for their unique balance of bitterness and aromatic qualities. They lend a characteristic bitterness while imparting distinct woody, minty, and some floral notes to the beer’s flavor profile.

Popular Styles and Substitutions

Beer Styles Commonly Using Northern Brewer Hops:

  • Porters: Known for a rich, dark color and roasted malt flavors, Northern Brewer hops contribute a clean bitterness and the slight hint of pine.
  • Ales: In particular, English Pale Ales and ESBs gain a balanced bitterness with earthy and woody notes.
  • Kolsch: This crisp and clear beer benefits from Northern Brewer hops’ herbal qualities.
  • German Lagers: The minty and piney characteristics enhance the deep maltiness.
  • Munich Helles: Adds a balanced bitterness without overpowering the beer’s light and sweet malt character.

Substitutes for Northern Brewer Hops:

In cases where Northern Brewer hops are unavailable, brewers can substitute with hops that offer a similar bittering quality and a blend of woody and minty notes. Possible substitutes often include:

  • Chinook: Offers a piney and spicy profile.
  • Galena: Known for clean bittering properties.
  • Magnum: Provides a similar bitterness but with a more neutral flavor.

Role in Beer Flavor Profile

The Northern Brewer hop acts as a dual-purpose hop, meaning it can be used both for its bittering qualities and aromatic contribution.

Key Characteristics in Beer Flavor:

  • Bittering: The hop imparts a clean and well-rounded bitterness that complements the malt without overpowering it.
  • Aromatic: Aromatic contributions include a woody, sometimes rustic character alongside a noticeable, yet not overwhelming minty note.
  • Flavor Depth: When used in moderate amounts, these hops add a dimension of depth, with herbal and floral hints supplementing the primary piney and minty notes.

Brewers treasure Northern Brewer hops for the balanced profile they create, capable of enhancing traditional beer styles with a touch of craft beer sophistication. This hop variety continues to influence the craft beer scene, offering a distinct identity to beers worldwide.

How to Grow Your Own Northern Brewer Hops

To cultivate Northern Brewer hops, one should start with healthy rhizomes, which are underground stems from which the bines (not vines) will grow. Planting typically occurs in the spring, as early as the ground can be worked, but after the risk of frost has passed.

Choosing a Site and Soil Preparation

  • Sunlight: Choose a site with full sun, as hops require a minimum of 6-8 hours of sunlight daily.
  • Soil: Well-draining soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5 is ideal.
  • Space: Arrange for ample space for the bines to climb, typically on trellises that can be 12-20 feet tall.

Planting the Rhizomes

  • Orientation: Plant rhizomes horizontally, about 1-2 inches deep and 3 feet apart.
  • Bines Support: Provide a trellis or support immediately for the bines to climb as they grow.

Care Throughout the Season

  • Watering: Water generously, especially during dry spells.
  • Weeding: Keep the area around the plants free from weeds.
  • Training Bines: Train the bines clockwise around their supports; this helps them receive maximum sunlight.

Pest and Disease Management They may encounter pests like aphids or diseases such as powdery mildew. Monitor regularly and treat appropriately with organic or recommended solutions.

Harvesting Northern Brewer cones generally mature late in the season. Check cones for a dry, papery feel and a strong aromatic hop scent; this indicates readiness for harvest.

By following these steps attentively, one can successfully grow Northern Brewer hops and enjoy the satisfaction of adding homegrown flavor to their brewing endeavors.

Wrapping Up

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.