Welcome to Imbibe Magazine's between-issues look at liquid culture with drink recipes, news and more. From coffee to cocktails, Imbibe celebrates your world in a glass.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Flower Power

The September/October issue of Imbibe celebrates the seasonality of beer, and come fall, there are plenty of brews to get excited about, not the least of which are wet-hop beers. Unlike the bulk of the hops crop, which is dried and compressed into pellets for easy transport and year-round use, wet (aka fresh) hops are left out of the drying kiln and either picked up or shipped directly to a brewer to use within 24 hours of harvest. The result is beers that delicately highlight the herbal, grassy or citrusy characteristics of the specific hop varieties used. And while brewing with fresh hops requires many more hops due to their naturally high water content, ironically, the IBUs (units used to measure a beer’s hop bitterness) are typically lower, offering a nuanced, yet tempered hop profile. Sierra Nevada pioneered the wet-hop style in the mid-1990s, and since then, brewers across the country have showcased fresh hops in everything from pale ales to porters. Due to the seasonal nature of these beers, many don’t make it beyond a brewery’s own taps, but as demand grows, so does availability. Here are four bottled iterations that are currently available in most markets, but be sure to pick them up while you can, as they’ll disappear from store shelves as fast as the changing leaves fall.

Chatoe Rogue Wet Hop Ale
Newport, Ore., 6.4% ABV
Growing your own hops ensures optimum freshness, and that’s exactly what Rogue does for this wet-hopped ale, which is a part of the brewery’s aptly named GYO (or grow your own) series. Six different hop varieties from Rogue’s micro hop yard offer clean and approachable flavors of soft citrus and mellow hop spice. Restrained bitterness on the finish makes this ale a perfect toe-dip into the fresh-hop style.

Deschutes Hop Trip
Bend, Ore., 5.5% ABV
Nearly half a ton of farm-fresh Crystal hops from Salem, Ore., go into to this American pale ale, resulting in crisp floral flavors and a surprisingly sweet, honeyed finish. The somewhat restrained 38 IBUs make it an easy-drinking match for a burger.

Great Divide Fresh Hop Pale Ale
Denver, Colo., 6.1% ABV
Great Divide gets whole cone hops overnighted from the Pacific Northwest for this American pale ale, which hits hoppy high notes of tangy citrus, fresh cut grass and resinous pine. Crisp and medium-bodied, fans of a big hop bite will love sinking their teeth into this once-a-year beer.

Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Harvest
Chico, Calif., 6.7% ABV
Cascade and Centennial hops from Washington are picked and same-day-shipped to Sierra Nevada’s Chico brewery, where they immediately head to the brewing kettle, resulting in a beer with bright notes of grapefruit and pine and a hint of sweet biscuit malts on the finish.