When is Fresh Hop Season?
Fresh hop harvest season begins in the middle of August and comes to an end at some point during the month of September or early October. In order to ensure that you get to enjoy the full flavor of a fresh hop beer, you should avoid drinking fresh hop beer that was brewed after October. Fresh hop beer brewed at or after the end of fresh hop season will not taste as flavorful as beer brewed at the height of the harvest season in August, September, or early October.
The best time to drink fresh hop beer also tends to be in October. Since fresh hop beer needs to rest for a few weeks before it can be served or sold, beers brewed at the height of the fresh hop season in August or September usually hit their prime in October. However, most fresh hop beers can retain their complex body of flavors through November as long as they were brewed in October or earlier. Many beer connoisseurs and devoted hoppy beer fans look forward to enjoying fresh hop beer throughout the holiday season each year.
One reason why fresh hop beers are in such high demand by beer connoisseurs is that fresh hop season is very short. Brewers can only craft so many batches of fresh hop beer before fresh hop season ends and the hops they’ve harvested start to age past their prime. Because the fresh hop harvest season is so short and fresh hop beers also have a very short shelf life after they have been brewed, you can only get your hands on quality fresh hop beers for a short span of time each year. If you want to taste a fresh hop beer at its peak of flavor, you have to act fast and visit breweries during the fleeting months or even weeks when fresh hop beer is at its best.
What are Fresh Hops?
Fresh hops are hop flowers that are not processed after they are harvested. Instead, they are brewed into a beer usually within 24 hours of being harvested so they don’t have time to rot or lose any of their flavor.
The different classes of hops can get very confusing. When it comes to beer, the main hops categories are fresh hops, wet hops, and dried or processed hops. Fresh hops and wet hops are virtually interchangeable in the modern beer industry, which makes
classifying hops even more confusing. Wet hops are technically hops that have not been dried at all, while fresh hops tend to be dried after they are harvested. If you want to make sure a beer is brewed with authentic fresh hops, check to make sure the hops it includes were used within 24 hours of their harvest.
Dried hops are hops that go through a long-term drying process and are not used within 24 hours of their harvest. Any beer that is not advertised as a wet hop or fresh hop beer includes dried—or processed—hops. Dried hops are much more stable and have a much longer shelf life than fresh hops. Brewers can include dried hops in their beers year-round, because dried hops can be kept and used for several months after their harvest. Because they are dried and aged longer, dried hops are not as flavorful as fresh hops.
What Makes Fresh Hop Beers Special?
Although there are a few beers that don’t reach the peak of their flavor for years after they’ve been brewed, most beers do not get better with age like wines do. You don’t have to be a seasoned beer connoisseur to recognize the difference between fresh beer and beer that’s past its prime. For the majority of beers, the flavors that make them special and distinct fade over time. Certain flavors fade faster than others. For example, hop flavors tend to lose their intensity in beer very quickly.
The short lifespan of hop flavors is one reason why fresh hop beers are so popular and taste so different than beers brewed with processed hops. Hops are one of the most important ingredients in virtually any beer because of the flavors these flowers add to beer and how their bitterness balances the sweetness in a brew. While some beers are hoppier than others and not every beer drinker appreciates intense hoppy flavors, the majority of devoted beer lovers agree that hops are an essential component of any worthwhile brew.
Fresh hop beers are infused with hoppy flavor like no other beer. The flavor profile of these distinctive beers is complex, delicate, and aromatic. Fresh hop beers include fruity and floral notes and have a recognizable fresh-tasting finish that beers brewed with dried hops lack.