Tuesday Beer Trivia: The Evolution of Hops

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Put your knowledge of our favorite bine’s evolutionary history to the test in this week’s Tuesday Beer Trivia quiz.

Hops went through quite a bit before they made it into your delicious homebrewed IPA. Whether munched by dinosaurs or surviving global extinctions, these beauties had the will to live and evolve into the aromatic hop we know and love today.

After you take the Beer Trivia quiz below, scroll down to “Beer Trivia Answer Explanations” section to learn more about the evolution of hops.

Beer Trivia Answer Explanations

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The following explanations were taken from “Hops for Triceratops? The Revolutionary Evolution of My Favorite Brewing Ingredient” by Andy Farke, PhD in the March/April 2017 issue of Zymurgy.

Question 1: Cannabis and the less-known hackberry tree are also members of the group Cannabaceae. This seemingly random amalgamation of species is identified as close family by attributes inherited from their common DNA. Beyond DNA, the two plants also have roughly similar leaf types, similar seeds, similar pollen, and even similar flowers at the microscopic level.

Question 2: The site in North Dakota not only found evidence of dinosaurs, but it also has an excellent fossil plant record. The site produced numerous fossil leaves with a shape and venation pattern suspiciously similar to those of hops.

Question 3: False. Unfortunately, no fossil hop cones are known so far. Today’s hop species suggest that aromatic hops rich in alpha acids are a recent evolutionary development.

Question 4: Fossil seeds from western Siberia, around 10 million years old, document the oldest known hops in Asia. However, the sparseness of a fossil record contributes to the uncertainty as to exactly how far back the Humulus lupulus relatives go.

Question 5: The most detailed fossil record of hops during the ice age comes from pollen. An example comes from a sample from the ancient Polish lake beds dated 480,000–620,000 years ago (right in the middle of the ice age). Today’s hops in that region prefer relatively mild climates. Thus, changes in abundance of Humulus pollen through time track how the plant was pushed from and pulled back into the area during warming and cooling intervals.