October 2, 2015 by fhsteinbart
Fall is definitely in the air, and the harvest is in full swing, what with apples, grapes, and hops arriving to the Oasts for drying. Some of those hops don’t get Oasted, but instead are headed for a different usage. Historically the first hops of the season were picked fresh to be put into what was then called October beer. As a celebration of the harvest there were all sorts of things people used to do to celebrate bringing in the bounty of nature’s gifts. One was to make a beer or beers with fresh hops, and that fine tradition carries on down to this day. So what makes these beers so special, and different you ask? Well, for starters, they all have the more delicate flavors and aromas that are driven off during the Oasting process preserved for your enjoyment. However this is a double edged sword, for the more fresh hops you boil, and for times longer than 30 minutes or so, and you can sometimes get a vegetal or grassy character in your beer. This is simply the nascent chlorophyll that is present in all fresh plant material manifesting itself to the imbiber. By avoiding long boils, and using some or all dried hops for bittering qualities, the fresh hops can be preserved for more important hop character like flavor, and aroma. Also, when you increase the malt profile of the beer, you must also increase the fresh hop rate to balance out the equation. This is why lighter bodied and flavored beers are what most breweries bring out so that the taster can pick out the more subtle hop character notes. Don’t be alarmed, as even the most strongly flavored Stouts can also be fresh hopped; you just have to use a whole lot more of those killer green buds! Probably the most ubiquitous beer made with fresh hops would be the Pale Ale, or IPA, which are a showcase for hops after all, and fresh hops simply make them even more enjoyable. For info on the local Portland Fresh Hop Festival at Oaks Park Amusement Center click here.