The Freshest Beers of the Year
For Craft Beer Lovers, “Wet” Hops Come But Once a Year
Fall means many things to many people — including a number of exhausted tropes that will not be mentioned here. For American beer lovers, however, it signals the northern hop harvest, that singular time of year when the mature hops used to make our nation’s most coveted IPAs are picked and dried in a kiln before losing all their precious oils and aromas — a fate that can happen in as little as 24 hours after the hop flowers have been picked from their vine. As such, a vast majority of the beers we consume utilize some form of dried hop matter, such as whole cones, pellets or extracts.
Starting with Sierra Nevada back in 1996, the trend among many breweries close to major hop-production centers (Idaho, Oregon and the Yakima Valley in Washington State) has been to release what are known as “wet-hopped beers” — seasonal-release beers made using fresh hops, or at least some combination of fresh and dried hops; like herbs, fresh hops are naturally less intense than their dried counterparts due to the fact that they are made up of about 80 percent water. But what they lack in potency is made up in grace: wet-hopped beers are soft and vibrant, often characterized as grassy and floral. So sure, it’s not the everyday flavor most beer lovers are after. But for one moment every year, it’s the one they crave.