get it while it’s fresh
If you are a hops fan, I’m not telling anything you don’t know when I say it is fresh hop season! Fresh hop beers are now available on beer store shelves and on draft throughout the nation. Each region has these beers available at slightly different times, but for the most part, the peak is about now.
credit: brewed for thought
In the fall season of mild Oktoberfests and spicy pumpkin beer, fresh hops beers stand out as a remarkable style all on their own. In order to understand the significance of fresh hops (sometimes also called “wet” – this is a source of debate) in beer, you have to understand them as a plant.
Hops are the female flowers or seed cones of the Humulus lupulus plant, and they are harvested in the fall. After harvest, they quickly dry and loose some of their more characteristic flavors which influence flavor and aroma in beer. 99% or more of the hops used in brewing today are used in pelletized form – the hops are dried immediately after harvest. But by using the hops in fresh form as quickly as possible, more flavor can be gained from the plants.
The first documented use of hops in beer was in the 11th century and it was immediately noticed that beers with hops were much less prone to spoilage. After that, they quickly replaced other preservative ingredients like mugwort and wild nettle. If you have ever brewed a beer without hops, such as a gruit, you know how valuable the discovery of hops really was.
Many breweries are tackling a fresh hop beer and the style continues to grow with over a dozen available around the Twin Cities from late September through November.
My favorites so far this season have been Left Hand’s Warrior which was released early in the season, Two Brothers Heavy Handed – made with a few different types of hops – and Sierra Nevada’s Northern Hemisphere Harvest.
I also recently enjoyed Indeed‘s Mosaic on draft at Pizza Nea and it is a huge winner. Mosaic hops are one of my absolute favorites and the wonderful tropical notes of lychee and grapefruit really sang through, and balanced bitterness was excellent.
The Northern Hemisphere Harvest tasted absolutely devine; my dad and I drank it with pumpkin stew and it cut the earthy creaminess perfectly. It has a pleasant earthy and grassy component that tastes incredibly fresh, even compared to other fresh hop beers this season.
Get out there and try a few before they are gone – some of these beers have a loyal following, but others don’t fly off the shelves quite so quickly. Either way, they are best when enjoyed fresh!