PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- In the green, far-flung corners of the beer world, this is one of the most wonderful times of the year: fresh hops season.There are drinkers who equate this time of year with the nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger of pumpkin ales and others who raise a stein of milder Oktoberfest brews. But there's an entire corner of the beer universe that -- for a handful of weeks in late summer and early fall -- is either rushing between farms and backyard trellises to pick as many fresh hops as they can, rushing those hops straight into kettles to brew floral, sweet beers or rushing around to local breweries to drink those brews before their flavor dissipates or they disappear completely. They're not as bitter as a typical hoppy beer and, hovering around 5% alcohol by volume, aren't nearly as potent.
Sierra Nevada Brewing, Chico, Calif. According to brewing lore, this is where the fresh hop push all began. Back in 1996, Sierra Nevada introduced its first "fresh-hop" or "wet hop" Harvest ale. That was followed by years of semantic arguments about whether a "fresh hop" could ever be a "wet hop" if the harvesting process dries it or if that wetness even makes a difference if the fresh oils and resins remain regardless. It was also followed by years of great beer. The 6.7% ABV Harvest Ale is still made with fresh Cascade and Centennial hops from Eastern Washington, but it's now just one in a fresh hop series. Sierra Nevada also produces a Southern Hemisphere fresh-hop Harvest ale with Halertau, Motueka and Southern Cross hops flown in from New Zealand and Estate Ale with organic hops grown at Sierra's own facilities in California's North Valley. That's just spreading the fresh-hop love, baby.