Fri, 13 Sep 2013 18:55:00
All right hop lovers, huddle up.
It’s harvest time at Worthy. Our biergarten and hopyards are loaded with big, fluffy, bright green cones that are bursting with flavor. They’re as big as beehives and you can almost hear the lupulin glands inside buzzing to bust out.
We’re going to set free these glorious sacks of hop oil, starting tonite. Starting with tonite’s mini-harvest from our biergarten. If you have ever pondered what your already hopgrageously spiced Worthy Pale or IPA would taste like if you dropped a freshly plucked wet hop in it, here’s your chance.
It’s going to go down like this. We’ve got 10 varieties of organically grown hops flourishing on the perimeter of our biergarten. At around 5pm, we’ll pluck a few dozen cones from a single variety (e.g., Centennial, Cascades, or Horizon). We’ll knock off any bugs that are visible to the naked eye (although in many countries they are edible!).
We’ll then break the cone open down the middle where unfolded you can see and snort our darling little sticky yellow glands of glory. Why the hop vivisection? Well, first, it’s cool to look at the wellspring of hop flavor. The flavor and aroma of hops are packed inside these potent yellow pods.
The Hop Cone
Second, nature designed the hop cone to protect it’s sweet nectar from the ravages of heat, rain, pests and mildews. By exposing the glands, beer brewers and now you have the chance to maximize the contact between your beer and the fun bags. Science has measured over 250 oils in many hop varieties (and there might be more). Some oils taste like grapefruit, others like sandalwood, others like licorice. What flavors will you notice?
That’s the everlasting and intriguing ponderable. What difference, if any, will you detect? Forgive me for going full geek here, but truly the best way to measure any difference is to compare the test sample with the baseline assay (is he saying buy two pints?). Try an already wonderfully hopped Worthy IPA or Pale first and inventory the flavors. Then order the same beer but douse it with a wet, unkiln dried, unprocessed fresh hop.
Does the fresh, wet hopped beer add anything? More tang? More pop? More chlorophyllic, grassy goodness? It’s weird to conflate color, light and flavor but does it taste greener and brighter? We know adding lemon to tea adds flavor, as does fresh basil to pizza. Do you get an amplification of the baseline flavors or something brand new? Pray tell.
Another query. Should you worry about adding more straight up bitterness to your already studiously balanced bev? We don’t think so. The IBUs in your already balanced Worthy pale or IPA won’t jump. Brewers can extract the hop’s bittering acids only when the hops are boiled. (Geek Alert! Don’t call me out on this if not 1000% correct).
A few more things. Since we won’t be drying our hops, and about 96% of a hop cone consists of water, the other parts mainly consisting of oils and resins, they’ll compost in the ambient air rather quickly. That means we’ll need to dash out to the garden to puck ‘em and dash back in to “filet” and drop them into your glass. Hop oils are volatile and tend to oxidize PDQ, so no dilly dallying around.
Next, our biergarten hops are organic, which means we haven’t sprayed or treated them. We’ll try to knock of any bugs we see, but no guarantees (talk about new and exotic flavors!). Whatever you do, don’t drown our lady bugs! Set them free. We love nature’s little hop scrubbers. No mite or aphid ever withstood the assault of the voracious lady bug.
And this. Hop oils take a while to extract and dissolve in solution. Some hop oils love water, others don’t. You may not get an instant hop high. During dry hopping, studies have shown it takes 4-6 hours to extract the bulk of a properly designed hop pellet’s oil.
Finally, have fun. Most of us love the taste of a pale or an IPA, but we really don’t know why. We hope that this fresh wet hop experiment will poke your curiosity so you’ll want to learn more. At Worthy beertopia, we may not have all the answers, but we’ve got a decent sized list of interesting questions. Alas, we have a limited supply of fresh cones and they’ll go fast, so hop on down.