Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fresh Hop Beers?

I'm not a home brewer, though in my recent visit back to Baltimore I found out that I have two friends who are really into the practice... but, nonetheless, I found this NYT article about brewing fresh hop beer really fascinating:
Hops give beer its distinctive bitterness and lend it other lively notes that range from citrus to flowers. But brewers usually use dried processed pellets of hops. The fall hops harvest is their brief window of opportunity to brew with the fresh green cones to make beers with a subtle range of hops flavor.
...
Timing is crucial for these brews. Once the hops are harvested in late August or early September, they must be added to the beer within 24 hours of being picked. Brewers must use five to seven times more fresh hops than dried because drying concentrates flavors.
...
Fresh hops must be harvested within a few hours’ drive of where they will be used in a brew, as they’re delicate and don’t freeze or ship well.
...
Once the brewing ends, the beer ferments for two to four weeks, which makes October the prime time for drinking them. Fresh-hop beer should be consumed within three months, and the sooner the better; the essence of fresh hops fades more quickly than that of dried hops.

So a fresh hop doesn't impart that stereotypical bitterness that many beer drinkers so adore... interesting. Unfortunately, while the article lists some New York establishments that serve fresh hop beer, it's not exactly clear what the rest of us are supposed to do. They do mention the Chatoe Rogue Wet Hop Ale by Rogue and Chico Estate Harvest Ale and Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale by Sierra Nevada... though their hops are dried a week before brewing, so not exatly the same, but possibly more likely to be in my local liquor store. Ithaca Beer Company, Harpoon Brewery and Victory Brewing apparently also have (had?) some fresh hop beer at their breweries, but it doesn't sound like they put it out for mass consumption.