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Fresh Hops

Posted 8/24/18

“Hold up. What’s fresh hop beer? Are other beers brewed with stale hops?”

Great question, snarky theoretical reader. Most beer is brewed with dried hops. Brewers typically have to use dried hops, because once the hop flower is removed from the vine, it begins to mold very quickly. Drying the hops gives them a much longer shelf life. Here in the Pacific Northwest, specifically between the Willamette and Yakima river valleys, we grow a whopping eighty percent of the hops used in American brewing.

If you and your taste buds are down for a truly unique Pacific Northwest adventure, BREWVANA’s the best way to get transportation, information, and insider access to all things hoppy.

Hood River Fresh Hop Festival  Saturday, September 22 10:15 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. $69 – Includes Festival Admission, Mug and 5 Drink Tickets

Do you want to brew with some dank fresh hops? Portland U-Brew is the spot, and BREWVANA is the way, the truth, and the light. This is an ideal experience for seasoned brewers and total newbs alike.

Fresh Hop and Brew Tour Friday, September 14 1:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. $79 – Includes transportation, tours at Crosby Hop Farm and Portland U-Brew/ Unicorn Brewing, and an opportunity to help brew a fresh hop beer.

“Okay, so what’s the big deal with fresh hops? Why are you so excited about this?”

We love our damn hops. We even have a bit of a reputation for brewing traditionally non-hoppy beers and then making them hoppy, just because we can. Of course, we have a long and storied relationship with traditionally hop-forward beers as well. Given the sheer volume of hops we produce, our brewers have unparalleled access. During a hop harvest, a brewer can drive to a hop farm, pick the freshest hops, throw them in her truck, and start brewing fresh hop-to-kettle beer within an hour.

The difference between fresh and dried hops is comparable to the difference between cooking with fresh versus dried herbs. Quite simply, you get more of the flavors you want out of the plant when you have access to it at its freshest. Fresh hop season only lasts from August through September, and we’ve usually finished all of the fresh hop beer by some time in October.

“So what about dry hopping? Does that have anything to do with dried hops?”

Yes, but only inasmuch as brewers usually use dry hops to do it. A “dry hopped” beer is one that has had a whole heaping lot of hops added after the onset of fermentation. This is done for aromatic purposes. The earlier you add hops, the more they affect the beer’s flavor. The later you add hops, the more they affect the aroma. Both flavor and aroma are crucial to the craft beer experience.

“…so when the hops are added prior to the onset of fermentation, is it called wet hopping?”

Yes. Take all the time you need.

“I don’t like hoppy beers.”

You’re entitled to your opinion, but I don’t believe you. Unless you’re drinking gruit beer all day (a fun but ancient style of beer devoid of hops), if you like beer, you like hops. When my guests use the adjective “hoppy,” and I imagine this applies to most casual beer drinkers as well, I’ve found that they simply mean “bitter.” But if you walk into any brewery in Portland and ask for something hoppy, your friendly taptender will likely ask you, “What kind?” Hops are valued for their bitterness, and we can measure their bitterness by quantifying their alpha acids, expressed by IBU (international bittering units) standards.

However, IBU count is not a measurement of perception, as the hops are present primarily to balance the sweetness of malted barley. Furthermore, there exist a myriad of different hop varieties, and incredibly intelligent people who work in labs and wear white jackets are constantly cross-breeding and creating new ones. Hops are so much more than merely bitter. Northwestern hops tend to be dank, resinous, and piney (or Douglas fir-y, but that’s kind of awkward). However, hops can also be fruity, citrusy, tropical, and earthy.

“I’m not gonna be around for this wondrous season, but I’m always thirsty.”

So are we, which is why we offer public tours six days a week. Check out our lineup here and get ready to hop on the bus!