Well, we brewed our Wet Hop ale yesterday! The wonderful smell of fresh-off-the-vine Amarillo hops is still wafting around corners of the brewery when I walked in this morning. The opportunity to brew this beer was a pleasant surprise. I'm friends with the grower who has the patent on Amarillo hops - they are only grown on his farm in Washington state. We had been told by the hop broker that buys his hops and sells them to us craftbrewers, that we would probably not be able to get all the Amarillo hops we need for next year. So I was floored when my friend called me up, said "don't worry, the harvest has been great, and I even have a treat for you. I'm going to send you about 100 lbs of hops fresh off the vine for a harvest beer!"
Now, we normally get our hops in pelletized form, and I have never used whole leaf hops in our brew system. But there was no way I was going to turn him down. So we devised a method to use our mash tun, which has a set of screens in the bottom, as a sort of "hop back" to hold back the hops. We brewed up a strong IPA in the kettle, and then poured in all the fresh Amarillo hop cones into our mash tun. We pumped the hot wort from the kettle into the mash tun and let the fresh hops steep in it for about 15 minutes. We then pumped the wort through our heat exchanger into a waiting fermenter, leaving the hop cones behind in the mash tun.
But wait, we weren't finished. We mashed another batch of IPA in right on top of the fresh hops, and finished topping off the fermenter with this beer. So our Wet Hop Ale of 2008 will be a blend of one batch where we added the fresh hops right at the end of the boil, and one batch where we used those hops in the mash. I think this is a unique process - I've certainly never heard of anyone else doing it that way.
Anyway, the proof will be in the puddin'. I can't wait to try it! Here's some pics of the process:
Justin from Davis on Draft podcast came to bear witness to the hops (back left talking to Neil)