Saturday, August 26, 2006

The hop harvest - a time for wet hopping

September is hop harvest season. Fresh hops are picked off the bine and dried. The drying makes the perishable wet hop much more stable and useable all year-round. These dried hops are called dried whole hops, and this is the traditional way of handling hops, you just put them whole into the brew kettle. Recently more and more hops are being processed into pellets which makes them even more stable, in fact they can keep their quality properties for a much longer time. At the same time they also take up less space as they are more space efficient, meaning that it takes less to achieve the hopping qualities you need.

Recent years have introduced a new phenomenon: wet hopping (sometimes also referred to as fresh hopping or green hopping).  Freshly-harvested wet hops are used directly in the brewing process skipping the drying process. This imparts much stronger, and different, flavour and aroma qualities to the beer than what dried hops would do.

Because wet hops is a perishable product it must be used very shortly after it is picked off the bine. This typically means that the brewers that do make wet hopped beers get shipments overnight from hop harvesters so that they can make their beer the day after. Because of this wet hopped beers is a seasonal product. In many ways this is similar to the beaujolais nouveau only this time for beer.

As far as I can tell this trend started in the hop-growing regions of California and the Pacific Northwest. There are even wet hop festivals! It is indeed a very nice way to celebrate the hop harvest.

I tried to get hold of some hop rhizomes this spring, but soon found that I had started searching for them too late, so I have to wait until next year to make my own wet hopped beer. But if you happen to have a hop plant, consider making a wet hopped beer. Now is the right time, unless you want to wait another year.

9 comments:

Tore said...

Geir Ove, do you know if there are any commercially available wet-hopped beers in Europe or is this advanced homebrewer territory only on this continent? It is definitely something a beer tourist should search for:-)

grove said...

Tore, unfortunately, no. I have yet to find any wet hopped beers here in our old continent. The most well distributed beer in the U.S. seem to be Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale, but not abroad as far as I can tell. That said there seem to be some movement on the issue in Great Britain, so you might get lucky if you go there in early October. :)

Jens Dalsgaard said...

Hi Geir. This wet-hopping sounds facinating. I have not heard about it before. I just have to try a wet hopped beer now. Thanks for the eye opener.

http://www.nanobryg.dk/weblog/

grove said...

Jens, yes indeed! With all the new micro-breweries starting up in Denmark, there might even be some Danish wet-hopped beers. I have not seen any, but it wouldn't surprise me if somebody had just made one. :)

grove said...

I just found out that there happens to be a small festival devoted to green hops in the UK: Green hop beer festival.

Anonymous said...

Geir Ove -- do you know of about how much hops one should use? I live in Oregon, USA and just yesterday I picked about twenty liters' volume of Goldings from my friend's garden.

Thank you,

Joe Middleton
Portland, Oregon, USA

grove said...

You are very lucky, Joe! I wish I had some too. Next year seems to be my best bet. :)

The recommendations seems to be to use between three and six times the amount of hops *by weight*. Remember that fresh hops are much heavier than dried hops. Fresh hops also seem to be best used for late/dry hopping as they don't impart much bitterness, so you may want to use dried hops for bittering, but with your twenty liters I think you should have plenty anyway.

Bill said...

Found your blog after a member of my 'Grow-Hops' Yahoo group clued me into the term 'wet hopping'. I'm a first year grower and am anxious to try this. If you or any readers are interested, my group specializes in growing hops, and we now have over 230 members in less than a month. The link is http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Grow-Hops

Cheers.

Bill Velek

grove said...

Hi Bill, I'm subscribed already, as of June 12th. There are lots of interesting hop discussions on the list, so I can definitely recommend it. :)