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Blinded by Science: Cohumalone; accurate descriptor of bitterness quality or not?

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July 3, 2015 by fhsteinbart


Here we see the primary anatomy of a hop in cross-section.

Here we see the primary anatomy of a hop in cross-section.

For years the primary assumptions about hops as used in beer is that the lower the cohumalone, the smoother the bitterness. One hop researcher now doubts this assumption. Dr. Thomas H. Shellhammer, at Oregon State University has discovered that varietal characteristics rather than cohumalone is the determining factor of hop bitterness quality as found in beer. Hop polyphenols seem to be the major indicator in quality of hop bitterness, Unfortunately, not much research has been done in this area.

In this illustration we can see how hops are inter-related by varietal.

In this illustration we can see how hops are inter-related by varietal. The closer the hops are together, the more similar they are in bitterness, flavor, and aroma. Flavor is the primary descriptor used in this diagram.

This is probably because there are quite literally hundreds of hop polyphenol compounds as found in beer. This sounds more like a long term longitudinal test cross comparison of breeds of hops vs. there polyphenol constituents. Research like this could take years, even with a high performance gas/liquid chromatograph (HPGLC), and lot’s of single addition of single hop beers. Maybe we as homebrewers can assist in this quest by brewing more single hop beers with a wide range of cultivars to discover the differences and similarities between different kinds of hops. A standard I suggest is the ASBC standard beer: 12° Plato (1.048 OG), and 24 IBU’s. This would allow for the analysis of each beer to find out what distinguishing characteristics define the role of smooth vs. coarse bitterness of hops as found in beer. Hopefully a local brewing lab would volunteer to do the analysis so that we could get some more data to Dr. Shellhammer, or maybe he would entertain the suggestion of having the associates at OSU do the analyses of all the different homebrews. I’ll publish more information on that trial when I get more detailed information, so stay tuned for future developments!

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2 thoughts on “Blinded by Science: Cohumalone; accurate descriptor of bitterness quality or not?

  1. Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you writing this post and also the rest of the site is very good.

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    • fhsteinbart says:

      Thank you for your kind and generous comments! I try to not only give the brewing and pub community a great style to brew and/or drink at the local pub, but food for thought about our favorite adult beverage of choice by using Science, and History. These are two of my favorite past times and they both dove tail nicely in beer, brewing, and enjoyment there of. My family’s Thanksgiving tradition is to say around the table what we are personally thankful for currently. What I am personally thankful for is this outlet to help people enjoy more great craft beer! The best beer to pair with Turkey, and everything else that goes with it in my household is Nut Brown Ale, the English Style.
      Hoppy Holidays!

      Like

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