Wet Hop Beers!
Recently we added three new beers to the Bagby Beer line up that were brewed using only fresh, full cone hops, aka "wet hops". Hop harvest happens once a year in the Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, and Idaho). It can start as early as mid-August and can last until as late as early October, it all depends on Mother Nature. Over the years, craft brewers have become more and more connected to the process of hop growing. Brewers from all over are visiting hop growing regions to visit farms and speak directly with farmers about the hop industry and it’s relationship with craft brewing. Hop farming is a very unique and difficult industry that has a direct effect on what beer drinkers are tasting in their glasses. The difficult and exciting time that is the hop harvest is at a close. We here at the Bagby Beer Company took full advantage of what only harvest time can produce – WET HOP BEER!!
So, what is a wet hop beer and what is the significance of it?
The process of hop harvest involves getting all of the hop cones (actually flowers) off of their long tall vines, drying them, and then bailing them. This of course is a very brief description of the process. The drying process reduces the moisture content in the hop flowers down to about 9 to 10 percent. The hops spend time in a giant kiln where hot air is moved through them. This way the hops are somewhat preserved and brewers can get nice fully aromatic and powerful hops all year around.
Wet hops skip this drying process all together they get pulled from the vines and then are shipped directly to breweries. These hops are not bailed or processed in any way they are at their full moisture content and come in boxes or bags directly to the brewery. Because they haven’t gone through the kilning process, these hops can have very exotic aromas and flavors. These hops are expensive because they take up much more space, they are very delicate, and have to be shipped cold and as fast as possible. Timing is everything for these hops and their use in beer. If the hops are not used right after picking, they will start to turn and create negative aromas and flavors.
We only get the chance to use these hops once a year. We are at the mercy of when they are ready to be picked and shipped down to us, which makes planning the brew days difficult. Although extremely difficult to work, wet hops smell fantastic and are worth every bit of all of the hard work. Each and every time we make a wet hop beer it will be different than any other we’ve made since the hops change each year. Even if we were able to use the same hop varieties, from year to year, different variables such as weather, moisture, soil and blooming time can impact the hops makeup. They may have different aromas and/or flavors next time around. These hops have not been field tested by the lab so we have no way of knowing how strong or how light their bittering power may be. Part of the fun of brewing wet hop beer is that you never really know what you are going to get. Wet hop beers are much more popular than they used to be, especially on the west coast. We are close to some of the best hop growing regions in the world
One thing that is also somewhat different from some other breweries is that we used 100% wet hops on all three of these brews. Some brewers will supplement their wet hop beers with regular kilned hops. We went for straight 100% wet hops for all three batches. Another thing to know is that some breweries call these beers “green hopped beers” or “fresh hop beers.” We call them wet hop beers because the hops that they are made with have their full moisture content and are therefore “wet” in comparison. All hops are green and any hops a brewer uses should be fresh so we go with wet hop for a description of these beers.
So, on to the actual beers!
Hop Crop Extra Pale – 100% wet hopped American extra pale ale. 4.8% abv. This beer is served on nitrogen which slightly softens the bite on palate and brings out more of the flavor of the hops rather than the bitterness. This was brewed with Cascade hops from Van Horn Farms.
Hop Crop Pale Ale – 100% wet hopped American pale ale. 5.9% abv. The hops used in this beer were Simcoe from the BT Loftus Ranches and Cascade from Van Horn Farms. We used a great amount of both of these hops in this brew so it has a very strong aroma and actually quite a bit of bitterness. Some of the bitterness lingers on your palate for a little while.
Hop Crop Red Ale – 100% wet hopped American red ale. 5.9% abv. This beer was brewed with Centennial hops from Van Horn Farms. It has a solid crystal/caramel malt flavor along with some crazy hops flavors. There are some earthy notes along with some pine and citrus. This one is unique for sure.
All three of these beers are on tap now and once they are gone they are gone for good!