Thursday, September 27, 2012


Sometimes ignorance is bliss.  Now that we are aware that some breweries -- most notably Sierra Nevada -- label certain products as "fresh hop beer" even though every hop in the beer has been dried, beer lovers often ask for clarification on whether a beer has "wet hops", and brewers often label their beers as such.

Stop it.  STOP IT!  Stop using this term "wet hops" which was only invented to give a cover to those who wanted to jump on the fresh hop bandwagon, but for whatever reason, did not want to mess with sticky, rapidly wilting fresh hops.  Stop giving cover to people who want to deceive, simply in order to elbow in on a beautiful thing.

I have ranted about this in the past, but let me state again some of the reasons "wet hops" is a ridiculous turn of phrase.  First of all, what other fresh agricultural product do you have to call "wet" to make sure someone knows you don't think it has been dried?  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?  I see that you have fresh cucumbers and fresh lettuce on sale, but I was really hoping to make my salad with wet vegetables, not fresh-dried ones.

How about fresh fish?  Can that be dried?  Milk?  Eggs?  Better ask for wet fish, wet eggs, and of course wet milk.  On Valentine's Day you better remind the florist that you want wet roses, because a dried bouquet might convey the wrong message even if the vase says the flowers are fresh.

Furthermore, freshly-picked hop cones are not wet anyway.  Think of the roses I just mentioned -- they are vibrant and tender, but they aren't wet, and neither are hops.  You can't squeeze water out of them -- a potato is wetter than a hop.

Finally, crowdsourced wisdom at Twitter brings up this question:  what do you call it when you dry hop with wet hops?

Now, it is certainly no sin to have a mix of fresh and dried hops in a beer -- that's how most fresh hop beers are done:  dried hops for bitterness and fresh hops later in the process for aroma and flavor.  But to call a beer with only dried hops a "fresh hop beer" is completely unjustifiable.  Yes, the first dried hops of the season are the freshest ones you can use, and should make delicious beer.  However, the flavors in those beers are not what people expect when they ask for a fresh hop beer.  Most brewers that I have asked about this subject were completely dumbfounded to hear that some fresh hop beers contained only dried hops -- it had simply never occurred to those honest folk that anyone would tell such a ridiculous lie.

Go forth with the awareness that there are deceptively labeled fresh hop beers out there, and spread the word.  But do not give in to the falsehood.  Don't use the term "wet hop", and push back when you hear someone use it.  If you need clarification about a fresh hop beer, ask whether it has some hops that haven't been dried.


  1. Nice rant, Bill. I'm guilty of using both "fresh hops" and "wet hops" and agree that we don't need both terms. That said, I don't have any particular care which one becomes the norm. For years we just had "hops" until the practice of using un-dried ones (there's a terrible term)became more mainstream.

    True, we call un-dried parsley "fresh." Yet, do you not consider hops which were picked and dried last week to be "fresher" than those picked last year?

    Like you, I think Sierra Nevada's use of the words "fresh hop" is deceptive, but isn't that partly due to the lack of a standard convention for what to call "un-dried" hops? Would it be better for them to call it "fresher hop." Thus, in that vein, do we not need to use "wet hop" to distinguish between brewers who are actually using un-dried hops and those who are picking, drying, and quickly using a new crop of hops?

    If everyone can agree "fresh hops" = un-dried hops, we'd have our answer.


  2. Hold on a sec, the argument for "wet hop" is that hops used in ALL beer are "fresh". There is no such thing as a "spoiled hop" beer. Since all beers are fresh hop, beers made with hops that were picked 15 minutes ago are "wet hop". I don't particularly care for the term "wet hop" either, but fresh hop is also misleading. Basically we need a better term that everyone can agree on.

  3. @Alan: What sets me off on these rants is that everyone did agree that "fresh hops" meant they weren't dried. Which is why the other usage is deceptive, and even fooled honest brewers.

    If there has to be another name for the first dried hops of the season, I prefer "first hops" or "harvest hops" to your idea of "fresher hops".

    @Dr. Will: That is just silly, that means that beer made with last year's hops are also "fresh hop", since the hops are not spoiled. It makes every beer a fresh hop beer.

    There is a term that everyone agreed on -- "fresh hop". Only when someone wanted to ride that wave without some of the difficulties of working with fresh hops, did this "wet hop" thing happen.

  4. Maybe you should just respond to everyone who uses the term with "English motherfucker DO YOU SPEAK IT!"

  5. Hear, hear! I actually think the idea of brewing with freshly dried hops is cool. I would suggest we call these "harvest hops." I had hoped to brew both a fresh and harvest hop ale this year, and managed neither. (My idea for harvest hop--a fair dose of Munich malts to redden it up without a lot of sweetness, and wholesome, lovely freshly-dried hops.)

    As to the very important question of what to call a beer dry hopped with fresh hops, I think we should just invent a word. I'm bad at that kind of thing, so by "we" I mean "someone else."

  6. I agree that the terms need standardization. With that said, the following image summarizes the debate well:

  7. As agreed upon on Saturday, we are changing the term to 'Moist Hops' from now on... ;)

  8. Totally agree that the terms 'fresh hops' and 'wet hops' are unnecessary.
    Of course, the term 'craft beer' is becoming unnecessary as well (nd I do love the stuff).

    Please don't hate me.

  9. Reminds me of Frozen-Fresh...


    1. Just get rid of the Fresh Hop term - I can simply look at the harvest date or packing date to see if they are fresh. But I think we hop works - just means they are not dried.. But thats just me.

  10. Stop the confusion PLEASE, read about brewing techniques and acquire the required light wile discerning on flavouring different styles of beer. Some Belgian Ales brewers use very old hops in some brews. There are diverse techniques to add hops (Humulus Lupulus) to the wort, such as first wort hops, boil hops, late hop, mash hopping and even DRY HOPS additions. This would depend on formulas to a given beer style and the wide hop varieties. DRY HOPPING is the addition made after the beer has fermented in the secondary fermenter, left for several days to several weeks. This method is used for a hoppy burst of great aroma to the beer, but with no bitterness added.


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