September kick-starts an exciting time of the year for beer lovers that lasts through the winter. Oktoberfests, Pumpkin Ales, Winter Ales, Belgian Christmas Ales, and the relatively new (in America) must-have style for hop-heads such as myself: “wet-hopped” beers. If you aren’t familiar with a wet-hopped beer, get familiar right now, damn you. How to do that? Simple! READ ON, DUMBASS!
Humulus Lupulus is not a Dr. Seuss character (I swear), but the scientific name for the plant that bears the seed cones commonly known as our precious and beloved “hops”. Try saying that five times fast: humulus lupulus. I tried, and before I said it a second time I sounded like I was stoned, trying to speak Yiddish, with a mouthful of marbles, with a kitten distracting me by kneading my ballsack. Not surprisingly, when a hop flower is removed from the bine, the resins within it immediately start to evaporate. By the way, I did not make a spelling error. Hop cones grow on bines, not vines. Vines use tendrils to climb, bines use stiff “hairs” to climb. There: botany lesson complete.
During the early fall when hop cones reach a high moisture content of around 80%, they are ready to be harvested for a very special style of ale. The challenge from that point of plucking on is to get them from the farm to the brewery to be used during the brewing process before their fresh oils are gone. The entire process is like keeping a woman wet and horny from foreplay to fornication: one untimely hesitation and she will go bone dry, and then she will roll over and begrudgingly fall asleep. And then you’ll just creep to the bathroom and wank one off in the sink, climb back into the bunk and fall asleep with a shit-eating grin on your face, but I digress. Since, when the brew attempt in question is successful the oils are still heavily present; the production of a “wet-hopped” beer is thus achieved! And one fine example of this style is “Heavy Handed” by Two Brothers out of Warrenville, Illinois.
The liquid of Heavy Handed is amber with a tint of reddish brown. It is fairly clear, and carries a vanilla colored, thick, fluffy head. The aroma is a delight: coolness, sweet lemons, roses, and pine sap. The upfront flavor is disappointingly lacking in flavor strength, but still has a tasty combination of caramel and malt. It develops into vanilla and cantaloupe, and on the back end a brief and unpleasant soapy taste pays your tongue a visit, but gets the fuck out of your house before it becomes a nuisance. The bitterness doesn’t kick in until the aftertaste starts to take over, and boy is it good. The profile balance here is excellent, and the fresh and bitter aftertaste is one of its two distinguishing characteristics; the other being its texture. The texture of Heavy Handed is fairly watery with a high prickle content, and while it isn’t as creamy as many, the brew leaves a delightful oily feel behind. Lacing is below average for an IPA, leaving zig-zag splatters around the glass in the pattern of Charlie Brown’s t-shirt.
The ultimate question now is: does a “wet-hopped” brew truly deliver a different drinking experience than its standard brothers and sisters? In my opinion, yes, at least it does enough to justify trampling a crippled old woman at the spirit shop and putting an irreparable bend in the legs of her walker in order to reach a wet-hopped brew in the aisle. What makes Heavy Handed stand out are the extremely fresh bitter aftertaste and the oily texture left at the end of each sip or gulp. The method of wet-hopping a beer has been around for a very long time, but credit is due to Sierra Nevada for bringing this style to America in 1996 (from what I have read) with their Northern Hemisphere Harvest Ale.
Final thought: despite its name, a wet-hopped beer is NOT the opposite of a dry-hopped beer. Next week I shall review a dry-hopped ale and learn you about that as well.
Winter is just around the bend. Pick up a 6 pack of Heavy Handed as well as any other wet-hopped brew you can find, and get to drinking!
Two Brothers “Heavy Handed”
Wet Hopped IPA