How Fresh Hops are Used in Brewing

A True Seasonal Brew

The term ‘wet-hop’ or ‘fresh-hop’ refers to a process where hops are harvested and utilized fresh off the vine without being processed. Fresh hops are used immediately following the fall harvest and are therefore the one truly seasonal beer in a brewery’s lineup.

hop vines

Hop vines growing at a large-scale hop farm. Image: The Duluth Experience.

Related: Local Wet-Hopped Beers on The North Shore

Typically, hops are harvested, dried and processed immediately after they’re picked so they can be packaged and stored for use during the year. In most cases hops are ground into pellets and vacuum sealed before going into cold storage. The processing stops hop degradation and allows for the naturally volatile lupulin glands to maintain their characteristics because – let’s face it – not all beer is brewed in the fall. Without preservation, the wet hops would mold and ultimately lose their bitterness and aroma.

Pellet Hops

Hop pellets are used year-round in the brewing process. The use of wet hops is a truly seasonal brew session. Image: The Duluth Experience.

Related: All About Beer Magazine: The Origins of Wet-Hopped Beer

The wet-hop beer, on the other hand, is a truly seasonal beer that embraces the harvest season and the somewhat unpredictable nature of the the sticky, fresh hops. For many brewers it’s a fun and creative opportunity to use freshly harvested hops and create unique beers that celebrate the harvest season.

Wet-hopped beers are logistically challenging to make given the need to typically use the fresh hops within 24-48 hours of being picked but many brewers consider it one of their favorites and craft beer aficionados eagerly anticipate their arrival.

Hops on the Vine

Hops growing on the vine. Image: The Duluth Experience.

Using Fresh Hops

We had a chance to sit down with Frank Kaszuba back when he was the head brewer at Fitger’s Brewhouse (he’s now at Earth Rider) to learn a little bit about how fresh hops are generally used in brewing and specifically how they were used in this year’s Brewhouse wet-hopped ale.

I hope you get a chance to sample some of the great wet-hopped beers this season. They’re fun, unique, and delicious. Get ’em while you can! Cheers!

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