Dear Mr. Wizard:
I have been "full mash" brewing for several years now. A friend and I planted some English hops. They are thriving and will soon be ready for harvest. Can I use fresh hops or do I have to dry them out first? If I can use fresh hops, what are the proportions I should use (for one pound of dried hops, how many pounds of fresh hops should I substitute?)
Mr. Wizard replies:
Fresh, unkilned hops can certainly be used in beer and there is no right or wrong way to use them. I think fresh or "green" hops are best for late-hopping because of the great aroma they impart. They also contain a lot of moisture (about 80 percent) and you would have to use a huge amount for bittering.
The first green-hop beer I ever tasted was a beer brewed by Sierra Nevada called Harvest Ale. It had an intoxicating hop aroma that smelled completely different from a hoppy brew made using kilned hops. The beer itself was pretty intoxicating, too. Its original gravity was around 1.068 but it was so smooth and tasty I thought it was a normal-gravity beer. Oh well!
The key to using fresh hops is to use them immediately after harvesting. Sierra's Harvest Ale was brewed by coordinating the shipment of hops from the hop field directly to the brewery using an overnight express freight service. Grant's in Yakima also makes a beer with fresh hops. Their hop delivery is easy to coordinate since Yakima is in the heart of Washington hop territory.
I have brewed a fresh hop ale for the last two years. The first year, I added about one pound of fresh hops per barrel of wort (31 gallons) right at the end of the boil and got a nice, fresh, hop character. The aroma has a pungent grassy note, kind of like fresh-cut hay. The second year the hop yield was not so great, so I decided to dry hop with the green hops. This time I added two pounds of green hops to one barrel of pale ale. It went from fairly hoppy in the nose to super hoppy! I drank a bottle just the other day; the nose was still intense and the flavor was delicious.
Don't substitute fresh hops for kilned hops in a recipe. I would use the fresh hops for aroma at a fairly heavy-handed rate, keeping in mind that they have a lot of extra weight because they are moist. I have used 3 ounces per 5 gallons with nice results. If your hops are good quality and are used when fresh, you won't be disappointed!
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