It's a great time for beer right now. I've heard them called fresh hop, wet hop, harvest ales, wet harvest ales...etc....etc... you get the picture, but what are they?
The hop harvest happens in the fall each year, and from these hops come wet hop beers. The majority of those hops are destined to be processed into hop pellets that look like pellet sized hamster food. After a hop has been dried it only has about 10-15% water content, but fresh hops are about 70-80% water and from that you get the "wet" in wet hop beers. However, a lucky few hundred thousand pounds of hops get to go right into brewers kettles usually within about 24-48 hours of harvest. The drying of hops helps them retain most of their concentrated bitterness, but the drying process also takes away some of the oils and other aromatic qualities of an unprocessed hop. Wet hops will not have the same bitterness potential as processed hops. Brewers also have to use copious amounts of fresh hops vs. dried hops to achieve the wonderful aromatics on the nose and bitterness on the tongue. I can try and compare it to making a meal with dried herbs vs. fresh from the garden herbs. The difference is amazing. They are so highly regarded in the pacific northwest that most cities have a beer festival dedicated strictly to fresh hop beers.
I really appreciate that beer is an agricultural product, but I think wet hop beers go a step further and really tie in the farm to table mentality. I admit I am a notorious beer hoarder when something new hits the shelf, but wet hop beers force me to drink them because they don't hold up very long. I would recommend consuming your wet hop beers inside of a month once they are purchased, and you may even want to add a glass of water to drink along side of your beer. Right now is the time for a wet hop beer, so celebrate the harvest and enjoy a wet hop beer.
Commercial examples available here in Indiana:
Three Floyds - Broo Doo
Sierra Nevada - Harvest Ale
Left Hand - Warrior IPA
Founders - Harvest Ale
Hoppin' Frog - Fresh Frog Raw
Great Divide - Fresh Hop
If you know of others available here in Indiana please leave us a note.