Harvest ales are out now, so ‘hop’ to it

Story highlights

Wet hop beers are made with hops that haven't been sent to a drying kiln

Brewers make special brews with wet hops to celebrate the agricultural origins of beer

Called "freshies," these beers tend to be made in limited batches in the fall

Fresh hop cones provide a more grassy and juicy aroma and flavor to beer

CNN  — 

We are well into the fall season, so by now, you probably have had your fill of pumpkin and Oktoberfest beers, so now is the time to give a fresh hop beer a try.

Fall is harvest time for the hop growers of the Pacific Northwest, where a majority of hops are grown in the U.S. While most of the hops picked are dried and preserved, some hops are spared from the drying kiln and sent directly to brewers within 24-48 hours. These hops are referred to as “wet hops.” Whole fresh hop cones provide a more grassy and juicy aroma and flavor to the beer by retaining precious lupulin oils from the hop flower.

Wet hop beers are the ultimate example of farm-to-glass, and are designed to celebrate the agriculture of beer. Brewers in Oregon and Washington obviously have an advantage in getting the freshest picked hops, but more and more breweries outside of the hop growing regions are going to extreme lengths to get the freshest hops into the brew kettle.

I gathered as many of these “freshies” as I could get my hands on for a taste test, along with a group of fellow beer lovers, and have listed the cream of the crop. These harvest ales won’t be available much longer, so you better hop to it and try some today.

Please share your favorite wet hop beer in the comments below.

Northern Hemisphere Harvest – Sierra Nevada

Sierra Nevada has been brewing up wet hop beers since 1996, so they have got it down. They even produce a wet hop beer from hops grown on their estate in Chico, California. The fresh Centennial and Cascade hops give this balanced beer some citrus and herbal notes, but they’re not overpowering. Definite pine and grassy notes crop up at the end, but the sweetness from the malts calm things down a bit.

Born Yesterday Fresh Hop – Lagunitas Brewing Company

This was the clear front-runner this year in the wet hop category. The freshness of this pale ale really shines through from beginning to end. Tropical fruits and pine hit you across the face right upon opening it up, and it should, considering the lengths that Lagunitas went through in order to get this beer in your hands as fresh as possible. The wet hops are truly the star of this pale ale.

Courtesy Victory Brewing

Harvest Ale – Founders Brewing Company

Who knew that one of the best wet hopped beers would be straight out of Grand Rapids, Michigan? It’s a brilliantly juiced up IPA with intense pine and tropical fruit flavor. The fresh hops shine all the way through to the finish. According the brewery, fresh hops from both Washington and Michigan were used in this year’s batch of their delicious harvest ale.

Chasin Freshies – Deschutes Brewery

This IPA features fresh cut Mosaic hops trucked in straight from the fields in nearby Yakima, Washington. Tropical notes are again showcased in this one, along with heavy pine and subtle bread-y sweetness. Super clean and crisp, and a very easy drinker for 7.2% alcohol by volume. Deschutes also serves up a fresh hop pale ale called Hop Trip, which is worth a try as well.

So Fresh & So Green, Green – Terrapin Beer Company

Each year Terrapin pays tribute to the hop by featuring a single wet hop that is flown down on a midnight plane to Georgia from Yakima. This year Terrapin features Simcoe, which is a heavily aromatic hop that gives lots of earthy pine and passionfruit characteristics. This brew tastes like a freshly mowed lawn of pine needles, with a fruity slightly bitter finish. It is a truly another one hop wonder from Terrapin.

Sensi Harvest – Sixpoint Brewery

This is one juicy fresh hop beer, which is surprising given its very drinkable 4.7% ABV. Brooklyn’s Sixpoint uses only seedless hop cones in this session IPA to deliver a citrus-y but not at all bitter brew.

Vine to Victory Harvest Ale – Victory Brewing Company

A very ambitious undertaking by Victory to get a whopping six tons of fresh hops hauled in refrigerated trucks from Yakima Valley to their Downingtown, Pennsylvania, brewery for this fresh hop offering. Tons of grapefruit and a pungent hop aroma lead the way, alongside Victory’s signature malts, provide a bread-y sweetness.

Fresh Hop – Great Divide

Another early adopter of the wet hop movement, Great Divide give us a pale ale with grassy hop flavor with heavy grapefruit and a little pine on the finish. Moderate bitterness and an all-around well balanced beer.

Warrior IPA – Left Hand Brewing

Probably the only wet hop beer on the list not featuring Pacific Northwest hops. Warrior is made with fresh wet Cascade hops from the high altitudes of Colorado. Once harvested, the hops are loaded onto a small plane and flown about an hour to the Left Brewery in Longmont, Colorado.

Heavy-Handed IPA – Two Brothers Brewing Company

Two Brothers from Chicago put out three separate versions of their Heavy Handed fresh hop IPA, with each one featuring a single hop. This year they have released them in Chinook, Centennial and Cascade. We were able to get our hands on the Cascade version of this beer. The Heavy Handed was probably sweeter than most of the fresh hop beers we tried, with a caramel flavors with a citrus twist.