September is a great time of year. NFL is starting up, the kids go back to school, the 95 degree days without A/C in your truck and pretty much gone and it is hop harvest season. Essentially a little green leafy pine-cone type flower, hops are what add the bitterness and sometimes the piney citrusy flavor to beer. Without them, beer would taste like malty alcoholic kool-aide.
About this time of year, a type of beer shows up in tap-houses and store shelves that is by definition a “seasonal” if any style every was. The trick is to make a beer, generally a light to medium bodied recipe that you intend to hop up anyway, and pick a truck load of hops and dump them right in to the fermenter that same day..or even within a few hours if you can. It’s kind of the idea of cooking a trout on a campfire 20 minutes after you caught it with your 2 lb test spinning rod, with a #0 Mepps Black fury.
IPAs and Pale Ales lend themselves best to “Fresh Hopping” simply because they are intended to have a lot of hop flavor anyway, but you could do it to anything I suppose. There can be some logistical issue to account for however, as hops are generally used in a dried or pulverized and compressed “pellet” form most of the time. Since freshly picked hops are approximately %80 water..or more and since a typical IPA may have up-to a pound of dried hops per 5-Gallon batch, and a 10 barrel brew system makes over 300 gallons at a time, that’s 60# of hops in dried form or about #300 fresh/wet.
That’s several wheel-barrel loads at least.
I was just at 10Barrel Brewing in Boise the other day and they had 4 separate “fresh hop” ales on tap. Each likely brewed a week or two before with hops picked probably that day. All were good, but a couple really stood out.
There are more than a few times during the year that coincide with beer happenings but the end of summer has “Fresh Hop” beers, Octoberfest and…closely following them both…”Pumpkin Beers”. But that is another post coming soon.