Yesterday I picked my Wilamette hops to use in a special fresh hop version of Logan’s Song, my English pale ale. I grow three types of hops in the brewery garden outside: Chinook, Colombus, and Wilamette. I’ll be using the other two to do a fresh hop version of my American IPA, Storm. Wilamette is a very popular American hop that can be substituted for Fuggle, an English hop, so I thought it would do well in my pale ale.
Fresh hops aren’t dried and are instead used within 24 hours of picking. They add a different flavor to the beer; kind of resiny, vegetal, and smooth. Sierra Nevada’s Northern and Southern Hemisphere beers are two terrific and well-known fresh hop beers. The flavor fades quickly so they really need to be enjoyed, well, fresh!
Want to use fresh hops in your beer? Here are some guidelines. First, fresh hop cones weigh about 4-5 times as much as dry cones, so adjust the amount accordingly. Second, too much fresh hop flavor is awful. I learned this when I made a 100% fresh hop double IPA last year with an obscene amount of fresh Cascade hops. It tasted like tobacco/asparagus and was undrinkable! I would restrict fresh hops to just aroma hops, and to 50% of the normal aroma hops called for in the recipe. Playing it safe will make sure you don’t over-fresh hop your beer.
Staying conservative also has one other benefit: your hops might not be all that great compared to commercial hops. Don’t feel bad. Hop farms in the Pacific northwest are multi-million dollar operations with access to laboratories and with years of experience. Hops may be easy to grow but they are extremely difficult to grow well. I try not to depend on my home-grown hops for everything I want out of the beer. However, I think a good dose of fresh hops is the perfect use for those plants you have at home. No fuss drying and storing your hops, just throw ’em right in.