Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Hops & Grain, Beerworks, Black Star Co-op release wet hop beers

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Wet hop, dry hop, red hop, blue hop?

There was a time when understanding the role hops play in a brew was sufficient knowledge for enjoying a pint. Now, techniques like dry-hopping and wet-hopping and dry-wet-hopping require you to pay just a tiny bit more attention to the ways the plant can be used in the process.

Several breweries around town created wet hop beers this month.

Fresh hops, known as wet hops, are typically about 80% moisture when first harvested, “The Oxford Companion To Beer,” says. Usually, this percentage is reduced to about 9% in a hop kiln right after the harvest for distribution, but wet hops are left moist. Brewers like to use fresh hops because they add a bright “green” or grassy flavor to beer, but because hops are fickle and will “become moldy and develop off aromas,” if they sit around too long, wet hops are usually only used by brewers who operate within close proximity to the hop fields. In the case of Austin’s wet hopped brews, the hops were shipped in from the Pacific Northwest via plane.

Austin Beerworks Wet Hop IPA, the latest IPA in the Heavy Machinery series, landed in many stores around the city yesterday. The beer uses 200 pounds of Centennial hops that were flown from Oregon to Austin the same day they were picked. Beerworks immediately threw them into a brew, and then dry-hopped an extra 100 pounds of the same hop variety “for good measure,” they said on their facebook page.

Last time I visited the brewery, co-founder Michael Graham said this was their first experiment with wet hops, something they wanted to do to see how the flavors would differ from normal. He said hops are very much like a flower or herb, in the sense that the majority of their essence is strongest when first picked. When you compare fresh herbs to dried herbs, the difference in aroma and flavor is obvious. It’s the same case with hops, he said. “They’re a bit more pungent, greener, almost grassier,” which leads to a more “green” tasting beer.

Hops & Grain also played around with the style this month. They took a slightly different approach with their wet-hopped The One They Call Zoe, which was tapped at the brewery last weekend. Instead of putting the fresh Crystal hops into the beer at the beginning of the process, they had a batch of finished Zoe that was ready to be dry-hopped (when the brewer adds an extra dose of hops near the end of the brewing process to add more hop flavor), so they filled one of their small Greenhouse tanks with wet hops, and added the Zoe to the tank to absorb the flavor of the fresh hops.

Owner Josh Hare said the beer has the “same recognizable flavors that are in Zoe, but it’s a lot more bright, in-your-face flavor.” The wet hops also changed the mouthfeel of the beer. “These hops are so oily when you get them, so it has a very resinous mouthfeel. It leaves a cool lingering hop essence in your mouth.”

Hare said they also brewed an Oktoberfest last week using wet Crystal hops from Oregon. With this one, they brewed using the more traditional method, adding the hops before fermentation. The wet hop Oktoberfest will be available at the brewery’s anniversary party in October.

Black Star Co-op also worked with wet hops this month to create their Hubris Fresh Hop Pale Ale. The beer, which was brewed with 30 pounds of fresh Citra hop cones, debuted at the brewery earlier this week.