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Beer On My Shirt: Wet Hop vs. Fresh Hop vs. The Brown Washcloth

J. R. Shirt, November 14, 2013 -   

It all started simply enough. I was in the Beer On My Shirt office – a room next to our bathroom that Wife is kind enough to rent to me at a reasonable rate – attempting to change the stylus on my record player. Not only do I occasionally listen to jazz while off-roading, but I also have a turntable and several vinyl record albums. Now imagine other stereotypical hobbies for a mid-thirties father. Yes to all of them. Except fantasy football. And I am currently beardless.

So what if I have several moleskin pocket notebooks that I rarely use. I needed them. For my ideas.

As I struggled with the record player needle replacement, Wife popped her head in the door and asked me several questions (my mental answers, mental because at no point was I given time to actually respond out loud, are in parenthesis and italicized. Because I think all my thoughts are italicized. I am part Italian.):

  1. Did you know I am currently trying to give our Child a bath? (yes)

  2. Is it nice to have time to yourself? (yes)

  3. Are you drinking? (one beer, actually two half beers)

  4. Is it even 11 a.m. yet? (it is 11:21 a.m.)

  5. What are you doing? (changing the stylus to my record player)

  6. Did you walk the dog? (no)

  7. Do you expect me to clean the kitchen, because it is a mess. (I have zero expectations regarding the mess in the kitchen)

  8. Could you keep an eye on the Child in the tub for second while I go downstairs and finish what is left of all you're favorite snack food items? (Yes. Wait, what?)

After a few more moments of trying to determine if I had successfully completed the stylus replacement – I expected to hear a click, and yet there was no click – I went into the bathroom to keep an eye on child while she played in the tub. The first thing I noticed was the smell.

“Child, did you poop in the tub?”

“No Daddy”

I took a quick visual inventory of the contents of the bathtub, but with all the suds and bubbles it was difficult to see anything clearly.

“Are you sure?” I said.

“Why are you asking her if she pooped in the tub?” Wife shouted up from downstairs, trying to get all up in my business.

“Because it smells like somebody pooped in the tub.”

“Well do you see any poop?”

Again, I scanned for anomalies floating among the bath toys. A sizable blip appeared on my radar.

“Is there a brown washcloth in the tub?”

“We don't have any brown washcloths.”

“You better get up here.”

Yada, yada, yada... and now we are all out of bleach.

Somehow, through a series of word associations I'd rather not write out*, this all transitions into a discussion of wet hopped beers.

There is some debate out there about what a “wet hopped” beer is versus a “fresh hopped” beer. After some very cursory internet investigations and some helpful insight from @BSmithInc and @TheCraigPowers, I found myself on the Sierra Nevada website where they describe wet hops as “un-dried, picked and shipped from the growing fields within 24 hours.” They go on to describe fresh hops as “the freshest dried hops to come from the fields, typically within seven days of harvest.”

Interestingly enough, after a bit more navigating around SN's website, I noticed that the Northern Hemisphere Harvest Ale is listed as a wet hopped ale, while the Southern Hemisphere version is listed as a fresh hopped ale – which makes sense considering the difference in geography between the two. Celebration Ale is also listed as a fresh hop ale, which I had noticed on the label of the bottles I recently picked up – which is what got me thinking about this whole thing to begin with.

As I considered the short list of wet hopped beers I've had this season, and mentally tried to put them in order from the best to the not-so-great, I wondered if I should be including Celebration Ale among the Founder's Harvest Ale, Northern Hemisphere Harvest, Deschutes' Chasin Freshies (which I think I had a bad bottle of – it was more metallic than orange), and New Holland's Hopivore. Incidentally, the order I just presented, with Founder's Harvest at the top, is how I would rank the wet hopped beers I had this season. It was Founder's Harvest all the way and it wasn't even close.

Obviously there are some notable omissions from my list, mostly due to distribution (see Surly Wet). And then there was the chance I had for some Deschutes' Hop Trip on tap, which I passed on due to my experience with the Chasin' Freshies (a decision I now regret – of all the days to act like a scorned lover, I choose the day of a Deschutes' Tap Takeover.)

If I were to include Celebration Ale in the above list, it would come in second to Founder's Harvest, an idea that is currently supported by our leaderboards**. And maybe even on some days, for me, Celebration would be first. Regardless of wet hop vs. fresh hop, they are just two very different expressions of what an American IPA can be . . .

The Celebration Ale offers a more balanced presentation between the hops and the malts, still hop forward, yet with obviously darker caramel malts (see the above pic), and with a more full mouthfeel.

The Founder's Harvest Ale is more of a hop juice sent down to us by Zeus – brighter both in color and in the more citrus, less pine, hop flavors. The malts are lighter and seem to act more as a compliment, rather than a counterweight, to the hops, pushing them up like a bra that holds the cosmos. Straight up, pure heaven, hop juice. As I drink it right now it seems absolutely perfect. This is not hyperbole -- I would give it straight fives in every category as of RIGHT NOW.

Okay, maybe it is a 4.75 in the mouthfeel category. I've had a sip or two that felt a bit light.

Also, it should be noted that after a very deep and thoughtful review of my drinking history on Untappd, I realized I may have been consistently underrating some very delicious beers by about a half star, as if I was afraid to be overly positive. Really, I think it was that I was subconsciously applying some sort of Non-Vermontian*** East Coast Beer Napoleon Complex to my ratings. Essentially, the neurotic train of thought is that these beers that I'm drinking aren't these amazing beers that I hear about other people drinking on the West Coast or that I hear exist in this fictional land of Vermont that apparently I can drive to but never do so these beers, that I'm drinking right now in my house, can not be even close to five stars. I'm even nervous to give it 4.5 stars.

So maybe right now I'm being retroactively positive, making up for past negativity, by enjoying this beer just way too much.

Okay, worst case scenario is the smell gets a 4.5 and mouthfeel gets a 4.75. Everything else is straight fives. Don't even say the appearance doesn't warrant a 5. Just don't.

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* tub poop, tub plop, wet poop, wet hop. Can you guess how often I read Dr. Seuss books?

** Actually, the leaderboards support the order of my list up until I add Hopivore to the search. The leaderboards have Hopivore just ahead of Chasin' Freshies. And even though I did not find the Freshies all that great, like I said I think I had a bad bottle, I found the Hopivore difficult to finish. I was also upset that I bought three bottles of it (Hopivore). It tasted like a bad homebrew clone of Celebration Ale. Also, it is interesting to note that all of these beers are listed as American IPAs except Hopivore, which is an American Pale Ale. Okay, maybe it isn't that interesting.

*** Pronounced Vermont-shun

And I hate that I just did endnotes. Absolutely hate it.

J. R. Foster Wallace Shirt is available on Twitter @beeronmyshirt

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