Crop It Like It's Hot

wet hop
wet hop

Brewing used to be an industry that relied heavily upon seasonal conditions and practical considerations like temperature and climate. Of course, it would probably be safe to say that in the 'olden days' every industry had to concern themselves with safe temperatures, and those that didn't -- well, I'm sure you've heard of The Black Death. But now, with modern inventions, chemicals, and the capability of harnessing glycol, we're able to confidently clean, sterilize, and sanitize. We can cool or heat wort and beer to whatever temperature we fancy. And most importantly, we can store yeast and hops in refrigerated temperatures that slow degeneration and keep these ingredients happy longer.

hop harvest
hop harvest

But it's fun to dabble in tradition now and again, and that's why we harvested hops (just this morning) for what will be our first ever wet hop beer! Perhaps many of you are already well-acquainted with 'wet hopped' beers, but I'm not gonna make an ass out of you and me, so for those uninitiated but interested patrons, here's a quick crash course in one of the most time-sensitive beer styles we know today.

wet hop
wet hop

Though we've spoken about hops in-depth here on the blog before, it's good to remember that they contain precious but fragile oils that can degrade with age and diminish (ever so slightly) in the kilning process. The kilning process precedes the pelletizing process, and it should be understood that the vast majority of hops utilized in breweries today are dried and pelletized. Whole cone or whole flower fresh hops, with a water content of over 70%, are too inefficient to use in the day-to-day brewing process -- they're much heavier to transport, they're less compact than pellets, and their leaves clog pumps and transfer lines reeeeeal quick.

Wet-Hopping is a process that involves using freshly picked hop flowers in beer. You can probably imagine the sorts of challenges associated with an 'asap' timeline like that, and some brewers will pay 4 or 5 times the normal shipping costs for overnight and rush delivery of hops. Lucky for us, we had the foresight to plant some Centennial at Ideal Coffee just a stones throw up Ossington Avenue. And while Toronto's Little Portugal is not necessarily on the map as a hop growing hot spot, this fortuitously short distance from our bounty means we can probably manage a pretty quick bine (yes bine, not vine) to tank turnaround!

hop harvest
hop harvest
wet hop
wet hop

The obvious question you have to ask yourself after assessing the new headache of time constraints and cumbersome hop quantities, not to mention added physical labour in an already demanding brew day, is why? Why would anyone go through the trouble? We have no good explanation for this insanity like to believe that these intensely fresh hops have a certain vibrancy and definition that pelletized hops can't quite match, and moreover, it just wouldn't be a Bellwoods special release if someone didn't get their eye poked out we didn't take the scenic route.

The short harvest comes once a year in the Northern hemisphere, falling in late September and early October, and it makes us stop to think a little more about the terroir and geographical factors that affect hops (and therefore beer). Symbolic of a harvest season, wet-hopped beers require collective labour and efforts, and are subject to the same dwindling timeline. Heed our advice and drink this one as soon as you can get your hands on a pint, or risk navigating perilous and uncharted waters of the great unknown. The choice, young grasshoppers, is yours.

A small batch of Monogamy WET HOP Centennial (draft only!) will be available mid October.