This summer I grew a good amount of herbs and vegetables in my small backyard. I had broccoli, cauliflower, kale, basil, tomatoes, lettuce and more. There is nothing like making a meal (or at least supplementing one) with food grown in your own garden. I was particularly excited to get home grown hops from a Centennial hop rhizome I planted. Its also why I was so disappointed my sad little hop bine produced zero hops for me. So much for the wet hop IPA I was planning.
This was the 3rd year for this plant. You can see it in the background of the picture. It looked pretty good right? The first year I got enough hops to throw into a pale ale. I thought I would get even more the following year. Unfortunately year 2 produced only a hand full of hops. I thought for sure 2014 was the year for this plant. Maybe I should have actually read the copy of “Homegrown Hops” by David R. Beach that my wife got me a while back…
Due to my complete and utter hop failure, I’m forced to find my wet hop fix commercially. Each year there seems to be renewed confusion around the terms wet hops, fresh hops, and harvest ales. It seems there are 2 schools of thought. Some say they are all interchangeable terms describing the same thing. Others say there is a distinction. Personally I like what Sierra Nevada has to say their website: “Wet Hops are un-dried hops, picked and shipped from the growing fields within 24 hours. Fresh Hops are the freshest dried hops to come from the fields, typically within seven days of harvest.”
That makes sense to me. I think of herbs in cooking. You can make the same dish with equally tasty results using dried or fresh cut herbs from the garden. If you did a side by side comparison, you would notice a slightly different flavor. Both might be delicious, but just a little different. That being said, I understand that not all breweries market their beer the same way which perpetuates the debate. Really the only thing we need to know as consumers is when you see the words, fresh, wet or harvest on a bottle between August and October, chances are it contains hops picked within 24 hours.
Luckily there are plenty of options and there is still time to find these beers. As mentioned earlier, Sierra Nevada released its Harvest Wet Hop IPA in bottles. I recently went to Deschutes in Portland and tried their wet hop Mirror Pond Pale Ale as well as Hop Trip. It was nice to compare the wet hop Mirror Pond and the standard version side by side. There is a distinct green, herbal, mown grassiness to the wet hop version that I really like. It adds a freshness that is not in the standard Mirror Pond.
This time of year almost any brewpub or brewery you go to around here has a wet hop beer. Sasquatch Brewing Company has Perles Before Swine Fresh Hopped IPA, McMenamins has their Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale, Laurelwood does a fresh hop version of Free Range Red. The list is long, as it should be. Yakima Valley alone provides 75% of the hops to US breweries. We have easy access to the freshest hops in the country so it should be no surprise we so many of these beers.
I’m already planning next year’s garden to insure a decent hop harvest. I’m looking forward to making my own wet hop beer from home grown hops. Now I just need to find and read that book…