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Friday, October 03, 2014

All the Fresh Hops

I have fallen down on the job.  In past years, as the air grows chill and the leaves turn to fire, I begin busily blogging about fresh hop beers.  It is one of the most extraordinary cul-de-sacs in the beer world, mostly unknown except to those who live in the right neighborhood.  For a few short weeks, brewers are able to use just-picked, undried hops straight from the vine.  They travel no more than a couple of hours from Oregon's Willamette Valley and arrive at breweries fresh and full of life.  The beers they make can be spectacular, singular things found nowhere else in the world.  Like the life seeping moment by moment from the cones (strobiles, if you're being pedantic), so it seeps moment by moment from the beers after they're made with these hops.  After a week, they begin to lose their edge, and within a month they're dull and lifeless.  You must get them while you can--and right now is the moment.

Tonight and tomorrow, you can find a few dozen pouring at the Fresh Hop fest in Southeast Portland.  If you've found, like I have, that the season has gotten away from you, it's a great chance to indulge. 

Photo: Silver Moon

On the off chance you haven't been reading this blog for the past several years but are hungering for information about fresh hopped ber, here's a roundup of some of the key posts from past years.  (Even if you've read them, some make a decent refresher--even for me!) (It occurs to me now that I should have titled this post Seven Things You Need to Know About Fresh Hops, in the manner of the day.  But I am old and so you're spared all that.)
  • A hops reference guide, Aurora to Willamette.  It covers what we know about kilned hops, which is not entirely the same as what we know about fresh hops.
  • The Satori-award winning Full Sail Lupulin from way back in 2007 (illustrating that fresh hops can no longer be considered a particularly fresh phenomenon).
Happy hunting--


  1. This is not my favorite style, but I've tasted a lot of good-to-great fresh hop beers this year, more than ever before. I suspect brewers are getting better at emphasizing the best aspects of fresh hops.

  2. Jeff, could you give a brief précis of the difference between fresh hops, wet hops, and wild hops? I though fresh hops were kilned but simply not stored before use. Wet hops are not dried at all. Wild hops are the true Mexicanus typ, or stray recurring growth of old cultivars in fields or around properties where hops were once cultivated. Would you agree with this, or are there other types out there that don't depend on variety (cultivar) but method of processing or lack thereof?


  3. I tried 13 fresh/wet hop beers in Seattle at an event last night and another two today. There were a lot of bland beers being pored, one dialectal bomb, and one full of esters. I had 4-6 that I'd order again and half were from Oregon. The standouts were from Gigantic, Breakside, Fremont, and NW Peaks. I'm honestly surprised by the mediocre to poor quality of many of these beers but I guess that there's plenty of room for improvement.

  4. " The beers they make can be spectacular, singular things found nowhere else in the world."

    Come off it Jeff, even as you write that you must know it's nonsense. Every hopgrowing region in the world must have done green hop beers at some point, just imagine the business plan for building the first ever oasthouse - "We already know green hop beer is great, we want to dry hops so we can use them through the year". I know Wadworth did their first green hop beer in 1992, and I clearly must have imagined going to the Canterbury festival two weeks ago where there were 40+ green hop beers, or doing the East Kent green hop brewery tour yesterday. Admittedly, you won't find much Cascade in that lot - but who needs it when you can have fresh EKG?

  5. That sentence may not have been clear, but I was referring to ALL fresh hop beers, not just those here.

    As for your belief that brewers in times past certainly made fresh hop beers, recognize that it is just that: belief. There's not a single word that I know of to justify it. "Nonsense" is a strong word, and if you toss it around, you'd better have some actual data to back up your beliefs.(And as always, those who castigate with sharp words from behind anonymous comments weaken their opprobrium.)

  6. "They travel no more than a couple of hours from Oregon's Willamette Valley and arrive at breweries fresh and full of life. The beers they make can be spectacular, singular things found nowhere else in the world. "

    The implication is clearly that green hop beers are found nowhere else in the world other than within a few hours of the Willamette valley. I'll say it again - that is nonsense - just google "Kent green hop beers" or "Hopshires green hop beers" for "actual data" that other hopgrowing areas have similar beers - I know Wadworth have been brewing them since 1992 as one example.

    I may have "beliefs" about brewing in the Middle Ages, but it passes Occam's Razor, it's more likely they brewed with green hops before moving on to dried hops than the other way round.

    I'll say again - think about why someone would go to the expense and trouble of building the first oasthouse. Were they making their investment on a hunch that dry hops would work in beer, or because beer made with green hops tasted great, but could only be made for a few weeks each year, and their investment would allow similar beer to be made throughout the year (or at least, through the winter)?

    But if you want a data point, Google "green Hops off the Vine", the first hit is a book from 1737 talking about brewing with green hops. (I would give a direct link but worry that could be the reason for Blogspot eating comments) Obviously that doesn't prove the point definitively either way, but at least it pushes the argument back a few centuries, to the point where documentary evidence either way is going to get pretty sketchy.

    Sorry for the anon comment, that was just thick-finger syndrome, at the same time I like to be a bit discreet because friends have had all sorts of trouble through using real names online, even for the most apparently innocuous purposes. But I think you can assume that someone who has taken the time to drink 30+ green hop beers in recent weeks is a pretty serious beer fan...

  7. Not all sentences are clear, and I don't want to keep arguing a hypothetical about what I meant. I know what I meant and you'll find absolutely no similar comment from me anywhere else (but many that echo the intent of the sentence).

    I am interested to find earlier references, and did search quite a bit for them in writing the Beer Bible. When I google the phrase you suggest, it doesn't return anything from an old book. (Interestingly, if you put it in quotes, Google only gives you a single item--a post from this blog.) If you add 1737, it doesn't improve matters.

    Generally if Google isn't eating your comments already, it won't eat a comment with a link. Give it a shot--I'd like to see this source and what the context is. There are many, many mentions of using first hops, and indeed that's a big deal in harvest beers. It's a different thing.