Seasonal beers are big business and fall beers are a particular favorite for brew enthusiasts. Mid-August through early September is harvest season for hops, the flowering cones that provide beer with bitterness, aroma and flavor. Farmers rush to reap the fat, resinous flowers, drying them for use throughout the year. These beer buds must be dried quickly because they typically lose potency within a day (yes, one day!) of being plucked. Preserving the hops comes at a price; drying drives off a significant amount of the most fragrant oils. To capture the aromas brewers are adding fresh hops straight from the field into their brewing tanks, a process called wet hopping. The result is a bitter-light beer boasting richer and more seductive citrus and tropical fruit notes than dry-hopped brews. Many even show a delicate green scent, like a trimmed lawn’s chlorophyll bouquet.
Hurry! Time is of the essence.
Most hops are grown in Washington and Oregon, so Pacific Northwest brewers have easy access; others are overnighting hops to breweries across the country so they can add them before they go bland. Likewise, don’t hesitate when you spot a harvest beer! Brewing hops doesn’t preserve them–just like the buds, the aromas and flavors in the suds fade with each passing day. It’s a once a year flavor experience worth seeking out!