beer column

With the change in the weather comes a change in seasonal beer styles. 
Oktoberfest beers and fresh-hopped beers are two of my favourites that often get overshadowed by the arrival of pumpkin beers to the market.

Fresh-hopped beers have just started to hit stores and these are beers with a very limited shelf life.  You have to get them fast and drink them soon.  Fresh-hopping, also known as wet-hopping refers to using freshly picked hops while brewing rather than dried or pelleted hops.

We are very lucky in the Lower Mainland to be located in a hop-friendly growing environment.  This means that our brewers can obtain fresh hops when they ripen and use those immediately to brew beer.  Driftwood Brewing in Victoria drives out to the Sartori ranch Cultus Lake to help harvest the hops and then drives them back to Victoria that same day to be put right into the brew.  Storm Brewing and Persephone Brewing use hops they grow themselves which cuts down on the travel time from bine to brew.  If you picture a crew picking hops and then sprinting back to the brewery with them and dropping them right into the kettle and/or fermentation tanks you wouldn’t be far off the reality.
 You have to get them fast because they are very small run batches and therefore not in large supply.  If you hear that one is released, you pretty much have to get to your liquor store immediately if you’re going to get some.  If you aren’t following your local store and favourite breweries on Facebook or Twitter, you are missing out on the best opportunity to hear about new releases.

You have to drink fresh-hopped beers soon because the hop oils that are imparted from the fresh hops are quite volatile and begin to degrade immediately after being picked.  The longer you wait to drink that fresh-hopped beer, the less of the hoppy goodness will remain in the beer.  A day or three won’t make a discernable difference, but once we get into weeks it certainly can.

Fresh hops tend to lend a grassier flavour to the beer.  Because the oils are fresh, they are also smoother, lending more rounded flavour than stark bitterness.  If you are a hop fan, I suggest picking up at least one of this season’s fresh-hopped beers and seeing how you find it stacks up.

I’m not sure what my favourite part of Oktoberfest is – the pretzels, the outfits, the oom-pah bands or the beer.  Oh who am I kidding, it's the beer!
Oktoberfest beers are part of the Marzen style of beers.  These are lagers originally brewed in Bavaria in March and allowed to ferment slowly during the summer months for drinking at harvest time, which includes Oktoberfest.  The Märzen style ranges from the lighter Helles Märzen to Dunkles Märzen, a darker, coppery, cellar-aged festival-style beer that has been brewed in Bavaria for about 500 years.

Local examples tend to be a rich copper or amber colour.  They tend to be very smooth and malt-forward with just enough bitterness to keep the malt from being too sweet.  Weighing in from 5-6.5% though, you do have to watch your consumption.  Oktoberfest beers are session beers in that you drink a whole bunch of them in a session, but even though they go down easily, they pack a punch.  Good thing there are pretzels and wurst to pair with them to keep you going.

Beer Picks:

If you can find any of these fresh-hopped beers, get them now!  Drink them now!

Driftwood Sartori Harvest IPA

Hoyne Wolf Vine Wet Hopped Pale Ale

Storm’s 100% James fresh hopped ipa

Oktoberfest ales:

Bomber brewing’s Oktoberfest

Mission Springs Oktoberfest
Steamworks Kolsch – which you can try at the brewery in Burnaby this Thursday, Friday and
Saturday, along with a warm pretzel and bratwurst
3845 William Street, just off Boundary Road


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