Last week, we explored what hops are, this week on Beer Notes, we will learn how hops are used in the brewing process.
Most beer is made with dried hops. The flowers of the hop plant are collected and dried and then processed to create a highly concentrated version of hops that look like rabbit food pellets and are very consistent in flavor and brewing properties. These pelletized hops have the longest shelf life and can last up to three years.
Fresh hops are becoming increasingly popular despite their short shelf life. The hops flowers are collected and used whole. If used within 24 hours of collection without any drying, the hops are known as wet. The beer is very fragile and must be consumed fairly quickly. If the whole hops flowers are kiln dried, they can last up to one year. When a brewer uses this whole hop cone, unpelletized, the hops are known as “fresh.” Many of the beers using wet and fresh hops are only available in the Fall – after the hops harvests in August through October.
Most brewers add hops during the boil, whether they are using pelletized or fresh hops. This process breaks down the aromatic oils to create your signature bitter flavors.
Dry hopped beer does not define the type of hops used, but when the hops are added. Usually, this is after the boil and the hops used for “dry-hopping” add the hoppy aromas many of us have grown to love
When Fall rolls around, look for beers made with fresh or wet hops at your local brewery. The fleeting availability of this new beer style will make hop heads around the world look forward to the season.