Farm to glass

The real fall beers you should be seeking out

By Hayley Fudge

Photo: Local hop harvester Mankato Farms in New Carlisle supplied hops to many local breweries for their their fresh hop offerings this year; photo: Jim Schemel/Provided by Mankato Farms

Although dozens of pumpkin and spiced brews began hitting shelves as early as July, true hop lovers are rejoicing now, as the best weeks of fall beer season are just beginning. ‘Tis the season for fresh hop and wet hop beers. Both offer crisp, clean, juicy flavors that are only available once a year and are just starting to filter into your favorite beer retailers.

What are fresh hop and wet hop beers?

Even though more than 90 percent of the world’s hop harvest happens between Aug. 31 and Oct. 31, the hops are used year-round in the brewing process. Most often, the hops are dried, pelletized, packaged and shipped out for brewing.

But if you compare dried hops to kitchen spices, such as thyme or rosemary, you understand that the flavors fade over time. So, now is the only time of year when brewers and imbibers have the opportunity to craft and consume beers when hops are the freshest.

While very similar with their aromatic personas and burst of juicy flavors, there is a slight distinction between fresh hop beers and wet hop beers per Brewers Association guidelines. Fresh hop beers are brewed with the newly harvested hops off the vine, typically still in whole cones and within a week or two of being harvested. These hops are not broken down or processed, thus still considered “fresh,” though they may have begun to dry out naturally or dried to preserve as much of the hop flavor as possible. Wet hop beers are brewed with fresh, completely undried hops, going straight to boil within 24-36 hours of coming off the vine.

How is the flavor profile different from typical hop-forward ales?

Green. Earthy. Bright. Piney. Floral. Juicy. These are all tasting terms that are tossed around when discussing these types of ales.

“Because the hops are fresh from the vine, they lack the concentration of flavors you’d get from beers using pellet hops,” says Chad Klehamer, general manager at Dayton’s Belmont Party Supply. “Pellet Hops are made from fresh hops that are dried, then ground and pushed into a pellet. All of the flavor from many hops are concentrated into a single pellet, making it a stronger, more bitter flavor. Wet hop beers are earthy and present the hop flavors and aromas, but with less pungency.”

Should I drink a fresh hop beer immediately, or does it improve with age?

Simple answer: Yes! Drink it immediately. It’s called a fresh hop beer for a reason. Flavor falls off of this style of beer more quickly than others.

“Time and hops—especially fresh hops—are not friends,” says Gus Stathes, general manager and beer curator at Ollie’s Place. “The most important thing to consider with fresh-hopped beers is that they’re always drank best yesterday. You’d be shocked by how much a beer can change in only a couple weeks’ time. Those aromatics and flavors can fade very quickly, especially if the beer has been kept in a warmer environment.”

“Don’t save your fresh-hopped beers for a special occasion,” Stathes says. “They are the special occasion.”

Which ones should I be seeking?

Some of our local breweries have brewed fresh hop offerings, including Tickel Me Hoppy from Fifth Street Brewpub, brewed with fresh hops from Little Miami Farms in Xenia, and Area B IPA from Dayton Beer Company, brewed with fresh hops from Mankato Farms. Toxic Brewing Company will also soon be releasing a fresh hop ale made with Chinook hops from Mankato. Both farms are located less than 20 miles from Dayton.

“Our partnerships with the breweries who make these beers are huge for us,” says Tom Hoenie of Mankato Farms, a small, family-owned hop farm in New Carlisle. “It makes us very happy to provide a raw material that gets put in great beer so close to our farm. I’ve always been a huge IPA fan and a wet hop version is rare, but extremely refreshing.”

MadTree Brewing in Cincinnati offered FRESH 15, also brewed with Cascade hops from Mankato earlier this year, but it’s time has passed, as has the Harvest Rye brewed by Hairless Hare Brewery in Vandalia.

“Because of the strange weather this summer, many hop farms around the region harvested a little earlier than usual, while others harvested later,” says Adam Pratt, global can’bassador for MadTree Brewing. “Mother Nature is a fickle mistress.”

But don’t fret. It’s not too late to get your fresh-hop fix. Be sure to seek out these five bottled favorites that will be available in Dayton-area bottle shops for the next month or so:

Founders Harvest Ale – Brewed in Michigan. ABV: 7.6%. IBUs: 70

North Peak Hoodoo – Brewed in Michigan. ABV: 8.0%. IBUs: 88

Deschutes Chasin’ Freshies – Brewed in Oregon. ABV: 7.2%. IBUs: 65

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale: Brewed in California. ABV: 6.8%. IBUs: 65

Sixpoint Sensi – Brewed in New York. ABV: 6.3%, IBUs: 64
Hayley Fudge is one of Dayton City Paper’s Resident Beer Geeks. An enthusiast of craft beer and the culture that surrounds it, Hayley aspires to share her love of beer with others by whipping up beer-infused cupcakes on the regular. Reach Hayley Fudge at HayleyFudge@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Hayley Fudge is one of Dayton City Paper’s Resident Beer Geeks. An enthusiast of craft beer and the culture that surrounds it, Hayley aspires to share her love of beer with others by whipping up beer-infused cupcakes on the regular. Reach Hayley Fudge at HayleyFudge@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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