Today - September 26th - we release this year's fresh hop brew! Our Amarillo Fresh Hop Pale Ale was brewed with hops from Virgil Gamache Farms. They are a wonderful farm, grow probably my favorite hop of all (Amarillo), and were amazing to work with for our fresh hop project this year.
A fresh hops 101 - usually, brewers use dried hops in their brews. Hops are harvested in August - September, then dried, and stored cool. A large number of hops are then pelletized for long term storage. This allows them to be last for a good number of months, if not years, if cared for correctly. A fresh hop beer uses hops that are fresh from the bine - and not dried. Because these hops aren't dried, they're often called wet hop beers too.
This gets us to brewing fresh hop beers. Brewers in the Northwest are so close to the hop farms, we have the opportunity to brew a real seasonal beer - one that can only be brewed during the harvest! I drove to Yakima, picked up the hops from the farm, drove back and we brewed within a few hours from when the hops were picked from the bine.
We use a lot of fresh hops in the brew - because they aren't dried, you need a lot more hops by weight. All the flavor and aroma is from the fresh hops - we don't dry hop or add other flavor or aroma hops that are dried. I know a number of brewers that do that, but I want us to show the character of fresh hops as prominently as we can. It's our one chance a year to showcase them!
Apart from using fresh (not dried) hops, we design the recipe and process to facilitate this beer. We use a different way of adding the hops to the wort to ensure we don't boil off the volatile fresh hop character. I built the malt bill and water profile to not get in the way of (or conflict with) the fresh hops. We use a yeast that is clean and won't detract from the fresh character. The beer is made to show off the fresh character of the hops.
The brew turned our really nice. Orange juice and mango lead the aroma and flavor, it has a juicy body, and most importantly the wet hop character comes through really nicely. It's hard to describe that character - you have to try it yourself. It dissipates quickly - within a couple of weeks it will be subdued. So you have to drink this fresh! But I'd describe it akin to freshly cut grass, "green." The beer right now literally smells of the hops we used fresh in the brewery on brew day!
We'll have a limited amount of 22s available from 3pm Friday 26, and then we have a few kegs of draft for pints in the taproom. When it's gone, it won't return until next year!