Picking hops fresh off the vine and plonking them straight into the brew kettle is a trend that’s hot among craft brewers. Wet or fresh-hopped ales are hyper fresh: they can only be made during the two-week window in early autumn when the hop flowers are ready for harvesting; once picked, brewers have 24-hours to get them into the beer before they go mouldy.

As more Ontario farmers start to grow hops again (they died out in the 1920s), more and more Ontario breweries are making fresh-hopped ales to celebrate the province’s annual hop harvest.

In 2010, when I wrote a story about wet-hopped brews for The Grid, (RIP) I struggled to find breweries who were using fresh, local hops — but I managed to track down five (Trafalgar, Great Lakes, Railway City, Old Stone Brewpub and Black Creek Brewery).

Today it seems nearly one out of three breweries are working with a local farm to celebrate the hop harvest and make these finicky ales.

The People's Pint in Toronto brews a new beer with fresh hops.

Hops grown in Peter Caira’s backyard, they’ll be in a beer brewed for a collab for the People’s Pint in Toronto.

Most beers contain dry hops that have been crushed into pellets or oils, which dissolve into the beer. Wet hops go in the brew kettle in their beautiful, full hop cone form. All those leaves and sticky resins can be a bitch to get out of the equipment and beer, so they’re usually added like loose leaf tea. Often brewers fill mesh bags with about 100 or more pounds of hops, and hang them from a hole in the top of the tank.

Amsterdam brewers add giant "tea bags" of fresh-picked Ontario hops from Collingwood's Clear Valley Hop Farm into the kettle for this year's Autumn Hop, wet-hopped ale.

Amsterdam brewers add giant “tea bags” of fresh-picked Ontario hops from Collingwood’s Clear Valley Hop Farm into the kettle for this year’s Autumn Hop, wet-hopped ale.

These labour-intensive brews are made in small batches and are usually only available at the brewery’s retail store and on tap at Ontario’s better beer establishments. They sell out quickly and are best consumed fresh. But do they taste all that different? Certainly Ontario’s microclimates and varied soils gives varietals a unique terroir (you can sip the evidence for yourself by seeking out Sawdust City’s side-by-side wet hop experiment detailed below).

Plus, breweries love to claim fresh hops are more “vibrant” than those that are dried. I’m not sure about that —— hops are picked and dried in less than 24 hours, and carefully stored for those fresh, fresh flavours. But there’s no denying that the romantic notion of freshly-harvested, whole cone hops leaves an impression on our tastebuds.

I’ve rounded up a smattering of wet-hopped ales dropping at local breweries across the province this September. I know I didn’t capture them all. So if your brewery is making one that’s not on the list, please add it in the Comments Section.

 

Amsterdam Autumn Hop, Amsterdam Brewery

Where to get it: LCBO, retail stores and select bars and restaurants

When it drops: During Toronto Beer Week, (September 16th-24th)

Hops: Cascade from Clear Valley Hops in Collingwood, Ontario

 

Collective Project: Wet Hopped Wheat Ale, Collective Arts Brewing 

Where to get it: On tap & at our brewery retail shop (207 Burlington St E Hamilton)

When it drops: Late September or Early October

Hops: Chinook & Perle from Clear Valley Hops in Collingwood, Ontario

Hop Geek Fact: 100% percent of the hops were added in the last 5 minutes of the boil and in the whirlpool, for maximum flavor and aroma (expect a huge nose of juicy fruit and grassy mango)

 

Do you want to dance? Pale Ale, Block Three Brewing Co.

Where to get it: At the brewery’s retail store

When it drops: September 5th

Hops: Cascade from Hayhoe Hops, Alymer

 

Harvest Ale, Cassel Brewery 

Where to get it: At the brewery’s retail store & on tap locally

When it drops: End of September

Hops: An as yet unidentified heritage varietal originally found growing wild in the area, planted Patrick Brunet from Ferme Familiale Bédard Brunet, St-Isidore Ontario

Hop Geek Fact: In 1920, Fournier, Ontario, where these hops were grown, was well known as a hop-growing community. In fact, they employed more than 2000 people to help out during harvest time.

 

Jive Ass Turkey, Wellington Brewery   

Where to get it: At the brewery’s retail store & on tap

When it drops: September 30th

Hops: Wild Turkey hops from Clear Valley Hops, Collingwood, Ontario

 

Bine Hunter, Bellwoods Brewery

Where to get it: At the brewery’s retail store

When it drops: Mid-September

Hops: Chinook & Cascade from Bighead Hops

 

Land is Strong (Belgian IPA), Dominion City Brewing    

Where to get it: At the brewery’s retail store & on tap

When it drops: September 30th

Hops: Cascade hops from Lot 17 Hop Yard, Campbellford, Ontario

Hop Geek Fact: For the last two years, brewery staff have helped to harvest their batch of hops, and driven the 150 pounds of Cascade hops back to the brewery. Last year they brewed through the night to get a double batch in.

 

Local Hoption, Niagara Oast House Brewers

Where to get it: Oast Brewery retail store, Niagara & Toronto craft beer bars

When it drops: Friday September 2nd at the Brewery

Hops: Centennial & Cascade from Tavistock Hop Company, Tavistock, Ontario

 

Hop Child in the City, People’s Pint Collaboration Beer

Where to get it: On tap for night only at 3030 Dundas West, this small-batch homebrew was brewed at Henderson for the People’s Pint Event, which celebrates home brewing.

When it drops: September 18th

Hops: Chinook & Centennial hops grown in Peter Caira’s backyard

Hop Geek Note: Home brewers Peter Caira & Doug Appeldoorn (who also run People’s Pint, a stellar home brew event) made this beer from hops grown in Caira’s backyard. Caira notes that his backyard terroir gives his Cascade a different flavour from that grown in the Pacific Northwest: “They lack the distinctive pine notes but the fruity/bubblegum/cotton candy notes are present in abundance.”

 

Wet Hoperation, Craft Heads Brewing Company

When it drops: September 1st

Hops: Calypso hops grown by a local home brewer

The crew from Niagara's Exchange Brewery harvesting fresh hops for their beer, from left: Megan Konstantonis, tasting room supervisor, Sam Maxbauer, head brewer, and Christine Nagy, assistant brewer.

The crew from Niagara’s Exchange Brewery harvesting fresh hops for their beer, from left: Megan Konstantonis, tasting room supervisor, Sam Maxbauer, head brewer, and Christine Nagy, assistant brewer.

 

6/9 Wet Hop Ale, The Exchange Brewery

Where to get it: Brewery’s retail store

When it drops: September 16th

Hops: Cascade, Chinook, Hallertau and Centennial from Niagara Hops

 

The Hops Terroir Experiment (2 Wet Hopped Ales) – Sawdust City Brewing

Chinook Wet Hop Pale Ale, Clear Valley Hops, Collingwood, Ontario

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Chinook Wet Hop Pale Alley, VQH Farms, Tillsonburg, Ontario     

Where to get it: At the brewery’s retail store & on tap

When it drops: September 30th at Sawdust’s Oktoberfest

Hops: Chinook hops, from two different Ontario farms, in two otherwise identical beers.

Hop Geek Fact: Sam Corbiel, brewmaster at Sawdust, wanted to display the difference that terroir can have on hops. So they harvested two 150 pound batches of fresh hops from two different Ontario hops, and added each one into the same base beer recipe. The only difference is the hops. See if you can taste Ontario terroir by trying these side-by-side at bars across the province..

 

Wet Hop, Nickel Brook Brewing    

Where to get it: Loblaws, Sobey’s & LCBO

When it drops: Third week of September

Hops: Cascade, Chinook & Centennial Hops from Bighead Hops Farm, and all-Ontario barley malt.

 

Harvest Rye, The Granite Brewery

Where to get it: On tap at the brewpub

When it drops: September 16th, kickoff for Toronto Beer Week

Hops: Nugget from Winterbrook Hops, Caledon, Ontario

 

Unnamed (as yet), Innocente Brewing Company

Where to get it: Brewery’s retail store & on tap

When it drops: September

Hops: Rakau hops, The Tavistock Hop Co.

 

Local’s Only Pale Ale, Stone City Ales

Where to get it: Brewery’s retail store

When it drops: September 16th

Hops: Centennial, Pleasant Valley Hops

 

100 Pounds IPA, Stone City Ales

Where to get it: Brewery’s retail store

When it drops: September 23

Hops: Cascade and Chinook, Pleasant Valley Hops

Hop Geek Fact: Both of Stone City’s brews will also be made with Ontario-malted barley from Barn Owl Malt in Belleville.