While many beers are appropriate to a season, only wet-hopped ales are controlled by it. Normally, when the delicate catkins of the hop plant are at their peak of flavor, they are picked and dried in a kiln for later use to add bitterness and aroma when brewing beer. Increasingly though, brewers are making room in their late summer schedules to craft a few beer batches with freshly harvested hops. Given that fresh hops are 80% water, they need to be used within hours of picking or they begin to degrade and develop "off" flavors and mold. To make these beers, brewers essential rush fresh-cut flowers into their kettles.
Northern California brewers have had an easier time making these wet-hopped beers since Marty Kuchinski started Hop-Meister Farm in nearby Clear Lake back in 2006. Kuchinski farms 22 acres of organic Centennial, Chinook, Cascade, Columbus and Magnum varieties as well as two recently resurrected California varieties: Ivanhoe and Gargoyle. When batches of hops are fully ripe, they can be rushed to local brewers for flavoring a batch of ale. Since fresh hops are only available in season, when a batch of wet-hopped beer is gone, it can’t be made again 'til next year.
Brewers and other beer lovers enjoy these hyper-seasonal beers because the just picked hops retain volatile oils in the finished beer that are missing from beers brewed from their kiln-dried cousins. To help a drinker better appreciate all that a particular hop can provide, many of these wet-hopped brews use a single hop variety. Wet-hopped beers are often described as juicy, grassy, and dank. You can enjoy them yourself by sampling batches from these local brewers:
- Social Kitchen – These guys came early to the party this year; their Wet Hop American Summer Pale Ale has been on tap for a couple of weeks.
- Almanac Beer Co. – Almanac just released three single, fresh hop IPAs. Cluster, Chinook, and Cascade versions are now available on draft as well in 750mL bottles.
Available Starting in September
- Speakeasy Ales and Lagers – On Saturday, September 7th, Speakeasy will host their 16th Anniversary Block Party. Included in the beers available will be the inaugural tapping of their Wet Hop Big Daddy IPA. Get your tickets here.
- Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery – Two batches of High Time Harvest Ale should be on draft in a couple of weeks. One batch will be made solely with Mosaic hops and the other with Simcoe, giving beer lovers a chance to make a side-by-side comparison of how these two varietals taste.
- Anderson Valley Brewing Co. – On September 21, Anderson Valley will release their Mendo Mello American Pale Ale brewed with wet Cascade and Chinook hops. They expect their supply to be available through December. The beer will debut at their 2nd Annual Mowkeef Festival (free admittance).
Available Starting in October
- 21st Amendment Brewery – Expect a Wet Hop Pale Ale brewed with Chinook and Cascade hops to be available in late October.
- Sierra Nevada – Their Northern Hemisphere Wet-Hopped IPA is brewed with wet Cascade and Centennial hops. On October 19, Sierra will be hosting a Single, Fresh, Wet & Wild Beer Fest which includes wet-hopped beers. Get your tickets here.