Thursday, November 12, 2009

Beers by HTNL: part 5 Fresh hop ales.

For as much as craft brewers drone on and on about the quality of their products in relation to the gruesome twosome (Bud/Inbev and Miller) their products largely draw from the same ingredients and utilize relatively the same methods. Same hops, same grains with some exceptions, and the same methods. Craft brewers brew smaller lots though with more attention and more concentrated ingredients.

One rare exception to this generality is the fresh hop ale/wet hope ale/harvest hop ale. The fresh hop ale takes the hops directly from the fields and goes into tank immediately. Normally, hops are mechanically pelletized which greatly compromises their taste and their dignity, like pantsing a portly slow kid and running his drawers up the flag pole outside Mrs. Baker's math class. It just isn't right. But fresh hop ales are beer the way beer should be done, old school. No machines and dies, no fraud.

Last year out in the People's Republic of Oregon, I experienced the full fury of the fresh hop ale season. My favorite was Bridgeport's fresh hop ale. Sold in a larger 2 pint bottle with a golden and green foil colsure, this beer is the shining jewel of the year, in my view. Typically fresh hop ales are strictly a season ale because they do not keep for as long as other beers (which I do not fully understand and am skeptical about). Sierra Nevada (of California) though, brews a southern hemisphere fresh hop ale after the harvest in New Zealand in what is our spring. Rogue also does an excellent fresh hop ale.

I wish breweries in the midwest would get serious about growing their own hop plots like many of the best quality beers in the West. And I wish breweries in the midwest would get serious about brewing in general, like those in the West. But that is for another day.

Today, I got a gilmpse of how this might happen. The "Fresh hop harvest ale" from Founders brewery in Grand Rapids, MI (Grand Crapids). This reminded me, in a way, of the glory of Oregon and Washington hop season. 70 IBUs leaks out of the top of the bottle upon opening. After pouring, you might as well have cut a grapefruit in half, because they will smell about the same. Bitter, sharp and crisp, the foretaste on the pallate is a sharp lemon flopping down like a shirtless portly man into a flannel lazyboy stained with cheeto dust into an orangy caramel flavour. I'm not sure where they got their hops from or how they were able to do a fresh hop ale. So I can only hope it was genuine and not pelletized rabbit turd hops. But the resins were powerful and the pallate satisfied.

HTNL rating of 8.3/10


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Is this heaven?"

"No, it's Iowa. Is there a Heaven?"

"Oh yea. It's the place dreams come true."

"Well then, maybe this is Heaven."

Keep wishing. Maybe your wish for Midwest hop plots will come true.

By the way, can anyone say "Hop plots" quickly three times in a row?