Weekend Drinking Assignment: Bring In The Hop Harvest With Fresh Hop IPAs

One could say that 2013 was the year IPA freshness became a "Thing." Stone came up with their now-famous Enjoy By series, which "expired" on a certain date (about a month after brewing). Other breweries continued the trend, printing "best before" dates on bottles and cans, the latter being the container of choice for many breweries looking to best preserve that bold hop flavor. While there are plenty of delicious bitter beers offered year-round, there's one style of IPA in particular that is freshest right now.

Hops are harvested around the country during August and September, and while most are dried and stored for the next year, some of these fresh or "wet" hops are used right away. Fresh hop beers place such an emphasis on the freshness factor that brewers turn the whole process from bine — yes, a bine is what a hop vine is called — to brew kettle in fewer than 24 hours. The resulting IPAs are bursting with delicious fruity hop flavor, noticeably fresher-tasting than the dry hops used during the rest of the year.

A few recommendations: seek out old standbys Sierra Nevada's Northern Hemisphere, Port Brewing's High Tide, Deschutes' Chasin' Freshies, Founders Harvest Ale and Great Divide's Fresh Hop Pale Ale. Ready to take it a step further? Newcomer Almanac Beer Company did three single-hop versions of fresh hop beer with cascade, chinook and cluster hops, definitely worth a go.

Many hopheads believe IPAs are better fresh, and it's hard to argue with them. Though these beers really do start to lose their massively hoppy tropical fruit flavor within a few weeks of brewing, don't let this deter you from drinking fresh hop IPAs through October into November. I recommend tasting them at their freshest, so celebrate one of the most important harvests of the year by trying a few this weekend.

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