Wet Hops, Wet Hops!

When cooking, fresh is always best, and beer is no exception.

Fresh ingredients are important for flavor and quality, and hops are among the most crucial. For homebrewers and beer lovers alike, the hop harvest is like Christmas. Using wet hops is a great way to impart different flavors and aromas into your beer that you cannot do any other time of the year. Now’s the time to experiment!

Wet Hops Are Wet... sort of

Well they’re not soaking wet, "wet" implies hops that are never dried. Whole leaf wet hops contain about 80% water compared to the 8-10% when dried. When brewing you’ll need to use more wet hops than normal dry pellet brews. In general, four to six times as many wet hops are needed as dry hops. For example, one ounce of dried pellet hops would be the equivalent of four to six ounces of wet hops.

Wet hops take up more room in the kettle, enough where you may want to reduce your batch size depending on the overall hop amount and the size of your system. They’ll also add water that needs to be considered when calculating your original and final gravity.

Once harvested, hops literally begin to rot because the cones contain a high percentage of water, which is why it’s important to use wet hops within a matter of days of picking, preferably within one day, lest you risk spoiling and ruining your hops.

Everything in Moderation

Like all enjoyable things, wet hops should be used in moderation. You can easily reach a breaking point at which a desirable “grassy” aroma and flavor starts to overwhelm your pallet like being behind a riding lawnmower. Undesirable notes of tobacco and chlorophyll (that grassy taste) are things that could show in your finished brew to name a few.

Using dry hops for bitterness also reduces hop matter in the kettle and lets you work with hops of known alpha acids. When using your own homegrown hops you don’t really know how much bitterness they may hold, and using them near the beginning of the boil can yield unpredictable beer.

An obvious note: you’re adding a huge amount of green matter to your homebrew resulting in green flavors. Acceptable in wet-hopped beers to an extent but there must be a balance and an awareness of the style. For this reason it is sometimes best to use dried hops for bittering and wet hops for the aroma and flavor. By driving up bitterness with wet hops, you risk losing their nuances.

Four Star Farms Hops

The Cycle of Hops

Hops Before the Kettle: Hops’ desirability lies in the essential oils they produce, which constitute up to 4 percent of the hop cone. These oils increase during the weeks before harvest and continue to change after the hops are dried and stored. Which is why you should experiment with fresh vs. dried hop brews.

Hops in the Boil: Hops are used during the boil because the high temperatures activate its components like those essential oils we all crave. Brewers concerned with preserving oils, such as linalool and gernaniol, should add wet hops towards the end of boil, at flameout, or during the whirlpool.

Hops in the Fermenter: The effect of adding wet hops during fermentation is somewhat inconclusive. However, we know something happens due to the obvious flavor changes. All you need to do is taste the beer over time. 24 hours into fermentation, some get a very green taste, but over time, the beer starts to open up, and the oils come through in the aroma and flavor.

Hops in the Bottle: Like any bottled IPA, the aromatics will dissipate over time, losing much of what you loved about your beer in the first place. I suggest drinking your wet-hopped beer ASAP. Look for the more famous Sierra Nevada “Harvest Ale” for a friendly comparison of your homebrewed version of fresh ale.

 

Cheers!

 

Wet hops

Interested in experimenting with some wet hops?

We'll be selling wet hops from Four Star Farms of Deerfield, MA. A family owned and operated farm that over the last 4 years has planted and expanded into more hop acreage.  They provide us our MA Grown pellets and some of our raw unmalted grains for your brewing enjoyment.  Be on the lookout for more of their products to be available here and feel free to try them in your next brew!

What can you expect this year?

Harvest will run from late August to mid September and each variety will be picked, one at a time, across that window. Centennial and Magnum always vie to be the first one’s harvested, Rakau is always last (typically ready after the first week in September), while Cascade, Pépite, Mt. Rainier, Chaos and Crystal hang tight in the middle.

Learn more and Order your Wet Hops here!

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