What Beers Are High in Hops?

If you’ve been wondering what beers are high in hops, you’re not alone. The trouble with answering that question is that there exists a wide range of hops and hop flavors, so “high in hops” doesn’t mean what most people think it means. Thus, we must explore the history of hops in beer before getting to a good answer.

What Are Hops?

Hops are herbaceous climbing perennial plants that grow leaves, flowers/fruit cones along vines. Typically they will grow along any tree, fence, or other structure nearby. Known also by its Latin name Humulus lupulus, the hop plant is native to China and has also been grown for thousands of years in parts of Europe, New Zealand, and the United States. Hops are most famous for their bitterness, but they also provide a variety of flavors from floral to minty.

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We often find hops growing in wet, sunny regions of Germany, the Czech Republic, and the states of Oregon and Washington in the US because hops need to be watered every day. They are ready to be harvested in the fall, which is why we see a lot of hoppy beers ready for Oktoberfest and other fall festivals.

In general, once harvested, fresh hops must be either added to the beer or dried for shipping to be added to beer within 48 hours to preserve maximum quality. The quality of the hops stand in direct relation to the quality of the beer.

History of Hops in Beer

While today hops are the essential fourth ingredient in the simple mix that makes up beer, it has not always been so.

Once, brewers were the women at home making beer to feed and hydrate an entire family. These women were well-versed in the use of herbs, and they selected from among those that were well known for their bittering agents, their woodsy notes, and (what seemed to be) their ability to preserve the brew. The mixture they concocted was called “gruit.”

Gruit contained a combination of local, wild herbs that could be harvested from the fields or woods nearby. Essentially, a brewer could use whatever was handy and make swaps and substitutions when necessary. Common heather, horehound, ground ivy, bog myrtle, and elderflowers were all among the herbs used to make gruit.

Then, around the 8th century, Bavarian monks testing new ingredients in beer decided to include just hops as the herb in beer. No other herb was combined with the hop cones. Instead, this flower was added fresh and expected to stand alone as the only bittering agent and herbal additive in brew.

It was, in short, a huge success, but only locally.

It would take another several hundred years and a formal decree for hops to be universally excepted as the fourth ingredient in beer. Now it has been so long, over 600 years, since that decree, that we cannot imagine beer without hops.

Still, it would be another few hundred years before we would get the extra hoppy beers we see today.


In the 1800s, when travel between Europe and the Americas was at its peak, British brewers began to make beer to withstand the overseas journey, for beer lovers to enjoy on the voyage and once they landed. The trick to long-term preservation was extra hops.

In came the India Pale Ale.

The ships that travelled from Britain to India, where Britain had colonies, inspired the name, and it has stuck ever since. Rarely today will you hear someone actually call an IPA an India Pale Ale, however. The name has been shortened for generations.

Types of Hops


Noble hops are those grown in four regions of Germany and the Czech Republic. They are the oldest known hops grown for beer, considered “Old World hops,” and the only ones allowed to be called Noble hops. They are known for their earthy qualities, with strong aromatics and slight bitterness, they are not as strong as American hops.


American hops, however, are popular precisely because of their intensity. Traditionally grown in Washington and Oregon, these hop varieties are floral, bright, and citrusy. They can be seen as harsh, and many who do not favor IPAs do not favor them because of American hops.


Then there are the wild hops that grow in the southwestern regions of the United States and in Northern Mexico. While many brewers are afraid to use wild hops for fear of changing the flavor of their brew dramatically, others are experimenting with these wild cones thanks to their ability to grow with little water and withstand even the harshest of droughts. Wild hops can add flavors like melon and apricot to beer, lending an entirely new air to this industry.

Dry Hopping Vs Wet Hopping

Another factor in hoppy beers, apart from how many hops have been added to the brew or which kind, is when the hops were added.

When brewers add hops before the boil, those strong flavors and aromas are boiled into the brew, making the flavors stronger and more bitter. This reality means that you don’t necessarily have to have more hops to reach a high bitterness level. You just have to boil those hops down longer.

In contrast, dry hopping involves adding the hops after the boil, so you get less bitterness and more floral and herbaceous notes that will come across as more subtle.

Which Beers Are High in Hops?

Ultimately, the beers with the highest hops include those with more hops, those with American hops, and those that have been wet hopped. The list includes:

  • Triggerfish the Kraken 1254 IBUs
  • Hart & Thistle Hop Mess Monster 1066 IBUs
  • Invicta 1000 IBUs
  • Dogfish Head Hoo Lawd 658 IBUs
  • Arbor Steel City DCLXVI 666 IBUs

Start with those five and see if you can tell the difference in the IBUs, or international bitterness units. Humans are not supposed to be able to detect anything over 1000. But you be the judge.


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  1. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/science-and-history-hops-180960846/
  2. https://www.findmeabrewery.com/hops/


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