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Wet-Hopping: An Explainer
Okay, this is one of the trickiest, weirdest turns of phrase in the brewing world. It seems simple enough… dry-hops must be the opposite of wet hops, right? No confusion there. But wait, you can dry-hop with wet hops??! Dry-hop can be a verb?? And where do these hop pellets I’ve heard about come in???!
Let’s take a deep breath, back it up, and make an essential distinction. “Dried Hops” are hops that have been preserved and dried in a kiln. A basic rule to remember is that all hops have to be dried, pelletized, or used in approximately 24 hours. So it stands to reason, since there is only one hop harvest per year per hemisphere, that almost all the hops used are dried or pelletized. How else would we hop beers all year round?
“Dry-hops,” on the other hand, do not refer to the process done to the hops. Rather, (and the ultimate source of all this confusion!) they refer to the time the hops are added during the brewing process. Dry-hops are any hops (wet, dried or pelletized!) added after the boil. Dry-hops primarily impart aroma, and do not impact the bitterness of a beer. Most hops are added to the kettle, during the boil, to extract bitterness. And yes, if you’re wondering, you can “dry-hop” with wet-hops. Whew.
So now, finally, we can talk about wet-hops, and what they are, and why they’re cool, and why we use them. Wet-hops are plucked straight off the bine and spirited directly into the beer. They are, literally, still glistening wet with essential oils. These oils, the real difference between wet-hops and dried hops (not “dry”!!!), contain the mystical flavors that are the reason wet-hop beers exist: wet-hopped beers can contain flavors that are lost when hops are dried.
Okay so we’re on to flavors derived from wet-hops. You’ll be shocked, but once again here, it gets muddy. There isn’t an industry standard response on what exactly it is that wet-hops do. Some people say “green” or “raw” flavors. Our brewers who have worked with wet-hops on a number of different brews now, have a few thoughts.
Fabian Beller, Brewer at Sixpoint, says that wet-hop beers, and SENSI in particular, have an aroma more reminiscent of “the smell of tearing open a freshly picked cone, or putting your face into a fistful of hops” than of your average pale ale or IPA. That’s what we aim for when we brew SENSI. The Mad Scientists travel out to the hop motherland in Yakima, Washington every year, and SENSI brings the aroma and experience of being out there right into your glass. As Shane Welch, Founder and President of Sixpoint says, “it’s like parachuting into a Yakima hop farm!!”