Do breweries use fresh hops?

Answered by Michael Wilson

Breweries do use fresh hops in the brewing process. Fresh hops, also known as wet hops, are hops that have been harvested and used immediately without being dried or processed. They provide a unique and vibrant flavor profile to beer that is not typically found in hops that have been dried and pelletized.

One of the ways breweries use fresh hops is during the mash process. The mash is when the malted grains are mixed with hot water to extract sugars. Fresh hops can be added to the mash tun along with the malted grains, allowing the flavors and aromas to infuse into the wort as it is being created. This can result in a more subtle hop character compared to other methods of using fresh hops, but it can still contribute some interesting flavors to the finished beer.

Another way breweries use fresh hops is during the boil. The boil is when the wort is heated and hops are added to impart bitterness and aroma. Fresh hops can be added directly to the boil, just like traditional dried hops. The heat of the boil helps to extract the oils and flavors from the fresh hops, creating a more intense hop character in the beer. This can result in a brighter and more pronounced hop flavor compared to using dried hops.

Fresh hops can also be used during the whirlpool stage of the brewing process. The whirlpool is when the wort is stirred to create a vortex, causing solids to settle in the center of the kettle. Fresh hops can be added to the whirlpool, allowing the wort to be infused with their flavors and aromas before being transferred to the fermentation vessel. This can result in a more delicate and nuanced hop character in the finished beer.

Lastly, fresh hops are commonly used for dry hopping. Dry hopping is the process of adding hops to the fermentation vessel after primary fermentation has completed. This allows the hops to impart aroma and flavor without adding bitterness. Fresh hops can be added directly to the fermentation vessel, where they will infuse the beer with their unique characteristics over a period of several days to weeks. This method often results in a vibrant and fresh hop aroma that is highly desired in certain beer styles.

In my personal experience as a homebrewer, I have had the opportunity to use fresh hops in various stages of the brewing process. I have found that using fresh hops can add a depth and complexity to the beer that is not easily replicated with dried hops. The flavors and aromas from fresh hops can be more vibrant and nuanced, providing a unique drinking experience. However, it is important to note that fresh hops have a shorter shelf life and need to be used quickly after harvest to ensure their freshness and quality.

Breweries do use fresh hops in the brewing process. Whether it be during the mash, boil, whirlpool, or dry hopping, fresh hops can contribute a distinct and dynamic hop character to beer. Their versatility allows brewers to experiment with different flavors and aromas, creating unique and exciting brews for beer enthusiasts to enjoy.