Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Wet Hop Beer: A Style With a Big Future

By William Brand
Sunday, October 8th, 2006 at 1:30 pm in Uncategorized.

I work Saturdays, so I barely made it to the Wet Hop Beer Festival at The Bistro in Hayward, CA. But I’m glad I did go.

There’s a downside to fests like this. The beer is so damn good, that coming home to bottled beer, even great bottled beer is a downer. I hope the wet hop idea catches on big time. It’s a style, whose time has come: huge hop aroma, lots of malt, but very little, if any, hop bitterness.

Proprietors Vic and Cynthia Kralj had lined up 14 beers – each made with fresh-off-the-vine, “wet” hops. The fest drew about 200 to 300 people, Vic said. A comfortable crowd. By the time I dragged in at 6:30 p.m., there still were about 30 people, the outside patio was filled and several brewers, including Brian Hunt of Moonlight and Rodger Davis, of Drake’s and his bride, Claudia, were at the bar, sampling away.


A chalice of great beer at The Bistro.

Here’s the list:
Brewery Beer ABV Type of Hop

Blue Frog Last Hop Standing, 5.9 Willamette
(Fairfield,CA)
Drake’s Harvest 6.5 Cascade, Centennial
(San Leandro)
EJ Phair Harvest 5.7
(Concord)
Farmhouse Farm Fresh 4.4 Cascade
(Gilroy)
Lagunitas Wet Maximus 7.5 Zeus, Tomahawk
(Petaluma)
Magnolia Hightime 6.8 Cascade
(San Francisco)
Moonlight homegrown #1 5.9 Cascade
(Sonoma)
Moonlight homegrown #2 5.9 Chinook
Pizza Port High Tide 6.3 Chinook,Centennial
(Carlsbad)
Pizza Port Spring Tide 6.5 Centennial
(Solana Beach)
Russian River Hoptime 6.75 Cascade
(Santa Rosa)
Sierra Nevada Harvest 6.8 Centennial, Cascade
(Chico)
Sierra Nevada 20th St. 6.9 Chinook, Cascade
Stone Wet Arrogant. Bast. 7.2 Chinook
(Escondido)

There was no professional judging this time, but everyone voted for Best of Show.

The results, from Cynthia: Best of Show: Lagunitas Wet Maximius; first runner-up: Stone, Wet Arrogant Bastard; second runner-up: Pizza Port (Carlsbad) High Tide.

I didn’t have time or the capacity to try every beer. I agreed with the People’s choice. Lagunitas Wet Maximus**** was intense: Wonderful, aromatic hops in the nose. The taste? Wow! Hops, then a mouthful of malt, perfect balance.

Stone Wet Arrogant Bastard***+ was bigger, hoppier than the regular. A lovely beer.

The two beers from Pizza Port breweries in San Diego County were quite different. High Tide*** was a cloudy, unfiltered gold with a subtle hop aroma. Taste was dry, aromatic hops in front and malt in the background with a long dry finish. This really would be an excellent session beer if it wasn’t quite so strong. There was nothing cloying or sweet or off-putting about it.

Spring Tide***+, a medium copper color with a big head of tan foam, was dry like High Tide. But there was a bit more malt sweetness and a slight bitterness in the follow that I liked.

Magnolia Hightime*** from Dave McLean was subtle with a sweet malt and hop nose. Taste was fairly dry,making it a very nice pub beer. I believe Dave will have it on at the pub in San Francisco this week.

The two Moonlight beers were most unusual. Brewer Brian Hunt grew the Cascade and Chinook hops he used in the beers in the yard outside his brewhouse. Both beers were made with floral, citrusy Cascades. Number one also was dry hopped with Cascades. That is, fresh whole hops were added to the beer during fermentation.

Number two was dry-hopped with Chinooks, which gave the beer a bit of a piney nose, fruity nose. I preferred number two; it seemed to have a bit more malt sweetness balancing the hops. Brian explained that Number one was slightly older and therefore drier, while Number two was just right – ready to drink.

These are subtleties that those of us who drink most of our beer from bottles never get to enjoy. It’s another reason to find a great brewpub or regular pub with an excellent stock of fresh beer to make your regular. Well, call that the thought for the day.

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