Piss and Vinegar: Stop Saying “Wet Hop” When You Mean “Fresh Hop”

By  | 

It’s that wonderful time of year when the unique taste of fresh-hop beers is available. Fresh-hop beers–flavored with hops that have not been dried in a kiln for preservation–have a unique range of flavors with which a lot of us have become a little obsessed. It’s not for everyone–the undried hops can contribute a vegetal flavor that tastes off to some people–but the popularity of theses beers has been growing in leaps and bounds the last few years.

My rant today is to protest the use of the term “wet hop” to describe these beers when “fresh hop” makes more sense, and leaves less room for misunderstanding. I’ve been complaining about this for a few years: here are some previous rants from 2012, 2011, and 2010. I thought I might give it a rest this year, but as the season has ramped up, it seems like the idiotic phrase “wet hop” is more prevalent this year than ever, so once again I must stamp my little feet.

Fresh hops are not wet, any more than any other fresh herb is wet. You could squeeze a hop cone all day and not get a drop of water out of it. If you haven’t dried the hop, anyone would recognize it as fresh and not dried. Why muddy the waters by calling it “wet?” You might turn the tables on me and say, “what’s the harm in calling fresh hop beers “wet hop beers?” If everyone knows that “wet hop” means “fresh hop,” what’s the problem? There are, in fact, several problems with it.

First and foremost, it is misleading. The very existence of the phrase “wet hop” allows certain people to make a distinction between “wet hop” and “fresh hop.” Here in the Pacific Northwest, beers brewed with undried hops have always been called “Fresh Hop Beers.”  If you say you’re serving a fresh hop beer, people understand that to mean “this beer has been flavored with unkilned hops.” That’s not at all to say that there are absolutely no dried hops in fresh hop beers–it’s perfectly reasonable to bitter a beer with dried hops and add fresh hops for aroma, though some die-hards make fresh hop beer with only unkilned hops. But I was scandalized a few years ago to find out that some of the beers served during this season as “fresh hop beers” did not have any unkilned hops in them. WTF? How can you call it a fresh hop beer?  And the reply was always, “It’s not a wet hop beer, it’s a beer made with the freshest hops of the year.”

When I say that it’s misleading to say your fresh hop beer contains only dried hops, it’s not just a matter of misleading the uninitiated. In 2010, when I first became aware that people were making all-dried fresh hop ales, I asked a few brewers what they thought of fresh hop beers that had no unkilned hops. John Harris gave me a blank look. “Who would do that?” he asked, genuinely puzzled.  Other brewers had similar reactions.

Secondly, “wet” is a piece of terminology that isn’t used when talking about any other agricultural product. At the grocery store, you don’t have to ask for wet parsley or wet mint to avoid being given dried herbs, no matter how recently they might have been dried. Is there anything else you can think of where “fresh” might mean it had been dried? Tomatoes? No. Peaches? No. Lettuce, onions, pasta, fish, roses, milk? No, of course not. Think how silly it would be if someone tried to convince you that the dried figs they were selling were fresh, and that you had to ask for wet figs if you wanted undried ones.

Finally, as I noted earlier, fresh hops are certainly not wet anyway. It would make more sense to call tomatoes or peaches wet than it would to call hops wet. It brings up some silly imagery also: if you’re brewing with dry fresh hops, what about your water? Is it fresh, or wet? Did you dry hop with wet hops

In 2010 when I became aware of the fresh hop/wet hop problem, I called out Widmer and Hopworks as a couple of local brewers making “fresh hop” beers with only dried hops. As far as I know, neither of them does that anymore, and they have both exclusively brewed honest fresh hop beers in the years since [full disclosure: I own a small number of shares of the Craft Brewers Alliance, Widmer’s parent company]. Hopworks even grows hops on its back lot for a very small batch of fresh hop beer each year, and this year went so far as to produce a slick video about the brewing team’s run to Goschie Farms to pick up fresh organic hops for a new beer called Bitchin’ Camaro (I can’t wait to try that).

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t get in a jab at Sierra Nevada. Granted, it was one of the first breweries to brew a fresh hop beer–a post in Beerpulse notes that SN’s Northern Hemisphere Harvest Ale was first brewed in 1996, meaning only Bert Grant’s Fresh Hop Ale might have been brewed earlier. SN’s Chico Estate Harvest Ale made with fresh hops from the brewery’s own farm is a mighty fine example of fresh hop beer, especially if you can catch it on tap early in the season. But Sierra Nevada is the worst offender at promoting this false wet hop/fresh hop dichotomy, first by calling the Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale a fresh hop ale because the hops are used within two weeks of their harvest. More recently, SN has even been labeling its hoppy red winter seasonal, Celebration Ale, as a fresh hop ale.  I love Celebration about as much as just about anyone does, but it’s ludicrous to call it a fresh hop ale. Why would you even need a cheap marketing ploy like that for such a fine beer that already has a huge following? It makes no sense.

So join me, dear readers, in pushing back against the forces of confusion. Don’t let anyone get away with calling dried hops “fresh,” and politely correct anyone who uses the ridiculous phrase “wet hop” when they really mean “fresh hop.”


Bill Night

For the last several years Bill Night has been writing a Portland-centric beer blog called It’s Pub Night, named after the ritual weekly phone call or email rounding up friends for a night out: “Hey, it’s pub night!”. Despite his advanced age, he is lending a hand to the New School with a monthly rant called “Piss and Vinegar”. The name of the column comes from the British colloquial phrase “taking the piss” — making fun — and the sour character of Bill’s rants. He continues to maintain It’s Pub Night, and he invites you to take a look at some of the fun things over there, like the Beer Review Generator, the Portland Beer Price Index, and the Six-Pack Equivalent Calculator.


  1. John the Kiwi

    September 16, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    “Wet” is the legitimate name for hops used undried and within 24 hours of brewing. If a beer is made that way, using the phrase “wet hop beer” is appropriate. While I don’t dispute that some brewers are misusing “wet” and “fresh”, “wet” is accurate. Wet hops contain between 6 to 10 times the amount of water of dried hops. That is a fact. You don’t “squeeze” the water out. It evaporates. Have you heard of science? They are literally and figuratively wet.

    • Alex Kurnellas

      September 16, 2013 at 4:00 pm

      The human body is on avg about 58% water – does that make you literally and figuratively a wet human?

    • Ian

      September 16, 2013 at 4:13 pm

      Yes. If you were a dry human, you’d be a mummy and you’d be dead.

    • Alex Kurnellas

      September 16, 2013 at 5:39 pm

      Next time I get out of the shower and dry myself I hope I don’t turn into a mummy

  2. Ian Lass

    September 16, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Bill, are you saying that dried hops cannot be fresh hops? I’ve used dried hops in brews that were picked, dried and then immediately thrown in a brew once the drying process was complete. The beer came out tasting like heaven. Since “wet” hops and dry hops impart a different flavor into a beer, wouldn’t you say that breweries should distinguish their fresh hop ales into either a “fresh wet hop” ale category, or a “fresh dry hop” ale category? I just brewed a beer last week with a friend in which we used about 2 lbs of fresh wet cascade hops and then used a few oz of freshly dried Columbus hops. So how am I supposed to distinguish when talking about the hops I put in the brew? “I threw in 2lbs of fresh hops, then I put in 3 oz of fresh hops.” Or… I put in 2lbs of fresh wet hops, then I threw in 3oz of fresh dried hops.”

    • Bill Night

      September 16, 2013 at 6:46 pm

      What I’m saying is “fresh” = “undried”. If you want to talk about the first hops of the season, say something like “first hops” or “harvest-time hops”, or “first hops of the season”.

    • Ian Lass

      September 16, 2013 at 9:51 pm

      But now you’re just adding confusion to the other end of the spectrum. You’ve taken wet hop out of the picture on the “fresh hop” side and you’ve given dried fresh hops a different name. So people will be shopping and they’ll see either a “fresh hop ale” or a “first hop ale”? To the average consumer that would probably confuse the shit out of them and they wouldn’t know the difference between the two. This article is all to reminiscent of the Cascadian Dark Ale or Black IPA debacle.

      Plus you just said it yourself. fresh = undried. So… if they’re undried then they would be… wet. I mean really you could call them moist to be precise, but nobody likes that word and it’s not something I like to hear associated with something I’m ingesting.

      I think this argument is silly. It’s really a toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe kind of thing. Let people call it what they want to call it. Personally, I could care less if Widmer brewed a “fresh hop ale” with dried hops. As long as it tasted like I just stuck my face into a 50lb bag of Cascades then does it really make a difference to me as a consumer? And if the beer sucks, then I won’t buy it again and I won’t recommend it to my friends.

  3. OregonHopmonster

    September 16, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    If you went to a restaurant and ordered a caprese salad that was advertised as being topped with fresh basil, and the plate came out sprinkled with dried basil, even basil that was dried immediately before sprinkling it on your dish, you would not be happy.

    I don’t have a problem with either term- wet hop or fresh hop- but to me they should both mean unkilned.

  4. Anonymous

    September 16, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    “‘wet’ is a piece of terminology that isn’t used when talking about any other agricultural product.”
    Duuuude. Buds, dude. they look like buds.

  5. sdoc

    September 16, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    “Wet” is the appropriate adjective and from my perspective has always been the descriptor here in the NW.

    • Samurai Artist

      September 16, 2013 at 7:08 pm

      in what world has wet always been the descriptor in the NW? The first “Fresh Hop” beers were called fresh hopped and most of them still are, also all of the tests are called Fresh Hop Festivals not Wet Hop Festivals and last but certainly not least the Brewers Association clearly defines “Fresh Hops” as being fresh picked undried hops.

  6. Champs

    September 16, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    A carton of milk at the corner store is not the same thing as buying a jar from a local farm, and so it goes with hops. The fact that people use two different terms interchangeably does not mean we need to throw out the baby with the bath water.

    But OK, fine—that baby was ugly—let’s use one all-encompassing term. Using “fresh” is accurate, and very positive-sounding. “Wet” isn’t the most accurate term, but it doesn’t imply that 99% of what you sell is NOT fresh. Pick your poison.

  7. Anonymous

    September 16, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    TL:DNR. try again next year with another similar, yet shorter, argument on the same issue. yawn!

  8. Adam P

    September 16, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    I disagree with a lot of this, the term “wet hop” was clearly intended not as a literal term but as a reference to “dry hop.” What happens when you dry hop with a wet hop, do you call it wet hopping? You can go on ad naseum with semantic arguments and you are still going to completely miss the point.

    Whether or not you like the “wet hop” terminology, it’s very useful. Drawing analogies to basil is all well and good, but hops aren’t basil and we don’t live in a world where we use the exact same terminology for all plant life, so the logic is shoddy at best.

    Freshly picked hops, whether they are dried or not, contain oils which are affected by age and oxidation. Millions and millions of dollars are spent every year reducing the effect of processing these hops, from the mechanical separation of the bines and cones to using inert gasses and sub freezing temperatures during processing. The reason that fresh hop beers are appealing, beyond marketing BS, is that there are flavor compounds which are very fragile that can be captured in these beers when processed and brewed properly that you cannot experience in other beers. Those unique flavors are what separate a fresh hop beer from anything else. That said, it’s not just the drying but the aging and the processing/packaging which affects those compounds.

    Many purists believe that a “fresh” hop beer is only brewed with “wet” or undried hops. That’s not an argument that is going to have a resolution. My experience is that if hops are picked, removed from the bine, dried without heat, brewed directly following that, and consumed fresh, that they exhibit properties that I associate with “fresh hops.” The definition of “fresh” is a whole different, subjective argument.

    Saying that a freshly picked and dried hop used in short proximity to its harvest is not a “fresh hop” runs counter to numerous examples of beers that I’ve had which were made that way and exhibit the characters we collectively look for in fresh hop beers. It has not undergone the aging and possibly not undergone the rough processing and packaging that all other hops do.

    Differentiating those two things – beers brewed with freshly picked, minimally processed, partially dried hops from those brewed with those which haven’t been dried (or a combination thereof, ie: kettle hopping with “wet” hops and “dry hopping” in the fermentor with a dried fresh hop) is a legitimate need for people as nerdy about beer as us. Hence, as much as you may hate it, “wet hop” is a term we should be promoting the use of to help distinguish the two for the rabid few who care.

    I think that rather than discouraging the use of the “wet hop” term we should be discouraging the use of the term “fresh” in beers whose hops were picked weeks before their use or which have not been poured and consumed within a month of being brewed, like those produced by Sierra Nevada. Those beers, while wonderful, have never exhibits a “fresh hop” character in any of my many experiences with them.

  9. Ben Edmunds

    September 16, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    At Breakside, we call our beer Wet Hop mostly to give Bill some fodder for columns like this 🙂

    I think all of these points are well taken. But, what is the argument really about here? If it is semantic, and if the question is “is ‘wet hop’ a legitimate term?” then OK, perhaps it is not. I’ll wait for your column on “dirty” martinis and “extra special” bitters as well.

    “Wet hop” much like “dry hop” is an accepted term by brewers–end of story. It is more discreetly and obediently understood than “fresh hop.” No one has ever made a “wet hopped” beer with kilned hops, not even before 2010. Or at least, no one without a ballsy PR department.

    If the point is about the quality of these beers, consider that…almost no ‘fresh’ (or ‘wet’ or ‘moist’) hop beers are made entirely with hops harvested within 24 hours. Any brewer will admit this. To make a beer in such a manner means poor yields, unpredictable schedules, and uncertain results. The ‘fresh hop’ beers from Laurelwood and Deschutes (which are often the most praised in Portland’s beercentric blogs over the last few years) regularly use “unwet” hops except in the bright tank, where the beer conditions for as little as 24 hours on the recently picked hops.

    As to our own experience: we have tried every manner of experimentation when it comes to fresh hops. In this way, I appreciate the season for chance to get to throw tradition out the window and use oddball techniques with hops just to see how things turn out. We’ve mash hopped, kettle hopped, hopback hopped, fermenter hopped, and dry hopped with both “wet” and pelletized hops. Universally, the one Breakside beer that people have loved that was a fresh hop beer was last year’s Fresh Hop Citra Double IPA (aka Fresh Hop Citra Wheatwine), which was made entirely with hop pellets and then “dry”, I mean, “wet” hopped after fermentation.

    We did, two years ago, make a well-regarded all-wet Simcoe pale ale that barely anyone got to try before the wet hop character started to dissipate.

    The proof is in the pudding: there is no purity, either technically or semantically with these beers. Bill, I worry, may be the Eliot Spitzer of fresh hop beer. I would hate to see him with an improperly-fresh hopped beer in hand at this time of year. We’d all be damned.

    • Bill Night

      September 17, 2013 at 5:29 am

      Thanks, Ben. Every year, I am tempted to throw in the towel and just start calling these fascinating beers “wet hop beers”. After all, as you noted, everyone in the beer geek world now understands what that means.

      But the curmudgeon in me always rises to the occasion and revolts. Why do we have to give up on a term that everyone — not just educated beer geeks — can understand and feel in their bones (“fresh”), and replace it with a euphemism that doesn’t really describe the situation, and that requires extra explanation? AND, that leaves room for a false interpretation (“these dried hops are fresh”).

    • Scott

      September 17, 2013 at 3:02 pm

      Ben gave you a lot of good reasons above, the biggest being that the term “dry hopping” begets the contrast with this “wet hopping”.

      Beyond that logical answer are a couple of business reasons, however. First, if you call some of your beer “fresh”, will consumers think the remainder to be “not fresh”? Secondly, if you advertise your product as using “fresh hops”, but as Ben mentioned it almost always contains a large amount of pellet hops as well, is that false advertising?

    • Anonymous

      September 18, 2013 at 1:26 am

      If I was a Ben, I’d look at this as a challenge to come up with an even more exotic beer than the 300+ I’d already done in the last 3 years.

      I look forward to the Breakside “Only Hopped w/Fresh, Undried Citra, Kalypso, Mosaic & Eroica” Schwarzwit; I’m sure Tom would relish the opportunity to write that name up on the chalkboard(s). 😉

  10. Jeff Alworth

    September 16, 2013 at 11:27 pm

    I thought this post would get no comments because Bill has been ably beating this drum so long I thought we were all in agreement. I see the topic is so wet and juicy even brewers vacationing in foreign lands feel compelled to respond.

    Bill is attempting to bring clarity and honesty to a product that has sadly not always enjoyed it. Let’s back up. The word “fresh hop” was once very clear: it meant undried. The ONLY reason we needed to create the neologism “wet hop” is because unscrupulous breweries were calling dried hops “fresh.” So long as breweries don’t do that, the term “fresh hop” doesn’t require clarification. I personally don’t have any trouble with using wet hop and fresh hop interchangeably. But no brewery that uses the phrase fresh hop should ever get away using only dried hops. It’s a blatant lie, and the brewery knows it. (My preference for freshly-dried hops is “harvest hops.”)

    To Ben I’d say this: I don’t think anyone expects a fresh hop beer to be made with ONLY undried hops. The flavor and aromas that come from undried hops are unique, and the point of these beers is to showcase them. A few years ago, breweries discovered that you actually get more fresh hop character out of beers when you start with a bitter charge of conventional, dried hops. It creates the platform on which those fresh hops can be showcased. That really gets to the spirit of the discussion, which is that when a consumer buys a pint of fresh hop beer (or wet hop) she expects those unique flavors and aromas to be present. That’s the point of fresh hop beers.

    • Ian Lass

      September 17, 2013 at 1:37 am

      So are you saying that if a brewery uses dried hops that are fresh and great tasting that they should not be allowed to use the term “fresh” if that’s what they used to brew a beer? I can tell you right now, the term “harvest hops” is not nearly as marketable as “fresh hop”. I can see if a brewery is using hops that were dried, stored for a month and then used them in a “fresh hop ale” then yes, call them unscrupulous and even shady. But limiting the terminology of “fresh” is not fair to breweries who prefer to use dried hops that have been recently picked. And you saying that you like to call freshly dried hops “harvest hops” proves that you just don’t like the phrase wet hops. You calling the dried hops harvest hops is no different than me calling undried hops wet hops.

    • Jeff Alworth

      September 17, 2013 at 4:54 pm

      Marketing the beer should not be the customers’ concern.

    • Ian Lass

      September 19, 2013 at 1:06 am

      No, but if it’s going to become a widely used term in the industry it would be important to breweries as to what something is called.

  11. Eamonn Monaghan

    September 17, 2013 at 11:04 am

    I agree that the brewing world needs less ambiguity. Specifically I agree that this is an area where some widely recognized protected terms would be useful. I don’t however think any of the above are realistic expectations. In order to reduce ambiguity I’m of the opinion that the most descriptive, least ambiguous terms should be used. There are 2 problems here.

    1. As pointed out above the “original” word for a beer including un-dried hops (fresh) is ambiguous in-of it’s self.
    2. Dry-hopping is already something that we all understand and that is a completely different process from anything we’re discussing here. As such to use the terms wet-hopped and dry-hopped as opposites would just introduce even more confusion.

    There are 2 solutions that I can think of:
    1. Start a new system creating terms with as little ambiguity as possible. Changing the meaning of fresh-hoped ale has to be on the table if this is the goal. New brewing techniques will inevitably surface that will confuse the whole issue again but then we get to get to complain and act pedantic again and we love that anyway 🙂
    2. Let brewers call their beer what they want and read the description on the label (or go online, or ask the dude behind the counter) to figure out what they mean. Half of the fun of trying a new beer is figuring out what distinguishes it. I kind of like the mystery. Besides, working on the assumption that brewers are deliberately trying to confuse and alienate the beer geek community is a bit out there to say the least.

  12. Anonymous

    September 17, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    “live hops”?

    • Bill Night

      September 19, 2013 at 5:20 am

      Do you have to ask for live parsley, basil, milk, etc.? No, those things are “fresh”.

      This Michael Jackson article from 2000 describes a “Green Beer Festival” in England. That’s not a bad label, though “green beer” has an unfortunate connotation of dyed St. Patrick’s Day swill around here.

  13. sdoc

    September 17, 2013 at 11:57 pm

    Not to keep this stinking; but in reply to Samurai Artist’s response of ” in what world has wet always been the descriptor in the N.W.” . I would say that ever since Sierra Nevada came out with the Northern Hemisphere ale (which says ‘wet hop ale’ right on the front), this term has become synonymous with “fresh”wet hops as opposed to “dry” fresh hops.
    Steve Dressler learned of this technique from a hop farmer and decided to give it a try. This seems to have really popularized the style. It seems as though the term “wet” is most often used by the brewing community and that fresh has evolved out of a basic understanding that ,yes wet hops are fresh just like garden tomatoes and newly picked flowers can be described as fresh.
    Rogue brewing has a draft only wet hop ale they do seasonally that is described as “wet”. Surly brewing is another to put wet on their label and even though Great Divide calls their wet hop beer “Fresh Hop”, in a descriptor I found on there web site, they are quoted saying ” we ship these wet hops to Denver overnight”.
    I believe this term is more closely related to the brewer’s and farmer’s Lexicon .

    • Samurai Artist

      September 18, 2013 at 1:39 am

      This actually helps make my point, Sierra Nevada indeed made up the term “wet” hop as a marketing technique only a handful of years ago so that they could market Southern Hemisphere and Celebration as “Fresh Hop”. Indeed Sierra Nevada’s Harvest Ale may have been the first “wet” hop beer but guess what, it was originally called Harvest Ale Fresh Hop” and have no mention of wet hop and they say that the hops have been picked and used within 24 hours. Again that is the definition of the style still according to the Brewers Association. SN tried to redefine it only something like 4 years ago.

    • John Baker

      September 27, 2013 at 2:00 am

      Invented just a handful? The term wet hop has been around for two decades. Here’s an old FAQ on hops hosted on RealBeer from 1995:

    • Samurai Artist

      September 27, 2013 at 6:38 am

      the FAQ you link to is a revision. No telling when and how often it has been revised. Maybe wet hops as a term has been around longer but I have not yet seen the proof. This FAQ also does not even mention what they mean by “wet” hops or how they define them and thus is irrelevant.

    • John Baker

      September 27, 2013 at 8:26 am

      This comment has been removed by the author.

    • John Baker

      September 27, 2013 at 8:32 am

      Usually when a page is revised they note the date… Regardless, the Wayback Machine has an archive of the page from 1997 and it looks unchanged.*/

      I don’t know if you’re being disingenuous or not but I think it’s pretty obvious what they’re talking about, even without an explicit description of Wet Hop. Or is there some other kind of hop or regiment that fits their description of the use of hops that are fresh, alpha acids untested, and the need to use around 6x more than you would normally to compensate for not being dried? Yeah, I don’t think so.

      Even if you’re still not convinced, Sierra didn’t coin the term when they started referring to Harvest as a “Wet Hop” for marketing. The term was around years before… I’m pretty sure this is the 10th Wet Hop Festival at the Bistro this year and O’Briens Pub in San Diego is having their 11th, also called a Wet Hop Festival. 

      A cursory Google search shows Randy Mosher was discussing Wet Hops in 2005:
      SF Gate did an article, also 2005, that mentions Wet Hop festivals at both the Toronado and The Bistro in Hayward.

      As far as I can tell, Southern Hemisphere came out in 2008. At least the term “wet hop-heads” as used in the SF Gate article hasn’t caught on.

    • Bill Night

      September 27, 2013 at 5:42 pm

      Yes, all hail the Wayback Machine!

      Sierra Nevada’s 2007 press release about the first bottling of Harvest Ale does not use the term “wet hops”. Only “fresh hops”. Also the bottle that year called it “Fresh Hop Ale”.

      It was only the next year when they wanted to call Southern Hemisphere Harvest a “fresh hop ale”, even though it was made with dried New Zealand hops, that they recognized the “wet hop”/”fresh hop” distinction.

      HA HA HA!

    • Champs

      October 5, 2013 at 12:29 am

      Bill: if you don’t believe him, head over to Belmont and have a look at the wall, next to the windows facing east. SN has been using “wet hops” for a lonnnnnnng time. Oddly enough, Shawn Kelso eclipses the evidence in every photo I can find of the spot in question, but there’s a corner of it behind his right shoulder on this very site.

    • Steve Kane

      October 10, 2013 at 8:53 am

      Late to this, but in response to John Baker – I read the Waybacked article you linked, and under the heading “Wet vs. Dried Hops?”, the only adjective used for the hops in question is “fresh” quote: “…some homebrewers have had mixed results when using fresh hops.” Obviously, in this article that you referenced, the terms “wet” and “fresh” are used interchangeably. Why not settle on one, to end the misapprehension that these are two different things? And why in the world change the meaning of “fresh” (here: =”wet”) to mean dried?

    • Steve Kane

      October 12, 2013 at 9:04 am

      Re-read your post, and I see you were only pointing out the longer history of the term, as a synonym for fresh. However, the point the article makes is that now these terms, as used by many marketers, are no longer synonymous. Now, if fresh hops are called “wet”, dried hops can be called “fresh”. That is just not right

    • Bill Night

      November 11, 2013 at 4:47 am

      Hey Champs: I took a look at the wall hanging at Belmont Station you were referring to. It promotes Harvest “Wet Hop Ale”. The year is plainly stamped on it: 2008. Which is exactly the point we are trying to make here. In 2007 Sierra Nevada used “fresh hop” to mean unkilned hopsa. In 2008 — so that their new offering Southern Hemisphere Harvest could be pitched as a fresh hop beer even though the hops had been dried — they started making a distinction between fresh and “wet”.

  14. Alan McCormick

    September 18, 2013 at 2:03 pm


    I think it was your 2011 rant that convinced me “fresh hop” was the best term, though I’m still not hung up on it being the only acceptable one. I do agree that under no circumstances should dried hops be labeled as fresh. While the current 2013 kilned hops might be considered “fresher” than leftovers from the 2012 crop, they are not “fresh” except in comparison to hops prepared exactly the same way (dried).

    Ben’s articulate comments perhaps best capture the current state of the issue: “The proof is in the pudding: there is no purity, either technically or semantically with these beers.”

    Why? Using only fresh hops results in highly unpredictable results. I know this to be true even as a homebrewer using my backyard hops. But isn’t this part of the challenge in making something we can truly pass off as a “fresh hop” beer? Isn’t anything else just “beer”?

    Jeff says ” I don’t think anyone expects a fresh hop beer to be made with ONLY undried hops,” but this is probably true only among the most knowledgeable of beer fans. Jeff also points out this: “A few years ago, breweries discovered that you actually get more fresh hop character out of beers when you start with a bitter charge of conventional, dried hops.” Thus, excusing the use of dried hops because it better serves the end goal of featuring the wet/fresh hop flavor.

    But what are we left with? This: it has become acceptable (or maybe I should say common) in the industry to call it a fresh/wet hop beer if SOME portion of the flavor is derived from un-kilned hops. I don’t have a problem with that, but it certainly causes consumer confusion. Can I still call it an organic beer if replace my organic specialty malts with non-organic malts because they do a better job of showcasing the malt flavor I am trying to achieve? It’s still 90% organic, right? (Yes, given federal labeling standards it is not a perfect example, but I couldn’t come up with a better one yet.)

    In any event, just adding to the fun of the conversation.

    • Adam P

      September 18, 2013 at 10:46 pm

      “I do agree that under no circumstances should dried hops be labeled as fresh.”

      Do you have a legitimate scientific reasoning for this statement? Not baiting you, I’m genuinely curious if this is just something that “sounds good” or if you have some data. I have no scientific background with regards to measuring degradation of lupulin oils, but have experienced (brewing and drinking) numerous examples of hops which were picked, air dried, and used shortly thereafter which exhibited clearly identifiable “fresh hop” character which was different than the character imparted by commercially kilned and packaged (not fresh by all agreeable standards) hops.

      As I mentioned in my post above, aging, processing, commercial kilning, and oxidation all affect the degradation of the hop oils in a significant way. My experience has been that all of those factors are much more dramatic in their impact than moisture loss due to air drying.

      I spoke to the brewer who produced the fresh hop beer I enjoyed the most at least years Fresh Hop Throwdown at the Noble Fir. He had used exclusively fresh, wet hops harvested within 24 hours in the kettle. Hops from the same bine were dried at the brewery and used to dry-hop the beer, adding a noticeable “fruit punch” type of character which was distinct from any character I’d experience with that hop varietal, having brewed with and consumed numerous single hop beers made with hops coming from the same hop yard previously. I drank this beer next to numerous other fresh hop beers whose origins I didn’t have information on, and that beer stuck out as having the most distinct “fresh hop” character. To try to disparage it and similar beers brewed by folks who have put a lot of effort into sourcing hops which are as freshly picked as humanly possibly as not a fresh hop beer without some serious scientific background seems… not useful.

    • Alan McCormick

      September 19, 2013 at 1:15 pm

      I understand what you’re saying, but you’re mostly talking taste and I’m talking nomenclature. I don’t see anyone here disparaging the quality or taste of these beers. And certainly not disagreeing that using recently picked hops creates some wonderfully unique character. I am merely disparaging the muddled state of the phrase “fresh hop.”

      Case in point: I have a fresh hop pale ale sitting in my secondary right now. Do you immediately know what that means about the hops, or do you need to ask more questions? Are all the hops fresh (i.e. “recently picked”)? Are any of them not dried (since “fresh hop” can apparently include 100% dried hops)?

      At best, based upon the discussion in this thread, the only thing we would likely all agree upon is that we assume some of the hops are from the 2013 crop; and because it is September, we also assume they were recently picked. But how long after they are picked do we get to continue to call them fresh? A week? 48 hours?

      You’ve added another distinction – and probably a good one – between commercially kilned and minimally processed hops. Yet, they both get to be called “fresh hops.”

      Thus, if we want to be clear about my fermenting pale ale, we now have to call it a 100% wet hop pale ale. At least I think that’s clear. For now. If not, it means all the hops went straight from my bines and into the beer with no drying or processing. Bugs and all.

      We must do this because there is nothing left to the term “fresh hop beer” except some generalized notion that some of the hops were recently picked. It’s that lack of clarity that I’m disparaging.

  15. Anonymous

    September 18, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    freshly kilned hops?

  16. John Baker

    September 27, 2013 at 1:46 am

    Or we could add to further confusion and use the terminology that hop growers call unkilned hops “green hops”.

  17. Roy Crisman

    February 20, 2014 at 10:41 pm

    I’ll defer to the usage of the term fresh hop to Sierra Nevada circa 1996 and pre-prohibition use. Wet is obviously not dry, and those are the 2 states of hop cones and quite easy to fathom from the terms. Though I doubt any brewer will want to call their beer the opposite of fresh.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.