Well, it’s been over five months since Sally and I loaded up the astrovan at Home Depot and got to tilling and building our little hop plot. We knew from researching hop growing that it takes three growing seasons to reach maximum cone yield, so we figured in this first year we wouldn’t get enough cones to brew more than maybe a ½ barrel batch. But to our surprise and wonder, and thanks to the relatively cool and rainy summer, those vines sprouted like magic and by the time August came around we had over thirty hop vines covered in cones. That was totally enough to work with.
We decided that we had enough to do a 10 barrel batch with, so I wrote a recipe for what would be an Extra-Pale Ale, light in body and really showcasing our beautiful, fresh cascade hops. I should explain some of the excitement about using our own hops, besides the fact that it’s just cool to get to brew with something that we grew ourselves. Using fresh, rather than dried, hops is called “wet hopping” a brew, and requires that the hops get added to the brew within 48 hours of being picked, or they’ll start to wilt. So clearly this difficult to do in Tennessee, when most of the hops in our country are grown thousands of miles away (but don’t underestimate the will of craft brewers, some breweries will overnight hundreds of pounds of freshly picked hops across the country). Wet hopped beers have a more fresh and grassy, yet delicate hop flavor and aroma. The importance of drinking them fresh is even bigger than it is with other brews, as after a couple of weeks *poof* the hop magic is gone. Everyday I got more excited at the idea that we would be able to brew one of these with our own hops.
But we still didn’t have a name for it. One afternoon, after one of my roughly bi-quarterly viewings of one of my favorite movies of all time, Wet Hot American Summer, my boyfriend looked at me with a big grin on his face and said, “Wet Hopped American…Ale. That’s what you should call it.” Holy. $#!&*. Yes. So we spent most of the next couple of weeks pretending to hump the fridge (for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie, come see the movie, and then you’ll laugh at this) and acting out Paul Rudd’s enigmatic dish-picking-up scene and focused on the idea that we could debut the beer WHILST showing the movie that it’s named after. So we got in touch with our friends at the Belcourt Theatre and put together what we have come to call “A Wet Hopped American Evening,” where our brew will be tapped for the first time while showing Wet Hot American Summer on the big screen.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First we had to brew the beer. So on Tuesday morning Sally and I went back out to our little field of dreams (“if you build it, they will grow”…no? Too soon?) with ladders and buckets in hand and started picking.
Meanwhile Steve and Will got the brew going. Two hours later our harvest was complete, and we brought our bounty back to the brewery.
A few hours after that, it was time to put the hops in the brew, so we tossed them in and waxed nostalgic about how we couldn’t believe how it all happened so quickly.
There will still be one more harvest next week, when we pick the last of the hops to use for dry hopping in the fermenter (which begs the question, when you dry hop with wet hops, does anybody hear it?), and then it will just be a matter of conditioning and kegging the brew.
So now, in just over two weeks, we will be tapping the very first kegs of our Wet Hopped American Ale. The release is scheduled for Monday, September 23rd at the Belcourt Theatre. Doors will open and beers will start pouring at 6:45pm and the film will start at 7:15pm. Tickets are $15, include unlimited pours of the brew, and will be available through the Belcourt website starting TODAY (Friday, September 6th) at 10:00am (click here for the link) or at the box office.
To Keith Stat from Milburn, New Jersey,