In Celebration of Fresh Hop Beer

It’s been a few years since I reviewed Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Fresh Hop IPA. Since then my taste for fresh hop beers has developed, and so has my interest. Just what is a fresh hop beer?

The term “fresh hop” needs to be explored. According to the Brewers Association, fresh hop ales are “brewed with freshly harvested hops. Such hops might be undried fresh or frozen cones or ground material, or, freshly kilned dried cones or pellets.”

To me, this definition stretches the meaning of fresh too far.

Here’s the normal process for harvesting hops. When the hops reach a certain moisture point, the bine is cut at the bottom and quickly moved to a processing facility where the hop cones are removed. From there, the hop cones are usually laid out and rapidly kiln dried to lock in the hop’s unique flavors. After drying, the hops are further processed into rabbit food-sized pellets that can be used for up to 3 years.

Fresh hop beer, according to the Brewers Association, basically comes in two categories: wet and dry. Wet hop beer is made from freshly harvested hop intercepted after separation from the bine. The hops are unkilned, and therefore wet. These hops are added to the brew within 24 hours of harvest. Since 75% of US hops are grown in Washington State and the other 25% are split between Idaho and Oregon, brewing with fresh, wet hops is difficult and costly outside the Pacific Northwest.

Perhaps the Brewers Association wanted to throw a bone to the many breweries outside of driving distance to wet fresh hops when they included kiln dried cones and even pellets in the definition of fresh hop beer. Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Fresh Hop IPA uses kiln dried whole cone hops within seven days of harvest. The thinking is, like herbs, a freshly dried hop will be more flavorful than a 9-month-old dried hop. True, but…

To me fresh hop means beer made from wet hops within 24 hours of harvest.

There really is a difference in the flavor. Sierra Nevada’s Celebration is a excellent IPA with piney, citrusy hop flavor. It’s clean and complex with a firm malt backbone. A wet, fresh hop beer is another animal altogether. Taste Seattle’s Stoup Brewing or Fremont Brewing’s fresh hop beers and you get a mellow, herbal grassy character that is quite distinct. Sierra Nevada makes a wet hop beer is calls Northern Hemisphere Harvest with these characteristics.

Each year in Seattle from the end of September to the middle of October, I look forward to drinking fresh (wet) hop beer. These beers are only available in for short time and in limited quantity. It’s worth the pilgrimage to seek out real fresh hop beer.

Question: What’s your favorite fresh hop beer? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Pumpkin Beer Reviews: Elysian, Buffalo Bill’s, Uinta and Dogfish Head

Love them or hate them, Pumpkin beers are here to stay. Beer Advocate lists 1,305 different Pumpkin beers! Tonight, the Elves and I took a break from Christmas preparations to taste four Pumpkin beers. One was a clear winner.

Buffalo Bill’s is a pioneer in the microbrewery scene. Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale, which the brewery touts

Stone Xocoveza Review

In 2014, Stone Brewery produced Stone Xocoveza Mocha Stout using a recipe by Chris Banker who won Stone’s home brewing competition with his take on Mexican hot chocolate brewed with spices. That beer was meant to be a single release, but fans said otherwise, and Stone Brewery is now producing Stone Xocoveza as an annual holiday beer.

Stone Xocoveza is a Milk Stout and pours

Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper Bourbon Barrel Aged Review

Last summer I gave you notice to get your bottle of Port Brewing Bourbon Barrel Santa’s Little Helper while it was still available. It’s released every July after aging Santa’s Little Helper Imperial Stout in bourbon barrels for 9 months. Today, I grabbed a bottle from my cellar and pulled the cork. Here’s my review.

Bourbon Santa’s Little Helper pours black with a thin chocolate brown head of foam. The nose is full of bourbon,

Holiday Ale Festival #3 – New Breweries

Today is the final day at the Holiday Ale Festival in Portland, Oregon. Time for me to get back to the North Pole, but first here are 5 more winning Christmas beers. Stickmen Brewery of Lake Oswego, Oregon and Alameda Brewing of Portland are new to me.

Stickmen Brewery The Twerking Elf (2013) is a Sour Brown Ale. It pour brown with a lacy tan head. It smells sour with plums and cherries. It tastes slightly sour with malts, Granny Smith apples, sour plums, and dark fruits. I find it

Holiday Ale Festival Report #1

I’m at the Holiday Ale Festival in Portland, Oregon this weekend tasting many specialty and rare Christmas beers. I tasted a number of barrel-aged gems. Here’s my first report of 5 rare beers.

First up, Cascade Brewing’s Gingersnaps. This is a Northwest Style Sour Strong Ale. It pours cola brown with a root beer style bubbly head. The nose is ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and light bourbon. It tastes like

Nøgne Ø Special Holiday Ale Review

The label of this beer has a silhouette of the 3 Magi traveling on camels to find the Messiah. Three brewing kings collaborated on Special Holiday Ale – Nøgne Ø of Norway, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales of Michigan, and Stone Brewing from California.

Special Holiday Ale pours brown with a few bubbles but no head. Sweet malts, juniper, cherry and sage greet your nose. I pick up