Ahhhh… fresh hop season! Our favorite time of the year!
We’ve been lucky – over the last 7 years we have seen the BC brewing industry build from a small segment of fresh hop beer aficionados to an important piece of the seasonal beer production calendar. Concurrent with the resurgence of hop growing and fresh hop beers, were the fresh hop beer events and festivals, such as BC Hop Co’s amazing fresh hop fest.
But how do you distinguish yourself with your fresh hop brew, or at a fresh hop event?
At last year’s fresh hop fest, for example, there were three categories: the brewers who by some black magic and good fortune were able to score some coveted citra, mosaic, simcoe, or other incredible hop from Yakima (usually involving a multi-hour road trip and a marathon brew!). The second category included 90% of the brewers: those who created some version of a wet hop Cascade, Centennial, or Chinook IPA. The third category were those who really earned my respect: they created a fresh hop brew with an under-utilized hop in an under-utilized style. For example, a fresh hop saison with sterling hops, an ESB with zeus, a pale ale with goldings, a milkshake IPA with cashmere.
The important thing is that these beers were outside the box. When I go to a fresh beer festival I will naturally want to try the simcoe and citra hop bomb. That goes without saying… Then I want to try the one or two centennial or cascade IPAs from my favorite brewers. Again, makes sense. But then, I will naturally gravitate to the half dozen beers that are truly outside the box – the saisons, the ESBs, the California Commons, the ESBs, the Kolsches. And these are just the 2017 fresh hop beers that I have heard about so far!!
So if you are looking to stand out in this year’s fresh hop market, I encourage you to brew beyond the Cascade and Centennial IPA, and look at other styles and hop varieties that are truly outside the box. These are the casks and kegs that get emptied first and will keep the crowd buzzing about you at your next fresh hop event!