Monday, September 27, 2010

Fresh Hops 2010: Second Report

Last Monday I listed the fresh hop beers I had tried so far, and promised more updates along the way.  I thought I might be able to pull off the stunt of trying a different variety each day, but Monday and Tuesday already fell through for me.  The earliest beers came out much sooner than the parade of them that is starting to emerge now.

I think there are enough things out now, that if I can schedule things right, I should be able to keep a streak going now for a couple of weeks, maybe until the Portland Fresh Hop Tastival Oct. 9.  Remember, if you see a fresh-hop offering that's not on the Fresh Hop Map, drop me a line so I can update it.

Here's my current list of must try/should try/don't bother from what I've seen so far:

Must try:
  • Deschutes Fresh-Hopped Mirror Pond
  • Full Sail Lupulin (right now it's the First Gold variant)
  • Rock Bottom Hop Harvest
  • Bridgeport Hop Harvest
  • Lompoc Crystal Missile
Worth a try:
  • Sierra Nevada 2010 Harvest Ale
  • Fort George Hopstoria
  • Issaquah (Rogue) Wet Frog
  • McMenamins Thundercone
  • Pelican Elemental Ale
Don't get distracted:
  • Hale's Harvest Ale (all dried hops)
  • Hopworks Gayle's Pale (all dried hops)
  • Deschutes King Cone
  • Hopworks Goldilocks (all dried hops)
I had complained that the Fresh-hopped Mirror Pond was not as good as last year's, but I have to take that back.  I tried it again Friday, and it was just how I remember it.  I don't know which of us -- me or the beer -- was having a bad day when I first tasted it, but I'm back on board with saying it is the most important beer you will ever taste in your life.

People have been raving about the hard-to-find Pelican Elemental.  I don't get it.  It is a solid beer, with unmistakable fresh-hop goodness, but it has a few too many other flavors going on to make it into my first tier.  Instead, I would seek out the Lompoc Crystal Missile, which is a light, easy drinker just perfect for showing off what we like about these fresh-hop ales.  It reminds me of the first of these that I tasted a few years ago.

The McMenamins Thundercone I tried at the Crystal was not bad.   A little light on the hops, but they had the idea.  McM's threw a curve ball at my plans to keep the Fresh Hop Map complete:  this beer was brewed at every McMenamins brewery, and is served at every pub.  Well, after adding two of the locations to the map, I realized I wasn't going to cover them all.  If you taste a batch that was especially fine, contact me and I'll add that location to the map.

Rant:

Why do I put "all dried hops" next to some of the beers to avoid? Why not just leave them off the list? Because these beers are promoted as Fresh Hop Beers.  Oh, the hops are "freshly dried", but they're not "wet hops".

That is ridiculous.  If you go to the grocery store and ask for fresh parsley, or fresh ginger, or fresh garlic, they will point you to the produce aisle.  Try telling them you don't want wet parsley, you want fresh-dried parsley.  And by the way, where is the wet ginger?  I'm making a stir-fry, should I put in dried garlic, fresh garlic, or wet garlic?

Hopworks is selling "fresh hop beers" brewed with 100% dried hops. Gosh, maybe we better go over their food menu. Hmmm... that fresh romaine lettuce, is it wet lettuce, or fresh-dried? What about the fresh spinach and fresh basil -- are you sure those were dried freshly at the farm? I'm not sure about the fresh cucumbers on that salad, is it possible to get it with wet cucumbers?

Don't fall into this trap of talking about "wet hops".  Those are fresh hops.  All other hops are dried hops.  Calling dried hops "fresh" is pure deception.

5 comments:

  1. Actually your analogies to Fresh Dried Hops and Fresh Dried Foods are not entirely accurate. I agree that fresh dried vegetables or herbs doesn't sound as nice as the fresh harvested but there is something you're failing to understand and that is the compounds in hops and their extraction when wet, when dried, and after a period of storage. First think of hops more like marijuana. You wouldn't/couldn't smoke marijuana when wet. Marijuana is the best to compare given their similarities and properties. First off the cannabinoids need to evaporate the water molecules attached to them in order to achieve the desired level of potency, aroma, flavor etc.. also the nitrogen content in the leaves needs to break down so there is not the harsh flavors.
    Hops are exactly the same. As a brewer the grassy flavors are not always wanted. So freshly dried hops has the most "potency" to them given the aroma and flavors desired. They have a bit less nitrogen content which would mask those great flavors you want out of the hops. Brewers who use whole leaf hops make the best beers after harvest and within the first 3-4 months. The best aroma compounds are at their height during this time. So the brewers using freshly dried hops are trying to give the cleanest flavor from the hops and not mask the aromas with grassy and plant like aromas. Also remember the marketing behind these beers, you'd be surprised if you could find out what percentage of hops are wet and which are pellets... most are using pellets somewhere in the process to balance the the plant like wet hop characteristics.

    Chad, MSc. Brewing and Distilling

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  2. Nice work Bill, way to keep on top of the fresh hop cheaters.

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  3. Thanks, Ritch.

    Chad: I appreciate what you're saying, but people have come to expect that "fresh hop" means "hasn't been dried" -- just like fresh lettuce, fresh basil, and so on. Yes, fresh hops contribute a grassy flavor, but that's the whole point! A little vegetal flavor is expected and even appreciated.

    Like you said, most of these are going to have some amount of dried hops or even pellets in them, and that's to be expected. What ticks me off is when a "fresh hop" beer is 100% dried hops.

    The analogy with pot is way off -- maybe you can't smoke pot that hasn't been dried, but you can toss fresh hops into a brew at any point.

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  4. You're def missing the boat on the Elemental. That thing is amazing. Very fresh and light, and I like the bready finish. I agree on the Mirror Pond, checked it out yesterday. Nice cucumber flavor to it. Very refreshing. Now if only Hopworks would do a fresh hop version of their IPA...

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  5. Nice post and interesting topic. I enjoy the fresh hop beers from Great Divide and Sierra Nevada. I can't get many of the others in South Dakota. A new local offering I'm looking forward to is Brau Brother's Hundred Yard Dash. They are about an hour east of me.

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