Beer Department: What is Wet Hopping?Back to feed
In the modern proliferation of hazy, aroma driven New England Style IPAs, most people have become familiar with the term “dry-hopped.” Dry hopping simply means adding hops to a finished beer after fermentation finishes as a way to impart more aroma. You let the hops soak in the beer for a while, then remove them, and voila! You have a dry-hopped beer.
Confusingly enough, wet-hopping is not the opposite of dry-hopping. The two techniques are not even related, but knowing about wet-hopped beers this time of year will help you find a whole new level of hop flavor.
Wet hopping, also called fresh hopping, is using freshly harvested wet hops throughout the brewing process. The hops that are added to most beers have been harvested and then dried and often turned into pellets so that they won’t rot and can be used throughout the year. This process is great because it allows us to brew beer year-round but the drying and pelletizing processes destroy a lot of the fragile compounds in hops that greatly add to their depth of aroma and flavor.
Luckily for us, there are two windows each year, in September/October in the northern hemisphere and March/April in the southern hemisphere, when commercial hop farms will gather up their freshly harvested hops and expedite them to waiting breweries while the hops are still wet. Hop harvest season requires a lot of logistical planning between hop farmers and breweries to make sure the delicate wet, fresh hops are getting to the brewery and into the brewing vessel as quickly as possible. Fresh hops are so delicate that they will deteriorate in a couple of days if left unused.
Once farmers and brewers have finished their mad dash and gotten the fresh hops into the brew vessels, brewing can continue as normal. The advantage that these wet-hopped beers have over dried and pelletized hops is that their aromas and flavors will be far fresher, intense, and intricate. Since wet-hopped beers can only be enjoyed immediately after the fall harvest, plenty of breweries plan a fall release around a wet-hopped beer to celebrate the harvest. Founders Harvest Ale and Three Floyds Broo Doo are my two favorites ~ be sure to snap them up before they disappear until next year.
Wet hopping is a fairly simple process but I felt I should offer a refresher on it since it pertains to this time of year and because wet-hopped beers are some of my favorites. Their very existence is a reminder that beer isn’t always some industrialized, mass-produced commodity. It is fresh, fragile, and subject to the whims of Mother Nature and the bounty of each harvest. It serves as a prime example that great beer should always be appreciated – it is the end result of many people and countless hours spent toiling on a true labor of love. Cheers, and enjoy!
-Eric Dunaway, Certified Cicerone®