Fresh hops are temperamental things. Hops growers have about 24 hours to get them from the field to the drying kiln before they start showing signs of spoiling. But if you can instead get them into a batch of beer within that 24-hour window...well, then you get a seasonal treat above all others. Hops harvest around the country is almost over, which means special brewery releases of fresh-hopped beers will be hitting store shelves any day now.
Fresh-hopped beers show a whole different side of the hops game. The hops flavors are brighter, fresher, and more delicate than the perfumey bitterness we're used to other hoppy brews. Think: fresh-cut grass, meadow flowers, and just-peeled citrus.
The point with fresh-hops is also not to totally overload your senses with hoppiness, which would muddle the uber-fresh flavors and aromas. There are some exceptions, of course, but fresh hops are usually best showcased in pale ales where they don't have to compete with either super-sweet malts or a lot of bitterness.
It also takes a lot of fresh hops to fully flavor a batch of beer. For this reason, batches of fresh-hopped beer tend to be small and sold in limited releases. If you see a bottle, snap it up! You might not get another chance to try this year's batch. Look for both "fresh-hopped" and "wet-hopped" on the label; both indicate the use of fresh hops in the brewing process.
Fresh-Hopped Beers to Try
• Chasin' Freshies from Deschutes Brewery
• Harvest Ale from Founders Brewing Co.
• Fresh Hop Pale Ale from Great Divide Brewing Company
• Autumnation from Sixpoint Brewery
• Chatoe Rogue Wet-Hopped Ale from Rogue Ales
Which fresh-hopped beers do you like best?
(Images: Deschutes Brewery, Sixpoint Brewery, and Founders Brewing Co.)