Every year, at the end of the summer season, as the weather becomes cooler, a new batch of beer crops up in pubs all over the country. These are the unique “Wet hop” or “Fresh hop” beers that are available only for a few months every year.
In fact, beer connoisseurs encourage the regular beer drinkers to try this “limited edition” brew as soon as they become available, as these brews are available only once a year and have a pretty short shelf-life.
What is a wet hop beer and how does it taste? What makes it different from regular dry beers? We answer all these questions and much more, in today’s post.
Read on, to find all about this style of beers.
Beer, unlike wine, is brewed all-year around, using yeast, hops, grain, and water that have been preserved.
During the harvest season, which falls at the end of summer, Hop bines are cut from the plants and are dried in kilns. These hops are further processed and are used in beer making throughout the year. A small portion of these hops flowers is sent directly to select breweries for creating wet hop beers. As the name implies, wet hop beers use fresh hops instead of dried and preserved hops.
The significant differences between wet hops and dry hops are in the flavour, aroma, and bitterness. Consider them to be like “fresh herbs” and “dried herbs.” Though dried herbs have the same flavour profile as that of fresh herbs, there is a marked difference in the impact of the flavours. The same applies to wet and dry hops.
UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DRY HOPPING VS. DRIED HOPS
Most hops harvested in the country are dried as soon as they are picked from the plant. Farmworkers pluck the hop flowers from the tree and move it to big drying rooms where they are spread on the floor and dried with hot air.
Once these hops are completely dry, they are shaped into small pellets that look like animal food. These dry pellets have a shelf-life of up to three years. Most of the beer you drink in bottles, cans or taps, are made using these dry-hop nuggets.
A small batch of the harvested hops is not dried and used in the production of wet hop beers. Fresh hop cones have a shelf-life of less than a year.
A beer that states that it is “dry hopped” isn’t referring to the dry hops used for brewing. Instead, the term dry hopping in brewing terminology refers to a step in the brewing process. Brewers usually add hops after the brew boils to lend it an aromatic, hoppy flavour minus the bitterness.
Hoppy beers, on the other hand, have a characteristic bitter flavour that comes by adding the hops before the brew boils.
UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FRESH HOP BEER AND WET HOP BEERS
Wet hop beers or fresh hop beers are brews that are brewed immediately after the hop harvesting season. They have a short shelf-life.
One important point to be clarified here is that in both these types of brews the hops aren’t wet. According to the Brewers Association, for a beer to be classified as wet hop, “it must use freshly harvested hops instead of dried (kilned) hops.”
HERE’S HOW IT WORKS:
Brewers pick a couple of hop cones off the bines. They rub it between their palms to analyze the moisture levels. They break the cones and sniff them. Once, the plant matter is blown off, a sticky yellow residue is seen on their hands.
The fresh hop cones have higher levels of oils, acids, and aromatics all of which lend a unique flavour to the brew, brewed using them.
Several factors make fresh hops a challenge for breweries. One, fresh hops are less concentrated compared to dried hops. So, you need more of fresh hops to achieve the same flavour levels. Second, fresh hops impart a unique plant-like and grassy flavour to the brew. This makes the final drink far taste widely different from the regular IPAs and other beers that use dried hops.
Third, fresh hops have an extremely short shelf-life and have to be used within 24 hours of harvesting. So, unless a brewery is close to the harvesting field, it makes it difficult to produce good wet hop beers.
THE LAST WORD
Now, that you’ve got a clear idea of the laborious process of wet hops beers if an opportunity presents you with the drink, make sure to sample it. After all, these are indeed, “limited edition” beers that are available only once a year!
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