PORTLAND, Ore. (MainStreet) – Budweiser and Coors Light aren't likely to be made with fresh-picked hops anytime soon, but that doesn't mean Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) or MillerCoors can't offer U.S. drinkers a fresh-hop beer.
During the weeks of the late-summer, early fall hop harvest, small brewers in the hop-growing regions of the Pacific Northwest and in the smaller hop-producing corners of the U.S. rush to get hops from their vines and trellises and into the kettles within 24 hours to produce “fresh hop” or “wet hop” beers. That freshness produces a floral aroma and sweet flavor typically devoid of the harsh bitterness of heavily hopped beers produced with preserved or “dry” hops. That 24-hour leeway has prompted a huge debate over the terms “wet hop” and “fresh hop” – sometimes, there's a bit of drying during those down hours – while allowing brewers across the country a chance to make beers that were once the sole provenance of brewers in hop-heavy locations.
Since setting up the MainStreet beer bureau just outside of Portland in Oregon's Willamette Valley two years ago, we've not only sampled and profiled the fresh hop beer of the region, but began growing Cascade and Willamette hops of our own. This year's haul would have been enough to make a batch if overly dry conditions and curious deer hadn't decimated the crop, but our four vines still paled in comparison with the acres of trellises we saw at Sodbuster Farms in Salem, Ore., while accompanying Hood River, Ore.-based Full Sail Brewing to a hop harvest in mid-September.