How Fresh Hops are Used in Brewing
It’s Harvest Time & Wet-Hopped Beers are On Tap
The term ‘Wet Hop’ refers to a process and style of beer in which 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.
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.
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.
Local Wet-Hopped Beers on the North Shore
Castle Danger Brewing Company will be releasing their 4th batch of their Mosaic Fresh Hop IPA in late October. According to owner Jamie MacFarlane, “This is by far the most anticipated and requested beer we get year round. It’s a constant education to explain why it can’t be brewed anytime of the year. We’ve taken to calling it the Last True Seasonal beer. With all of the ‘seasonal creep’ that happens – like Pumpkin beers in July, Summer Shandy in February – this is one beer you just can’t make at any time. You have to wait until the harvest is going and the hops are ready to pick. Wet, fresh hopped beers are a great education piece to anyone not familiar with the brewing world.”
Castle Danger’s fresh hops come from the Pacific Northwest where they are picked fresh off the vine, packaged and shipped directly to the brewery. Lots of last minute planning goes into the brewing because their brewers only get about 5 days notice before the hops will ship. Once they arrive, brewing continues around the clock until they are all used up.
Fitger’s Brewhouse has already got their wet-hopped session IPA on tap! It’s a delicious ale made with fresh Centennial hops harvested locally at Harbor Hops in Two Harbors. We had a chance to sit down with Fitger’s Brewhouse Head Brewer Frank Kaszuba and 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!