In case you missed all the breweries you follow on Twitter posting photos of delicious wet hopped beers in the past few weeks, it’s hop harvest season! Soon you’ll be able to find any number of wet- and fresh-hopped beers in taprooms and bottles across America, and as a homebrewer you can get in on the action too. Many brewers grow their own hops in their backyard, but mine aren’t quite ready for harvest yet. A favorite local brew-farm of mine also grows their own hops and invited the local homebrewers to take their extras, so I grabbed some and had myself a late night fresh hopped brew day.
First, a few notes on fresh hops. When using hops right from the bine you’re going to get an amazing, fresh, green aroma that gets diminished during pelletizing and processing. The tradeoff is two fold. First, whole leaf hops absorb a lot of wort, so you’re going to need to plan on either increasing your boil volume or having a smaller amount of finished beer. Second, it takes roughly 6 times the weight in fresh hops to get the same amount of bitterness from pellets. For these reasons, I still like to use pellets for my bittering addition, and then add all of my fresh hops in the last 15 minutes to preserve that aroma.
Because you’re going to get such a great fresh flavor, it’s common to brew a pale ale or IPA to really feature the hops. For exactly that reason I’ve got Cascade’s growing in my own backyard, and I’ll be using those in a pale soon. Since that’s coming down the pipeline I chose to grab some Northern Brewers from the brew-farm and decided to make a fresh hopped brown porter. Hoppy browns are a little bit harder to find, especially brewed with fresh hops, but that’s what’s so
great about home brewing – you can make whatever you can’t buy!
My recipe is fairly straightforward, using MCI’s outstanding Irish Stout Malt as a base. MCI Stout is very similar to a Maris Otter, offering a great malty and bready flavor that stands out on it’s own. For specialty malts I used some Crystal 190 and Black Pearl from Patagonia, and some Pale Wheat from Weyermann to give it a little body and heft. I used some Fuggle to bitter, and tossed all of my Northern Brewers in the last 5 minutes to really let that aroma shine. It’s now in the fermentor with a fresh dose of S-05 yeast on top and it smells outstanding already!
Brewing with fresh hops takes a little guesswork to get right and are kind of a hassle to use, but I find the results well worth the effort. Because the crop changes from year to year you’re going to get a unique beer each time you use fresh hops, and that’s exciting for me knowing that I’ll never have these exact beers again. Harvest season is a great time to be a beer fan, and an even better time to be a brewer, so I heartily recommend joining in the action if you can.
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