The next in our series of “Stories Behind the Beers” is the tale of a very unique beer that we’ll only make a single time per year. And that’s only if the stars align to provide us with fresh whole cone hops. The stars did align for us this Fall, and we’ve made a very special batch of DEB, called a wet hop ale, using fresh, Alberta-grown Goldings from the Northern Girls Hopyard (part of Windhover Farm).
If you’ve been to Biera you’ll likely have seen that one of our fairly regular beers is DEB, a gently malty, moderately bitter beer that uses English yeast, malt, and hops. The aroma and flavor hops we use are a specific variety of Goldings hop from southern England called East Kent Goldings that give DEB its delicious crisp, bitter mineral finish, underpinned by herbal and orange marmalade hop notes.
It turns out that the Northen Girls Hopyard, just north west of Edmonton, happens to grow Goldings (maybe we can call them Central Alberta Goldings). The hopyard also happens to be close enough to be a short drive from our brewery, thus allowing us to harvest hops in the morning directly from the bines, process and pack them up by noon, and deliver them into our unique version of a hop back by early afternoon to be added to an in-progress brew. (A hop back is a vessel where hot, recently boiled wort is mixed with fresh, whole-cone hops to capture their incredibly fresh flavor and aroma).
Making a wet hop ale is a huge highlight for any brewery as it’s an opportunity to use unbelievably fresh hops (4 hours after harvest in our case). It’s different than a dry hopped ale where hops are added to a fermenter conveniently after brewing as wet hop ales must use whole fresh hop cones, and there’s an exceptionally small window during the actual brew day to add them (right after boiling). There’s no window for error, we get only a single shot at it, and wet hop ales tend to have unique and hard to replicate characteristics that make them a special, once a year treat.
Here are set of photos that shows some of the highlights of our visit to the Northern Girls Hopyard, and of our brew day making DEB’s Wet Hop Ale:
This video shows the agitator in our Lauter Tun doing its thing as we steep the fresh hop cones in our recently boiled Wort. Head Brewer Rob Monk provides some commentary on the process.
And that concludes the story of DEB’s Wet Hop Ale. We’ll have pictures of the final beer quite soon, and you’ll need to come visit us to give us a try. It’s a one-off, once a year brew, and it’ll only be around for a short time so don’t miss out!