As much as I love my local homebrew supply shop, plunking down my hard-earned cash for bag after bag of vacuum-sealed hops, especially during the expensive years when global harvest yields were poor, has never been high on my list of ways to spend my weekend mornings.
But while the prospect of becoming completely sustainable as a homebrewer is really just an impractical dream for most of us (I don’t know many people that have space for acres of two-row barley, or a dedicated malting room for that matter), I took one small step closer to this utopian vision over the weekend as I harvested about five pounds of fresh hops from my very own Cascade bine and incorporated some of them into my first wet hop IPA.
On the subject of harvesting hops…you’d be wise to wear a long-sleeved shirt picking your way through the thorny bines, as I came out of the whole process looking like I got into a fight with a cheese grater with dozens of bloody lacerations all over my forearms. Stung like hell when I washed up at the end of the day. My troubles were worth it, however, as I yielded enough whole hops to nearly fill an entire grocery bag. I plan to dry most of them and store in zip-lock baggies in the freezer for future brews.
For the wet hop IPA, I realized that the hop backbone of my beer would of course still need to be pellet hops, as the nearly 5:1 bittering equivalency between whole hops and dry pellet hops made anything else impossible. Like I’ve done with the past several IPAs that I’ve brewed, I went with a hop bursting technique, basically back-loading all the hops toward the end of the boil. I’ve had great success with this technique, getting a much more pronounced yet smooth bitterness.
As far as what approach to take in using these fresh hops, it dawned on me that one way to go about this would be to repurpose my mash tun as a glorified hop back, essentially recirculating the hot wort through the bed of hops to draw out the wonderful lupulin. I’m sure it would’ve worked fine, and I believe this is basically how some pro brewers do it, but in the end I opted to keep it relatively simple and just buy two nylon straining bags and steep the hops for about ten minutes at flameout so as not to drive off any of the precious acids that contribute that fresh, dank aroma to the finished beer.
Here’s the recipe I went with:
Single infusion mash, 152 degrees for 60 minutes
IBU 153 (so says the online calculator I used)
10 lbs Maris Otter
1 lb Caramel 40
0.5 lb Caramel 80
0.5 lb Victory
2 oz Columbus pellet hops (@20 minutes left in boil)
2 oz Chinook pellet hops (@15 minutes left in boil)
2 oz Centennial pellet hops (@10 minutes left in boil)
2 oz Cascade pellet hops (@5 minutes left in boil)
12 oz Cascade whole hops from my own hop yard (@flame out, let steep for 10 minutes)