Saturday, September 28, 2013

Yakima - A wretched hive of scum and villiany!

Chinook Bines - CLS Farms
Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere is the crescendo of seasons in the beer world. Fall is the time when the hops mature and are harvested, which means it is the only time of the year beer is made with fresh/wet hops, unless, of course, you happen to be in the Southern Hemisphere where this happens in the spring.

Fresh hops or wet hops means they are used fresh off the vine without drying, kilning, or any other processing. Wet hops will quickly, within a few days, begin to decompose to the point they are no longer usable. Freezing wet hops for later would result in a soupy disgusting mess. When the water in the hop freezes it punctures the cell walls, the same as what happens to lettuce when it is frozen. Instead, you must synchronize your hop source, the brew day, and your post-brew hop additions, with as much attention to timing as Janet Jackson's choreographed accidental wardrobe malfunction.

7lbs of wet hops (hbc366, centennial, chinook)
Every year at the beginning of October is one of the Northwests most prestegious and specialized beer festivals, Yakima's own Fresh Hop Ale Festival. A festival devoted to beer made with fresh hops. Don't even think about sneaking in an Octoberfest/Marzen lager or even an IPA made with hops from the previous year's crop. 2013 will be the 11th year of the festival and it is all about the fresh. 

Fresh hop ale from such breweries as Lagunitas, Widmer, New Belgium, Ninkasi, and Sierra Nevada will compete for the prestige to be the freshest and hoppiest . In addition to the commercial craft beer competition, there is a BJCP ranked homebrew competition, which is where my participation comes in. The homebrew competition is very challenging. Most of the homebrewers, myself included (Thanks CLS Farms! & Hopunion), have access to the best fresh commercial hops available.