Raise a "Fresh" Glass to the Hop Harvest
October is here, which means many things to different people. To the people of the beer world, it means that the freshly hopped beers will be available for a short amount of time. Come mid September, brewers are either scrambling to pick their own hops and get them into the brew kettle while the oils and resins of the hops are still intact, or eagerly anticipating an overnight shipment of the just harvested hops. The freshly hopped beers have many aliases, some calling them wet hopped, some referring to them as harvest ales. Although they go by different names, these beers all share one thing in common: within days or even hours of being picked, hops are added to these brews.
So what makes a wet hopped beer special you may ask? The answer lies in the flavor. Brewers and beer connoisseurs compare fresh hopping of beer to cooking with freshly picked herbs and spices, or cooking with just now picked vegetables from the farmers market. Vegetal, earthy, floral, citrus, and herbal flavors and aromas that are often times lost during the processing and pelletizing of hops are abundant. These characteristics are more pronounced in the harvest ales, whereas their dry and pellet hopped beer counterparts are often times dominated by bitterness.
For the best beer drinking experience, drink the wet hopped beers as fresh as possible. The unblemished aromas and flavors harnessed by wet hopping a beer only last so long, and will start to fade as the beer begins to oxidize. My old man and I know from experience, as we found a five month old bottle of Sierra Nevada Chico Estate Harvest Wet Hop Ale buried in the depths of his overstocked fridge, only to be disappointed by the liquid grass clipping taste of a beer that had been one of our favorites when it was brand new.
The following wet hopped beers are either available at Binnys now, or will be very soon. Dont miss your chance to experience the 2009 harvest.
- Great Divide Fresh Hope Pale Ale We had this one in Great Divides Tap Room. It is not overly bitter, and jam- packed with flavor. It fairly limited last year; expect the same this year.
- Three Floyds Broodoo Dont miss out on this one, as many consider it to be the very best wet hopped beer available in the market.
- Left Hand Warrior IPA As solid as they come, especially at $5.99 for a 22oz bomber.
- Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale The trail blazer of the bunch: first released in 1996 and the cause of the wet hop trend in America.
- Founders Harvest Ale Perhaps the rarest of the wet hopped beers. It may take some real sleuthing and dedication to get your hands on this gem, but it will be well worth your time.
- Two Brothers Heavy Handed IPA One of the only wet hopped beers available in six-packs, and readily obtainable due to its locality and Two Brothers crafting enough of it to go around.
Which wet hopped beers are you going to raise a glass of as you celebrate this years hop harvest?