Let’s get the bad news out of the way: a summer that was alternately abnormally hot and abnormally wet lead to abnormally smaller hops yields in both Maryland and Virginia this year, which means fewer area breweries made beers with just-picked hop cones. Heat can stress hop plants, inhibiting the growth of cones, the flower part of the plant that goes into beer. Moisture, on the other hand, can lead to downy mildew on hop cones. We just can’t win. To wit, Bluejacket’s Darling Buds, made with hops from Virginia’s Whipple Creek Farms, isn’t coming out this year, and was replaced with Hill House, a Marzen-style Oktoberfest beer. Dynasty’s collaboration with soon-to-open One Family Brewing used Loudon County grown hops, but the breweries had to supplement with some from out of the area. Last year Dynasty was able to brew this beer using all-Virginia ingredients.
Why would you want a beer brewed with wet, just-picked, hops? Well, wet -hopped beers are usually more flavorful and more aromatic with sharper or earthier notes compared to beers made with hops that have been dried, kilned, and often pelletized.
On the bright side, however, the pivot to packaged beers, in bottles and cans, means that more of these beers are available in the area.
Look for Flying Dog’s collaboration with the University of Maryland, Field Notes, in tall boys. Billed as an “experimental pale ale,” the brewery is in year five of a collaboration with UMD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The hops were grown at UMD’s Western Maryland Research and Education Center in Keedysville, MD.
Caboose’s Community Hops Wet-Hopped Pale Ale is also a collaborative effort: the beer is brewed with hops from you, beer fans. Every April Caboose sends out hop rhizomes to people in the area (to be fair, these people pay $25 and also get a 4-pack of the final product) and then harvests the hops in September, which immediately go into a beer. They supplement the home-grown hops with hops from Virginia farms, and all-Virginia grain. It’s a pretty cool concept, and 4-packs of this beer should be readily available in stores in Virginia and at both Caboose locations.
Williamburg’s Virginia Beer Company isn’t local, but better beer shops in Norther Virginia may have a few 4-packs of Wet Powder, an 8% alcohol by volume double IPA. Fresh Citra hops were overnighted to the brewery. You like Citra, don’t you? The area is less likely to see Harvest Pils, wet-hopped with Cashmere, though you may get lucky.
Sierra Nevada has both their Northern Hemisphere wet-hopped IPA and Celebration available. Northern Hemisphere features an all-Centennial hop bill this year. Note that Celebration is “fresh hopped,” but not wet hopped, meaning that the hops were dried before going into the beer. Regardless, these two are classics. Seek them out in 12-ounce bottles.
Rogue’s Coast Haste is a hazy double IPA with Strata hops grown on Rogue’s own farms. It is no longer 2008, so Rogue’s beers are now commonplace and not trendy, but if you see tallboys of this around, I encourage you to buy it, as Strata is one of the best hops to pair with haze. Notes of orange, strawberry, mango, and passionfruit comprise one of my favorite beers of 2020.
Two non-independent breweries also have wet-hopped beers available. Lagunitas‘ Born Yesterday and Founder’s Harvest Ale. Note that Founder’s may still be “cancelled,” in internet parlance, as the brewery continues to deal with the fallout from a racial discrimination lawsuit.
More breweries now ship to both the District of Columbia and Virginia, and some of them may have wet-hopped beers available. If anyone wants to go in on an Ex Novo (OR) order with us, for example, we’re right here.