Photo courtesy of Allagash Brewing
Fresh hop flowers ready for harvesting
Hopheads rejoice! The end-of-season hop harvest is upon us and with the last gasp of summer has come a cascade of wet hop beers flowing across San Diego.
"Wet hop" beers call for fresh, whole hop flowers rather than the more commonly used dried pellets. Typically, wet hop beers also use more hops than "traditional" beers—often several times as many—despite the fact that the hop flowers will only simmer in the beer for a fraction of the entire brew process time. Still, craft brewers and drinkers seem to agree that the cost is worth it for the fresh flavor that can't be replicated with anything else. And if you can get the fresh hops into the beer faster, so much the better.
Historically, the Pacific Northwest has dominated the hop farm landscape (and still does) thanks to its wetter climate, but over the past decade San Diego has welcomed 15 local hop farms of our own, which have taken root in the northern and eastern reaches of the county. With varieties such as Chinook to Cascade and Horizon to Nugget, farms such as Nopalito Farm in Valley Center, SD Golden Hop Farm in Fallbrook, and Star B Ranch and Hop Farm in Ramona can now deliver hops directly to breweries where they may make it into a brew on the same day as the harvest—perfect for August and September's wet hop focus.
Many local breweries have already released their wet hop creations over the past month (Monkey Paw Brewing, Pure Project, Nickel Beer Co., Duck Foot Brewing, Thorn Street Brewery and Amplified Ale Works to name just a few, many of which are still available), but there are more on the horizon to whet your wet hop desires before being inundated with pumpkin beers and fall-forward Märzens. ChuckAlek Independent Brewers will have at least two wet hop beers available at both their Ramona and North Park posts this weekend, with the latter location also serving a wet-hopped cask version of their Foreman Bitter ESB.
Wet hop enthusiasts will also be able to get their fix at this weekend's three-day annual San Diego Wet Hop Weekend at O'Brien's Pub (4646 Convoy St.), kicking off Friday, Sept. 16. Focusing on beers brewed with locally grown hops, O'Brien's will have approximately 25 craft options on tap to choose from. And if its enthusiasm for craft is any indication, there will probably be some surprises in store as well.
If you prefer to quaff your brews outdoors, Nopalito Farm's first annual Wet Hop Campout commences Saturday, Sept. 17 at 4 p.m. onsite at the farm (30321 Castlecrest Drive). The all-night campout includes all-you-can-drink craft beers brewed with hops from the farm, including selections from Border X Brewing, Mission Brewery, Fall Brewing Co. and more, plus live music from Country Club, Family Freako and the Homesick Hitchers and food from Royale With Cheese (although you can pack in your own food as well). Limited to just 100 people, this $50 event is sure to be the perfect way to close out summer and prep for the forthcoming Oktoberfests.