The warm, sunny days we had in the Northeast this summer resulted in very happy hop plants. I’ve picked several pounds of crystal, centennial and chinook hops from the plants in my community garden and have a fair amount of nugget waiting to be picked. Without a doubt the best year yet, both in terms of quantity and quality. Now the challenge will be using them up!
Before I picked and dried the hops, I decided I would make another attempt at a wet hop/fresh hop beer with the freshly picked chinooks and crystals. Commercial examples of wet hop beers have been popping up over the years, but since they can only be brewed this time of year and take a significant amount of hops that have to be used very quickly, it’s not too often that you will find one on tap at your local pub. Like most things related to hops (and craft beer in general), Sierra Nevada is the originator of the style. Without a doubt, the best I’ve had is the Estate Ale – made with organically grown hops and barley grown at the brewery. Taking a few tips from an interview with Brewmaster Steve Dresler on the Brewing Network – including the 5 to 1 ratio of wet to dry hops – I came up with the following recipe. I only used the wet hops, picked about an hour before brewing, for the late additions in the kettle. I stuffed them into cheesecloth sacks and used some stainless steel washers to weigh them down (like this), which is quite the challenge with so many whole leaf hops. Also, I realize I used a fairly dark crystal malt (120L), which is unusual for an IPA. It was the only organic crystal malt I had on hand. I used just a touch for coloring, which I think worked out fine.
5 gallon extract batch with specialty grains:
OG: 1.055 FG: 1.017 SRM: 6.2 IBU: (roughly 50??)
6 lbs. Briess organic DME
.22 lbs. organic crystal 120L
.60 lbs. organic cane sugar
1 oz dried organic whole leaf Centennial (~8.5% AA) at 60 mins.
12.5 oz wet/fresh organic whole leaf Chinook (~10.5% AA) at 15 mins.
6.25 oz wet/fresh organic whole leaf Chinook (~10.5% AA) at 0 mins.
3 oz wet/fresh organic whole leaf Crystal (~3.5% AA) at 0 mins.
1 oz dried organic Chinook (~10.5% AA) dry hop
1 oz dried organic Crystal (~3.5% AA) dry hop
Fermentis US-05 Cali Ale
Place the crystal malt in a grain sack and steep in 6.5 gallons of 150 degree water for approximately 20 minutes. Bring the water up to 170, remove the grains, then bring water to a boil. Turn off the heat, add the DME and sugar, then return to heat. When wort reaches a boil, begin adding hops as indicated above. When the boil is complete, transfer 5 gallons to the fermenter and chill to 65 , pitch yeast, ferment at 68 for about one week. At this point I added half of the dry hops for a week, filtered, then added the other half of the dry hops to the keg after it carbonated. Alternatively, you can just add all of the dry hops and condition for another week or two.
I think this was about as fresh as it comes. Bursting with “chewy” (like biting into a hop cone, without the bitterness) wet hop flavor and aroma. I feel it was in large part due to the chinooks, which were dripping with oil when they came off of the vine. Chinooks are rarely considered for more than bittering in recipe formulation and I think that is a mistake, especially when you want a fresh, citrusy flavor and aroma. They pack quite a punch and the crystals give the beer a subtle, yet very nice earthy/floral touch. I was very happy with the results and received a lot of positive feedback from friends; however, it did not place in the National Organic Brewing Challenge. Still waiting for the score sheets – I’ll update with judge comments when I get them. Regardless, I loved the beer and kicked the keg in just a few days (sharing with friends, of course). Can’t wait to brew again next year.
Update: Scored a 31 in the Organic Brewing Challenge. Not too bad I guess, considering the third place winner for the category (Specialty Beer, Category 23) scored a 34. The judges comments were generally favorable, with the only flaw being that it wasn’t bitter enough for an IPA. I would definitely agree with that. Nowadays, I tend to brew hoppy beers with the focus being more on the flavor and aroma hops than on the bittering hops. Also, in the case of homegrown hops, it’s difficult to get the IBUs down during the recipe formulation. Anyway, one judge mentioned that if the beer were entered as an American Pale Ale, it would have done far better. I’ll give it a shot as an APA in the Knickerbocker Battle of the Brews.