Beer of the Week: Fresh Hop Brews | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

Beer Beer Beer

Beer of the Week: Fresh Hop Brews

Unrepentant beer drinkers, rejoice! Each week, Clean Plate Charlie

will select one craft or import beer and give you the lowdown on it:

How does it taste? What should you drink it with? Where can you find

it? But mostly, it's all about the love of the brew. If you have a beer

you'd like featured in Beer of the Week, let us know via a comment.

You might have noticed the proliferation of beers marketing themselves as "Fresh Hop" brews on the market recently. But you're probably wondering: What does this mean? Don't all beers have fresh hops in them? If not fresh, then what are they?

Hops are the budded plant that gives beer its bitter and aromatic

qualities. They're harvested in late summer/fall, from August to early

September. Because of this, hops are most often dried or processed into

compressed pellets or plugs that store year round. The techniques for

this process are pretty sophisticated, so the quality of hop pellets

are pretty good. If you've ever bought hop pellets from a homebrew

store, these are essentially the same things that commercial brewers

use year round in their beers.

During the fall, however, brewers have a rare opportunity to work with

fresh hops. Also called wet hops, these buds don't keep long and

require a much larger dose than plugs or pellets to get the same

bittering. They're expensive and rarer, and so beers made with fresh

(wet) hops are too.

Expensive and rarer, maybe, but what's the end difference for the

drinker? Well, some (not all) fresh hop beers offer a much more potent,

aggressive aroma than their year-round counterparts. A good comparison

is the difference between vegetables you might buy at a supermarket

versus going to a farm and picking them yourself, then eating them

straight away.

Hop harvest was only a few months ago, so right about now is the time

that beer makers are releasing their fresh hop brews. You can find them

all over at the moment: World of Beer had two or three fresh hop beers

on tap last week, and a hole host in bottle. If you can try them on

tap, I'd highly recommend that. Something about the keg seems to

preserve the hop aroma that much better (of course, it could be my


Some good fresh hop beers to try: I'm really partial to Sierra Nevada's Celebration series, with its honeyed Cascade hops and resinous Centennial. Great Divide's Fresh Hop Pale Ale

is seriously aromatic and robust -- a really fine drinker with a ton of

hop flavor that leans towards sweet rather than bitter. Rogue has a

version called First Growth Wet Hop Ale

that's a solid entry (bottles you find year round will probably have

diminished aromas, however). Athens, Georgia's, Terrapin has my

favorite named fresh hop beer -- it's called "So Fresh and So Green, Green," a play on the classic Outkast jangle.

There are dozens (if not more) other fresh hop beers out there, so keep

your eyes out. And drink quick! The freshness does no good if it chills

in the bottle for months.