Every August feels like Christmas time for Colorado brewers, ourselves included.
That’s because it’s fresh hop season, when hop farms across the region send their plants through the hop-picker and deliver mountains of wet hops straight to breweries’ doors. The hops are harvested and in the kettle within 24 hours, providing brewers with the ingredient in its purest and most natural state.
The fresh hop season is a cause for celebration for everyone that loves beer. For the local farms that provide the crucial ingredients, for the breweries, and for the beer-lovers that drink the final product, the wet hop season is the most wonderful time of the year.
David Warren runs High Wire Hops in Paonia, so named for the eight acres worth of 20-foot high wires from which his 18,000 hop bines hang. He has 9,000 plants on his farm, and he harvests 8,000 pounds of wet hop cones between mid-August and early September. Dave and his team deliver to 50 breweries across Colorado, bringing them the critical ingredient that makes for a special, celebratory annual batch of beer. For a brief period of time in late summer, the fresh hops take over the operation.
I visited Dave in Paonia in late August to watch the hop harvest in action. I rode with Larry and James on the trailer, where we cut the bines from their wires and laid them across the back of the trailer. I watched the guys on the Wolf hop-picker feed the bines into the separator and then shepherd them into enormous bags for transportation. It was a streamlined process that the guys at High Wire had mastered.
Dave treasures the fresh hop season. It’s their busiest time of year, he says, but it’s an exhilarating time to be on the farm for 16-18 hours a day, delivering thousands of pounds of glimmering, vibrant green hops to excited brewers who have been waiting all year for them.
The fresh hops are at about 75 or 80 percent moisture content versus eight percent when dried and pelletized, making for a grassy, fresh aroma and flavor palate that transfers to the brew. The hop character is brighter, cleaner, softer yet more vibrant. The fruit notes in our Juicy Banger IPA are more pronounced, with a distinctly fresh and “green” aroma that truly makes for a smooth glass of beer.
We couldn’t be more excited to tap our fresh hop batch of Juicy Banger IPA on September 14 - join us in the taproom for this celebration of a highly anticipated harvest in the beer world.