Wet Hop, Fresh Hop, Mouthfeel

Eno Sarris, November 25, 2013

Founders' Harvest Ale has elduded me. A poorly-timed barrage of cold viruses emanating from my son's day care held me down for a while. Confusion about what wet and fresh hops actually mean left me puzzled. Our leaderboards, even with recently-refined search results, could only help so much.

I persevered. For you.

Or for me, that too. Because I love wet-hopped beers. There's something to them that's so great. Instead of the big bad dry bitterness of dried hops in your face, wet hops give you that hoppiness in a much more restrained way. I'd posit that wet hopped IPAs also have better mouthfeel, as the hoppiness has more depth and breadth instead of finishing you off with a hopsplosion in your mouth. Wet hops are more about the body, dried hops are more about the finish.

Drying things changes their taste radically, so the delineation between fresh and wet is important. I thought I'd take a look at the fresh/wet hopped beers that I was so fortunate to try recently and reveal their wetness. Here's the autumn I manged to have in between blowing my nose, listed here in descending order of my enjoyment:

  1. Sierra Nevada's Celebration (fresh)
  2. Hoppin' Frog Fresh Frog Raw Hop (wet)
  3. Six Point's Autumnation (wet)
  4. Terrapin's So Fresh & So Green, Green (wet)
  5. Sierra Nevada's Northern Hemisphere Wet Hop (wet)
  6. Deschutes' Chasin' Freshies (fresh)
  7. New Holland's Hopivore (wet)

It's possible that Celebration should be on another list, a list of great fresh IPAs, and that we should separate the two. Because of the aforementioned difference in quality and mouthfeel between fresh- and wet-hopped beers.

But Autumnation gives me pause. Autumnation's ad copy claims that the beer is wet-hopped, but it tastes like a traditional IPA, allbeit maybe with a little extra dark resinous feeling to the hoppiness. It doesn't taste anything like Hoppin' Frog's effort, or Terrapin's little number. Those two beers are your prototypical wet-hopped beers: mellow IBU (45-50), lots of mouthfeel and dark, dank and malty. if you realy want to get into the wet style, they might actually be better representatives than the more traditional Autumnation and Celebration.

Mouthfeel can be a funny thing. Many don't value it highly, and it's not a 'taste' that you can describe easily in a review. With nitro beers becoming more common, though, it's obvious that the marketplace in general does value a good mouth of beer with full, sometimes creamy taste from beginning to end.

So if doesn't need to be all about the bitterness, consider getting wet.

Hoppin Frog Fresh Frog Raw Hop IPA

Appearance: 4.0 / Dark copper with a nice white head.

Smell: 4.0 / Malty sweetness with mango and citrus and a touch of pine. Has the aroma of a big IPA.

Taste: 4.5 / You get the traditional malt, citrus and caramel sweetness of a 'regular' IPA, but there's something to the order in which you get them that's different. Perhaps it's just that the bitterness is dialed back, but you get more vegetable, more malt, more melon, more thickness in the middle, and there's no final hop that blows out your palate and makes you forget all those tastes that led into the finale. You still finish with hoppy, citrusy bitterness, but it's more mellow. All of it is more mellow.

Feel: 4.5 / Thick for an IPA, in a good way. There all the way. Creamy without being nitro creamy. Hops finish refreshes palate for another dose of cream.

Overall: 4.5 / Made me want more wet-hopped beers in a way that Southern Hemisphere made me want more hops from New Zealand. Every IPA doesn't need to be 80+ IBU, and this one champions the more measured approach. Balanced and thick from beginning to end, there's nothing to wreck your palate, and everything to make you dive back in for more.

Thanks to Garden Interns for the header image.