Hops are a pretty fickle component in beer. Once picked they are typically kiln dried as whole hop cones or formed into pellets. The hops, which are around 80% moisture, are reduced to around 9% to preserve them. Too little moisture and they oxidize. Too much moisture and they’ll mold and create off flavors. But because these hops lose their flavor and aroma compounds so quickly and easily and since they are harvested just one time per year and brewers need a supply of hops year round, this is the best option. Dried hops pack the flavor and aroma you’d expect to find in hops, but often lack the depth and complexity of fresh hops.
However, during the harvest period, around late August to early October depending on the varietal and location, brewers have access to beautiful, fresh hops to create beer with. These beers, called fresh hop beers, also known as wet hop, green hop, or harvest beers, use the freshest hops imaginable. The hops are picked and delivered via the fastest methods available to the brewery and are often used in a beer within 24-48 hours of picking. Much longer than that and they’ll start deteriorating. Some brewers working with local hop sources get these hops into their kettle within hours of being picked. Due to the high moisture content of fresh hops compared to dried hops, brewers often use five times more fresh hops for these beers than they would in dried form.
These hops can go into any style of beer, but are typically used in hop-forward beers that showcase them like American Pale Ales and American India Pale Ales. These are beers best drunk fresh.
Here are 5 to try:
Brewery: Deschutes Brewery
Beer: Hop Trip Fresh Hop Ale
Location: Bend, OR
While Deschutes is just four hours from hops mecca Yakima, WA–responsible for 75% of hops grown in the United States–they get their hops for Hop Trip from an even closer source near Salem, OR. This allows their brewers to get their hops into the kettle within just four hours of being picked, which is pretty tough to beat. Hop Trip is a pale ale and available from October to December and full of tropical fruit and a touch of pine.
Brewery: Terrapin Beer Co. [label pictured at top]
Beer: So Fresh & So Green, Green
Location: Athens, GA
So Fresh & So Green, Green uses 100% fresh Simcoe hops from B.T. Loftus Ranches in Yakima, WA, though the hop varietal changes each year. The Simcoe hops, which provide an earthy, citrusy character, were next day aired from Yakima and batches of this beer were brewed around the clock until the hops, which had been picked just 36 hours prior, were used.
Brewery: Victory Brewing Company
Beer: Harvest Ale
Location: Downington, PA
Victory wanted fresh hops for their Harvest Ale. A lot of them. After the hops were picked Victory had a refrigerated truck take six tons of them directly from Yakima to Downington, PA, making the 2,700 mile journey and going straight into the kettle. Using fresh Citra and Mosaic hops, this hop-forward beer is supported by notes of apricot and citrus.
Brewery: Half Acre Beer Company
Beer: Sticky Fat
Location: Chicago, IL
Chicago’s Half Acre Beer Company used 300 pounds of Chinook hops from nearby Northern Michigan for the 2014 release of their Sticky Fat. Unlike other beers on this list, this is a dark ale that provides notes of chocolate to back up the piney, resinous fresh hop character … and it doesn’t hurt that the label is incredible. Half Acre also has Mr. Ouroboros German Pale Ale which uses a Kolsch yeast strain and “bags & bags” of whole cone Citra hops.
Brewery: Saint Arnold Brewing Company
Beer: Fresh Hop Ale
Location: Houston, TX
Saint Arnold Fresh Hop Ale used 420 pounds of fresh Centennial hops they had sent to them to create their first Session IPA. It’s a single hop ale, only using Centennial, which along with the hop additions you’d normally find with an IPA, also added hops near the end of the boil. They felt the fresh hops create “a slightly softer bitter than dried hops do.” Saint Arnold beer can be found in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida.