Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wet Hopping

I'm Baaaaccckkkkk....... yes I am well aware that it has been way to long since I've last posted, and even then it hasn't been very consistent. My only excuse, is that things have gotten crazy as life can tend to do. Between having a new baby at home, and starting a little non-profit up called Open The Taps , maybe you've heard of it, but if not, check out the link. I'm hoping my limited posting has now changed, and I'll be back doing what I enjoy, blogging about beer, bars, and everything that entails. So, enough of that stuff, let's get on to the post.

I received a text message a couple of days ago from a friend about me doing a blog post on wet hops. Well now just happens to be a good time to do a post for a couple of reasons. 1) its hop harvest season, 2) a great beer resource has been released that would help give me information on Wet Hopping. That great resource is The Oxford Companion to Beer (edited by Garrett Oliver). Just in thumbing through this thick tome its clear that its something every beer lover should pick up and read.
First a little history of what wet hopping is and what it isn't. Many folks are familiar with the term dry hopping which is adding the traditional dried hops (or pellets) to completely brewed beer (usually occurs in cask or keg). Wet hopping however is very different then this process. Fresh hops off the vine are around 80% moisture, they are harvested once a year, and then they are dried or kilned and this is what is usually used in brewing beer. In the simplest of terms the drying of the hops stabilizes them so that they can be stored and used at any time of the year. However, during hop season, those that live hear hop growing areas have an opportunity to make a unique beer. Hop season runs from late August to late September depending on what hop variety you are talking about. To make a fresh hop ale, hops are harvested, packaged loosely in a cardboard box and shipped quickly to an eagerly awaiting brewery. These fresh hops need to be used within 24 hours of harvesting, so everything has to happen FAST! Once the hops arrive at the brewery they are used just like regular hops are, with one exception: (Per Oxford Beer Companion) because of the high moisture content one has to use 4 to 5 times wet hops as they do dry hops to get similar results. Because of the short turn around from harvest to brewing, wet hopped beers are one of the last truly regional ales around. You won't see many if any wet hopped beers from Texas breweries because we don't live near a hop growing region. However you do see a great many of the style in regions of California, Washington, and Oregon, all near areas of prime hop growing regions. The good news is that we do get some wet hopped beers in Texas from breweries outside the state.
Before getting to a wet hopped beer, I wanted to get a better understanding of what to expect regarding the differences in the flavor profile between a beer hopped using the traditional process and one being wet hopped. I reached out to knowledgeable beer man and owner of the soon to be open Hay Merchant, Kevin Floyd to get his thoughts on this issue. Kevin feels that wet hops have a more subtle flavor profile than their dried counterparts, but that subtlety allows for more layers of flavors. This subtlety brings more balance and more spicier notes. Kevin also gave me my favorite quote in trying to describe wet hops: "a dry hop can be a one note chorus, but in comparison that same hop when its fresh comes off like a full symphony." Well with that quote its time to have a wet hopped beer. Last week I was lucky enough that Anvil Bar and Refuge tapped a cask of Wet hopped Moylan's Hopsickle, and figured if your going to have a wet hopped beer, go big or go home.
The Beer: (Check here for my thoughts on the dry hopped version). The nose is very earthy, hops are present, but not over powering. The mouth feel is intense, mouth coating hops. I remember the other one being like biting into grapefruit, this one was more earthy, and grapefruit pith. Its big, and complex, but no single flavor wallops you over the head. Quickly though after a few sips, the flavors stick to the side of your mouth and it starts to saturate your taste buds. Its a big beer, but very little alcohol. Not a session beer, but maybe a one beer a session beer. I wouldn't know what I would drink after this one since your taste buds are overwhelmed. Having said that it was interesting because of the wet hops and wasn't a one note musical, but many subtle notes that came to together nicely.

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