The 4 noble hops consist of the German hops Hallertau, Tetnang, and Spalt, together with the Czech hop Saaz. Noble hops are known for their low bitterness and strong aroma and tend to be on the more “hoppy” side. They are great for making more mature brews and go really well with American hops.
Hallertau was almost wiped out in the 70s, but these hops have since made a very strong comeback. Ever the star of Oktoberfest — Hallertau produces sharp, earthy flavors with strong spice and subtle floral notes. These hops are perfect for making traditional German ales and lagers — as well as your regular IPAs.
If you like spicy brews and you’re out of Hallertau, consider the English Challenger or the American Cascade (minus the citrus) and Summit. Add a bit of flavor by mixing it with Citra or Mosaic — or overload your patron’s taste buds by pairing it with Simcoe.
Spalt is a little bit more well-rounded compared to the other noble hops. It produces strong flavors of herbs and spice, but it also gives you subtle hints of fruit and citrus.
Spalt is perfect for making IPAs for your older patrons, and they may liken it to brews made from Ekuanot or Idaho. Go full tea-time by mixing it with Columbus or Nugget — or make it more interesting with a bit of Amarillo or Centennial.
Tetnang is probably the hardiest among the noble hop varieties — enabling it to be grown in different parts of the world. However, if you get your hops from any place other than Germany — those hops might actually be hybrids and not far from the real Tetnang.
These German hops produce soft spicy tones and mild floral and herbal aromas. The flavors are very subtle, making Tetnang more suitable as a bittering and aromatic hop.
Your more experienced patrons might liken your brews to a subtler Horizon or the English Kent Golding. Tetnang can be a little dull on its own so pair it with your favorite flavoring hops to make more aromatic brews.
From hardiest to weakest — the Czech Saaz is the noble hop that has gone through the wringer multiple times. Strong efforts have been made to preserve this particular hop variety — including multiple clonings (9 and counting).
Saaz is very delicate, doesn’t have strong yields, and is terribly vulnerable to mildew. If you do manage to get a hold of these hops — they produce very distinct flavors rich in floral and spice tones with a hint of earthiness and citrus. Saaz is often confused with Summit or Nugget — but the extra hoppiness gives it away. Saaz has very low alpha acid contents, so you may need to use an additional hop for bittering.
You don’t need to wait for October to experience Oktoberfest. Stock up on noble hops and add a bit more hoppiness and aroma to your brews. Pair them with the more flavorful local hops and open up new flavors and experiences for your patrons.