This is a fictionalized conversation between CHEEK, long time craft beer lover and West Coast hophead; JOWL, long time beer drinker, only recently into the wonderland of craft brews and myself. All names changed to protect the inebriated.
Fezz: I kind of forgot that the fresh hop season was upon us, but I have seen a lot of them in a lot of places this year. I think I noticed about a dozen different ones available around town, I’m sure there’s more and they’re not too hard to find for a change.
Cheek: Except Driftwood’s Sartori Harvest IPA (7%). Apparently the whole batch sold out within hours of its release again this year. It’s still considered the bench mark for fresh hopped or wet hopped beers in this province. I managed to find four last bottles on the Island, and did have one right away. Glorious aroma, earthy, fruity, citric, beautifully bitter and balanced with a decent malt back bone.
Fezz: I haven’t had the pleasure this year, but did get a chance to taste Phillips Green Reaper Fresh Hop IPA (6.5%). Big sticky head, deep golden pour, some hop aromatics, pine, citric palate, grapefruit, nicely balanced, good malty architecture, thoroughly refreshing.
Jowl: I managed to pick up a growler at 33 Acres last week, the 33 Acres of Sole (4.6%) their fresh hopped bitter using urban farmed hops. Very nice, some malt sweetness, but fresh and hoppy, easy to drink, aromatic and beery.
Fezz: Main Street had a good one too, their Harvest Fresh Rye IPA, a little stronger at 6.5%, but balanced with piney, spicy hop characteristics, Centennial being the main bitterness here, biscuit malt, smooth, fresh and clean.
Cheek: Off the Rail has a very nice Fresh Hop Harvest IPA (5.8%, 38 IBU) lightly toasted base of malt supporting a lovely balance of West Coast bitterness, long on Cascade and Chinook hops, pours a golden amber, herbal nose, dry finish.
Jowl: Big Rock Urban has been pushing their wet hopped beers, one with Cascade, one with Centennial. The bottle we tried here though was a little off. Nice colour, no nose, good lacing, but a rather ordinary and flat flavoured brew with the unfortunate tell tale signs of diacetyl, that butterscotch hint off in the distance.
Fezz: Well, I think Powell Street hit the ball out of the park again this year. Their Fresh Hop IPA (7%) pours bright, nice head, good lacing, gold a great bitter palate, grassy nose, some malt sweetness for balance, using the big 3, Cascade, Centennial and Chinook.
Cheek: Loved the Powell Street too. Bomber’s East Van Smash is a sessionable entry, Golden Promise malt and Simcoe hops, good base bitterness, with a ‘front’ hoppiness that slides delicately through the thinner body and provides excellent thirst quenching qualities, dry finish. Definitely ‘more-ish’.
Jowl: I didn’t mind the Steamworks Hop Attack Fresh Hop IPA (6%, 50 IBU), a collaboration with Sartori Hop Farm, all Nugget and Centennial, but it’s really a pale ale. I’m a little lost on the whole concept of putting IBUs on wet hopped beers. How do you do that? They come right off of the vine and into the kettle. Isn’t it all about taste and flavour? I notice some put IBUs on their bottles, but most don’t. I think sometimes it’s just a made up number.
Fezz: Persephone from Gibson are putting out two this year, using all of their own hops from two large plantations on their farm, the first being Harvest Pale Ale (5.8%). Made with Cascade hops picked on Aug. 22, they deliver a solid, smooth, balanced and totally drinkable brew, but not a lot of aroma. I think it’s the same with most wet hopped beers, you’ve got to drink them as fresh as possible. After bottling, or kegging for that matter, in only a couple of weeks, the aromatic glory of those hops tends to subside.
Cheek: An interesting collaboration between Red Truck and Catergory 12 gives us Accelerated Transmission Wet Hop Pale Ale (5%). Unfortunately, low bitterness, it is smooth, balanced and way too easy to drink, but over all, normal to average I’d have to say. A marketing beer.
Jowl: Postmark’s Fresh Hop Pale Ale (4.8%), 34 IBU) rates higher than that. It is another sessionable version, nice grassy notes aromatically from Chinook hops, earthy tones, approachable, with enough malt to balance. I want to mention that Bridge’s Fresh Hopped Red IPA (7%, 80 IBU) is certainly the brew with the most colour, a deep copper, reflecting some good caramel malts helping to float the array of hops used here; Magnum, Nugget, Centennial and Cascade. Hints of pine and citrous, fresh and grassy, creamy head, good lacing, dry finish.
Fezz: Well, I don’t know about you guys, but Dageraad’s Wet Hopped Blonde (7.5%) is a bases loaded home run. Beautifully balanced, unfiltered, bottle conditioned, Centennial hops from Sartori, it all comes together here for a refreshingly different take on the wet hopped beer fad.
Cheek: Yes, I have to agree, it pours a bit cloudy, but with a spicy nose and some fruitiness, refreshingly light on the palate, earthy hops, distinctively Belgian yeast, a lovely lasting bitterness, yet smooth and balanced and perfectly carbonated.
Jowl: Me too. I loved this beer. I’d have to rate it up there as Number 1 from this tasting, though perhaps a tie with Powell Street. Green Reaper deserves an honourable mention too, it should be near the top of this list.
Fezz: Yes, I concur, Powell Street was very good. And Bomber’s East Van Smash is definitely a close Second, with Postmark not far behind. The rest bunched up in the middle, all very drinkable brews, with Big Rock Urban falling into last place. Thanks very much guys, a very informative session. I hope we can do this again next year!