What are fresh hop beers and why are they so darn good?
The answer is relatively simple: Beers made with fresh hops (duh). The brewing process is similar, but instead of using dried, or preserved hops, wet/raw/fresh hops are utilized to impart a distinct earthy, fresh, vibrant taste.
Since A) It's hop harvest season, which runs from late Aug.-early Oct. and B) We live in close proximity to the Willamette Valley, the No.2 hop producing area in the country (No.1 is nearby Yakima, Wash.) the Pacific Northwest is able to enjoy fresh hop beers through Oct.
Why us? Hops are usually dried in a kiln before use. This makes for safe transportation as they can spontaneously combust (seriously. Google, "hop fires"). Drying the hops also stabilizes the flower, or cone, rendering it useable throughout the year. Even a 24-hour express shipment across the country wouldn't do it. Most of the fresh hop beers we enjoy locally were made with hops harvested only HOURS beforehand.
But as 10 Barrel brewmaster Jimmy Seifrit explained, like any beer (and perhaps more so with fresh hop beers), they degrade quickly, so drink up! They're on taps across town, but once they're gone, that's it.
While working on this story for next week's issue, we came across this informative video on Silver Moon's website:
photo: flickr via kopretinka