Top 5 beers of the Week

Pert Near Fresh Hop IPA from Crux Fermentation Project

Suttle Haze Hazy IPA from Three Creeks Brewing

Oktoberfest from Mazama Brewing

20” Brown from Cascade Lakes Brewing

Voodoo Ranger Juicy Haze IPA from New Belgium Brewing

It’s a favorite time of the year once again for beer lovers — hop harvest season. From late summer through early fall, hop farms are engaged in the laborious task of bringing in the harvest. There’s a narrow window of time for the hops to be gathered, during which they will be dried and processed to supply breweries for the next year.

Of course this also means that it’s fresh hop season, when many breweries brew special beers infused with undried hops. These are fresh from the fields and added to the beer within hours after being picked. Fresh hop beers exhibit pungently fresh character not unlike cut grass or chlorophyll, often along with zesty, spicy, herbal, or fruity notes.

Brewers employ a variety of methods for adding the hops to their beers, which can yield different results.

Robin Johnson, assistant brewmaster at Deschutes Brewery’s Public House, is brewing five fresh hop beers for the pub this year and favors two methods in working with fresh hops: cold-side additions similar to the practice of dry hopping, and hot-side additions at the end of the boil.

“I’m doing Fresh Hop Mirror Pond with cold-side additions of Cascade at 10 (pounds per barrel),” he said via email.

“I’ll plan to transfer the beer from fermenter into another fermenter containing the fresh hops loaded into muslin sacks for a five-day ‘dry hop.’ Then I’ll transfer it off the hops and into a conditioning tank.”

When adding the hops on the hot side, he either adds them to the kettle after the boil for the whirlpool (a method to separate particulates and trub from wort), or to the hopback (a small tank or kettle filled with hops which the hot wort passes through before chilling).

“I definitely find the character is lighter when used on the hot side, so I double up on the amount used to 20 (pounds per barrel),” Johnson said.

These are the two most common methods for adding fresh hops to the brew. Another is to add the hops at the beginning or during the boil as the bittering addition, as well as at the end.

Personally, I find that this practice tends to extract an unpleasant vegetal note from the hops, not unlike compost. I’ve talked with a number of brewers over the years who feel the same, and as such it’s common for many breweries to use standard dried hops for bittering and only use fresh post boil.

The hop harvest and fresh hop beers are not exclusive to commercial breweries. Many homebrewers grow their own hops (or know someone who does) and brew fresh hop beers this time of year as well. I recently harvested the hops from my own backyard plants, dried some of them, and brewed a fresh hop pale ale with others.

My method of brewing with fresh hops are similar to Deschutes’ Johnson’s. I add them within the last few minutes of the boil, as well as adding a “whirlpool” addition — letting them steep for 15 minutes at about 170 degrees after the boil is complete.

My rule of thumb for measuring fresh versus dried hops by weight for a homebrew recipe is a five-to-one ratio; five ounce of fresh hops for every one ounce of dried that the recipe calls for.

Hops should be used within 24 hours after picking for a fresh hop brew. Beyond that they will have degraded to the point of adding musty, moldy, and other decomposing vegetation flavors to the beer. If not being used fresh, they can be dried and vacuum sealed to store cold for up to a year or more.

Watch for fresh hop beers to be hitting the taps at brewpubs around town, and don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy these fleeting harvest beers.

—Jon Abernathy is a beer writer and blogger and launched The Brew Site (www.thebrewsite.com) in 2004. He can be reached at jon@thebrewsite.com .

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