Hops are the flowering buds of the female hop plant. The hop plant is actually a vine that is grown in gardens or fields using poles and strings to make them climb vertically. The number one reason for the commercial farming of hops is for its use in beer. Commercial hop yards can be found in many different countries all over the world, they especially prevalent in the United States and some European countries. There are many different varieties of hops with each having its own unique characteristics which will influence the flavor and aroma of the beer they are used in.
Hops are a key ingredient in almost all beer recipes today. Brewers look for several characteristics of hop varieties to help create their own unique brew. Bitterness is the primary characteristic that hops provide to a beer because this helps to balance the sweetness of the sugars left over from the initial malt. Hops also heavily contribute to the nose or aroma of a beer, if you have ever enjoyed a good India Pale Ale you might have noticed that the beer had a very floral smell, this is directly caused the hops that the brewer chose to use. The amount of bitterness and aroma that are infused into the beer are proportionally related to how much hops are added and when they are added during the wort boil.
Another known benefit of using hops in beer is that it has an antibiotic quality which helps the brewers yeast to thrive instead of unwanted and potentially sickening wild yeast or bacteria. While this side effect of hops was very important in the early days of brewing to reduce spoilage and ensure a clean beer, breweries today now use modern methods of sterilization and pasteurization to guarantee a healthy batch of brew.