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Friday, May 30, 2008

Wet Hop Ales in the Spring

Wet hop beers are great style of beer that are usually only available in the fall during hop harvest time. They are called “wet hop” or “fresh hop” because they hops are cut off the vine and put in the beer within 24 hours or so. This gives the beer a very fresh and smooth hop character that you do not get from ordinary dry hops. Imagine the smell of a spice, like basil, that is dried. Now imagine basil when you pick some fresh and smell it. This will give you an idea of the difference in aroma.
Many production breweries and brewpubs will do a fresh hop ale. It is a tough brew mainly because they are only given about 24 hours notice from the hop farm that there hops are being sent out to them (at a shipping cost of hundreds of dollars), the brewers have to be ready to brew at a moment’s notice. It is a beer that is made purely out of the love of brewing.
Once a year is long time to wait for these special beers, so leave it to Sierra Nevada to source hops in the southern hemisphere, where it is now fall, so we can experience wet hops beers in the spring! Their Southern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Hop Ale is a great beer and a wonderful example of this style of beer. It seems to be widely available in the bay area. I have seen it not only at Safeway but 7-11 as well. Here is a pull from Sierra Nevada’s website about their trilogy of fresh hop beers:

“Our latest hop experience is a trilogy of fresh hop ales representing our journey following the hop harvest around the globe. Simply said, we were in search of a way to expand our offering of fresh hop ales throughout the year rather than limiting it to just the fall season. So we scouted the planet exploring new regions to source fresh hops and also explored ways to maximize the oily, resinous qualities of the hops from each harvest as we transported them to our brewery in Chico, California.
To make this project happen, we selected hops from regions where the hop harvest occurred at different times of the year. Southern Hemisphere Harvest uses hops from New Zealand that are harvested in our spring. Our Chico Estate Harvest uses hops grown at our brewery in Chico, California that are harvested in late summer. And our original Harvest Ale uses hops from Yakima, Washington harvested in early fall. The result is three fresh hop ales that will be released at different times of the year, each providing a unique experience with hops from different parts of the world. We aptly call this trilogy of fresh hop ales our Harvest Series.”

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