Month: September 2016
Autumn has rolled in, make no mistake. It’s the end of September and across the country consumers are already welcoming new groups of seasonal beers: herb and spice beers, brown ales, dunkels, bocks and Märzens. Most of these styles have one key ingredient in common: Munich malt. You likely know the malt well already–in fact, its characteristic flavor comes from a compound called maltol which is what most people associate with the concept of “maltiness” as a whole, although it’s a pretty broad spectrum. Munich malt is rich-flavored, slightly sweet, bready and sometimes nutty. Every type of malt is responsible for an often wide variety of flavors that ultimately end up as the backbone of a finished beer, but Munich malt is especially notable for a few reasons. First, though, a little background.
It’s here again–the harvest season. Specifically, it’s hop harvest time, which runs from August through October depending on varietal, growing location and weather. Living here in the lovely state of Washington, we have a fantastic amount of hop products easily available–we are, after all, the producers of 77% of the country’s hops. But what especially excites brewers and drinkers about this proximity this time of year is the availability of fresh or wet hops. As you know, brewers use a number of hop products–dried whole-leaf hops, dried pelletized hops, hop oils and hop extracts. Hops do not store well fresh, so all these products are preserved versions that will be available for months after harvest provided proper handling and storage. The window for utilizing fresh hops just picked is extremely short–and in fact, breweries farther from the hop fields frequently will overnight a shipment directly to the brewery. Seattle is only a few hours’ drive from the Yakima Valley growing area, so brewers will merely drive and pick up a load, usually brewing with the hops as soon as they arrive on site, whatever time of day or night.
So what’s the fuss about wet hops, if most of the beer we consume doesn’t ever involve them?