The arrival of Freshly Hopped Mass Ascension IPA in cans and on draft at Ex Novo on Monday marked the beginning of fresh-hop beer season in New Mexico. Rather than wait patiently to see which brewery would be the next to drop their offering, we reached out to just about everyone to find out in advance.
Unfortunately, most breweries declined to respond. We can only guess as to the reasons — they won’t have one, they would rather wait to announce it on their own, they are nervous that it could go bad at the last minute (this happened to one big brewery’s award-winning fresh-hop ale a few years ago) — or maybe they just don’t check their email as often these days.
four five breweries did respond (a sixth, Hidden Mountain, said they will not have a fresh-hop beer this year), and they have us fairly excited for what is to come in September.
We asked four basic questions, and in some cases got direct responses to each, while others had a more general response. Those responding were Canteen head brewer Zach Guilmette, High and Dry head brewer/co-owner Andrew Kalemba, (UPDATE) La Cumbre marketing director Cory Campbell, Sidetrack head brewer David Kimbell, and assistant manager Rob Hipwood and head brewer David Seymour of Bathtub Row in Los Alamos.
NMDSBC: Are you making a fresh hop beer?
Canteen: Yes, the malt bill of Dougie-Style Amber, fresh hopped to a pale ale level, named Dougie Fresh.
High and Dry: Yes, we brewed it last Tuesday on the 17th.
La Cumbre: Yep!
Sidetrack: We will have two fresh-hop beers releasing early/mid September. One is our Basecamp IPA with Chinook, and our A Tribe Called Kolsch with Crystal.
Bathtub Row: White Crow Green Hop.
NMDSBC: What’s the general time frame for releasing that beer?
High and Dry: It will be out early September. Probably first week.
La Cumbre: We will have three wet hopped offerings this year! We will release one this Thursday, and one next week, both of those will be on tap in our taprooms only (no cans of those two). The IPA going on this Thursday, tentatively named Captain Cold, utilizes a fun experimental process where we froze the wet hops in liquid nitrogen just before brewing with them. Keep an eye on our social media to learn more about that! We will also release Obscura Wet Hopped Hazy IPA in cans in September.
Sidetrack: (see previous response)
Bathtub Row: Wednesday, September 25.
NMDSBC: What hop(s) did you use, and where did you get them from?
Canteen: Cascade and Chinook from Billy Goat Hop Farms in Montrose, Colorado.
High and Dry: We brewed our base Ghost of a Moon recipe with Cascade and Summit. We finished in the whirlpool with fresh hops consisting of Chinook and Comet from Billy Goat.
La Cumbre: We got Chinook from Billy Goat Hop Farms in Montrose.
Sidetrack: The hops were supplied by Billy Goat Hops in Montrose. I had the pleasure of touring the farm two days before receiving my hops. Billy Goat is by no means a “hobby” farm. Their operation is extremely impressive and consists of 32 acres with all processing equipment on site.
Bathtub Row: This very special seasonal release is a collaboration with our dear friends at White Crow Hops, a family-owned farm here in Ancones, New Mexico. We began with an award-winning American Cream Ale recipe and blasted it with 30 pounds (!!!) of freshly picked Chinook hop flowers. “Green hops” skip the stressful drying and pelletizing processes, so they retain WAY more flavorful resin — grapefruit, evergreen, pineapple, melon, herbal tea and broadleaf weeds. We’re pretty damn proud of this project; hurry before it’s gone!
NMDSBC: Brewers, what in your opinion makes fresh-hop beers so darn good?
Canteen: Fresh-hop beers have a beautiful, fresh, grassy, and organic aroma and flavor that feels like you are rubbing the hops in the palm of your hand.
High and Dry: We can only do it once a year and the time constraints and mad dash to brew it as quickly as possible from harvest is sort of fun. It gives an excuse to have a little more fun and be creative in a slightly different way that we can’t throughout the year. At the end, you get something completely unique. It’s like using freshly picked ingredients when cooking, compared to the dried stuff. You get those great green fresh notes that only comes from something that comes immediately to us once harvested at the farm. The beers that come out are great breaks from all of the Oktoberfest styles that are out this time of the year, and signals that summer is winding down and fall is near.
La Cumbre: Other than being simply fun to brew with, wet hops are all about freshness. Ingredients are important, and the fresher the ingredients you use, the better the outcome. Wet hops lend a crisp, bright, and aromatic quality that makes the experience of drinking a beer just that much better.
Sidetrack: My favorite part of working with fresh hops is supporting local farming. It is a rare occurrence for us in the Southwest to get our hands on fresh hops grown locally. Hops directly from the bine give beer a unique fresh flavor not found in pelletized or whole leaf hops.
Bathtub Row: It’s important to remember — hops are flowers. They really are. Just flowers, naturally grown in the field, plain and simple. Think about picking wildflowers and placing them in a vase on your table. How long do they smell pretty? Not very long, right? That’s what we’re talking about, the essential flavors and aromas of hop flowers deteriorate very quickly, too. The hop industry works hard to prolong their usable life by picking them at the peak of their resin content, drying them to remove all water moisture, pelletizing them, purging with CO2, keeping them refrigerated, etc. But, as you can imagine, most of us brewers are always using hops which are many months or even years old. It figures that brewing with hops which were picked just hours ago, and which never had to endure those harsh industrial processes … of course they taste and smell better in every imaginable way! Green-hop beers have more of every good thing you love about hops. Not to mention, green hops still possess delicate traits which are typically destroyed in the normal process. Chinook is normally described simply as grapefruit and pine, but we were picking up all kinds of cool pineapple, bergamot, melon, berry fruit, cinnamon, dank weed, herbal, earthy, woodsy notes. This is an extremely fun exercise for brewers, (and) thankfully the beer comes out damn tasty, too.
Thanks to all the breweries that responded. If anyone sends us a late reply, we will update this story. In the meantime, enjoy that Freshly Hopped Mass Ascension (get it before it’s gone), and stay patient while we wait for the rest of these to arrive.
Keep supporting local!