Call them fresh-hop, wet-hop or harvest beers, this is the time of year when an increasing number of brewers pay homage to the end of the growing season. They do this by crafting a brew made with hops picked just hours before and rushed to the brewery with all the rich and volatile flavors that can be lost in the drying process. In the hop-obsessed world of craft brews, this time it's not about more, but about better and fresher. Here are three rather different takes on the fresh hop theme:
Deschutes Hop Trip
This one is rust-tinged amber in color with a thick and foamy head. The light malt aromas do nothing to mask exceptionally fresh and floral hop aromas that meld nicely with crisp lemon and lime. The flavors explode on the palate with sweet citrus and spice, but it's the smooth hops that shine through. It's an amazingly well-balanced brew packaged in a big bottle format that still leaves you wanting more.
Hale's O'Brien's Harvest Ale
This ale pours a dark bronze with just a bit of creamy froth and offers hearty aromas with fruity malt and sweet, earthy hops along with touches of kiwi and spice. It has very soft carbonation, more like a cask-conditioned ale, but with bold, mouth-filling flavors that more than compensate for any lack of spritz. Nicely bitter fresh hop flavors with a soft resin quality dominate, and are backed by toffee-tinged malt. It finishes with a pleasantly edgy hop bite.
Sierra Nevada Chico Estate Harvest Wet Hop Ale
As rich and thick as the Hop Trip's head is, the three-fingered topper on this copper-colored ale is even thicker. The aromas are something like fresh cut grass with just a light hint of malt coming through. On the bitterness scale, it ranks somewhere in between the oh-so-smooth Hop Trip and the more aggressive O'Brien's. It's rich and creamy in the mouth—big, but balanced with malt flavors up front that play against the fruit-laced hops. It finishes on the dry side. This is another big bottle brew that goes empty too soon.