My love of craft beer is largely due to some great friends of mine from my time in graduate school at UC Berkeley. Ellen & Dave helped get me into beer, so it’s only fitting that the first guest post in Watson’s Corner would be from them!
Read below as they teach us about the brewing technique called wet hopping and highlight two of their favorite wet-hopped beers from a local brewery in British Columbia.
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Finally! The months of painstaking work trimming, training, fertilizing, and watering hops have paid off …IT’S WET HOP SEASON!!!
For those of you not familiar with the term, wet hopping is a brewing technique that uses freshly picked hops instead of the typical dried whole cone or pellet hops. Beers brewed using this technique are commonly referred to as fresh hop or harvest ales.
What makes this style of beer so special is that a freshly picked hop has a VERY short shelf life and must be used immediately. Since hops are only ripe for the picking once a year, this gives brewers a very small window of time in which to use this most precious of ingredients.
What better way to highlight the subtleties and nuances that come from using freshly picked hops then to compliment them with the clean, crisp backbone of a pale ale that lets the hops do most of the talking?
While this is the most common application of wet hops, occasionally brewers will experiment with ways in which the fresh grassy qualities of wet hops can dance around the more roasted and spicier flavors in darker beers and Belgian-style ales.
If you’ve never tried a wet-hopped beer before or are eager to see what this year’s crop tastes like, however, we recommend starting with a beer that has a simpler grain bill, like a pilsner or pale ale.
And that’s just what we did…
Persephone Brewing Co. is one of our favorite breweries in British Columbia. The quality of their beers is a reflection of the thought and care put into designing their brand.
Located on an 11-acre farm in Gibsons, BC on the Sunshine Coast, Persephone is a subsidiary of the Sunshine Coast Association for Community Living (SCACL) and is the only B Certified brewery in British Columbia.
Part of the “farm to barrel” movement, Persephone grows their own hops on site, making them a perfect place to explore the nuances of freshly hopped beer.
In celebration of community supported, locally-grown hop harvesting, we’ve enjoyed two of the fresh-hopped beers produced by Persephone this season.
Persephone Harvest Pale Ale // Fresh Cascade hops (5.8% abv)
This light amber to golden-colored pale ale has a gentle hop aroma with hints of wet cut grass and delicate floral notes underlying the more dominant yeast and malt characters.
The palate is lightly sweet with a medium body. There is nothing too complex going on with the malt base here, but that is what we tend to look for when exploring the qualities of each year’s new fresh hop bounty. The silky smooth finish adds elegance to this brew, making it an extremely palatable, easy-drinking, sophisticated beer.
Persephone Harvest IPA // Fresh Centennial hops (7% abv)
Rich golden amber in color, this IPA has a more hop forward aroma compared to its pale ale cousin. Notes of fresh wet-cut grass and young vegetable shoots (think fresh pea shoots) jump out of the glass.
The palate has a sweeter, thicker mouthfeel typical of a higher alcohol beer. Hoppy bitterness is more predominant with a vegetal garden flavor throughout. The bitterness peaks on the center of palate and disappears quickly leaving a very soft, clean finish (especially for an IPA).
A common misconception with wet hop beers is that the aroma will dominate.
In a standard beer, the majority of hop aromas come from a post-fermentation addition of hops, called dry hopping. This technique is generally is not used (and often not possible) with wet hops, however, due to their restricted shelf life and sanitation concerns.
Without a dry hop addition, hop aromas tend to suffer in intensity in most beers. However, while not as intensely aromatic, the use of wet hops in harvest ales provides delicate aromas and flavors typically not found when using dried hops.
Particularly unique to wet hopping is the persistent silkiness of the bittering characteristic which provides these beers with a distinctive mouthfeel.
Is wet hopping our favorite expression of each hop? Not necessarily.
But just like Halloween comes around once a year, the wet hop presents a sweet, unpredictable, and often disguised version of itself that must be experienced while it lasts… before the all too familiar chocolate and coffee notes of porters and stouts take over to get us through the blistery winter.
Image sources: Persephone Farm, All others by Ellen & Dave
Ellen & Dave currently live in Vancouver, British Columbia. When they’re not working away on disease surveillance or researching epigenetics (yep, my friends are super smart), they’re enjoying BC’s beautiful outdoors, visiting local breweries, or suffering through this year’s Seahawks season.