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
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
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
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.