Fresh Nugz in various stages
As I believe I’ve stated before, I love fall, and I especially love fall beers. I also like hops. I mean, our slogan is “Hop On!” after all (even though the slogan doesn’t just apply to hops themselves but more applies to inviting others to join you). But we do enjoy hops and hoppy beers here at Joyride. I try my best to not just brew hoppy beers and to cater to the hopheads. Out of our 6 “standard” beers that I try to keep on tap, only 2 would be classified as “hoppy” beers, being our Edgewater IPA and Joyride Double IPA. I consider our Cougar Pale Ale to be a much more balanced representation of the style, and although our Antelope Amber does have some fantastic hop flavor, I also feel it is balanced by beautiful caramel, dark fruit and toasty flavors that round it out. Our Ice Cutter Kölsch and Bear Paw Oatmeal Milk Stout could hardly be considered hoppy by anyone’s definition. So, that means only ⅓ of my regular lineup is catered to hopheads. Now, earlier in the summer, we had our Aufspringen German IPA, Blood on the Tracks India Red Ale, Edgewater IPA, Joyride Double IPA and Straight Outta Hopton First Anniversary Triple IPA all on tap at various times, sometimes at the same time, so…yeah, maybe we got a little hoppy for a little while. But I’m not going to make an excuse for that, they were all delicious. With our brewery, we go in cycles, and there’s usually turnover from week to week to find something different to enjoy. So every once in awhile, it may appear that we’re appealing to the hopheads, but it is nothing that is intentional, sometimes it just happens. I enjoy most styles of beer, as long as they’re brewed right, and that includes hoppy beer. We’ve moved away from being too hop heavy in recent weeks with the Scarecrow Pumpkin Ale and Touchdown Brown coming on tap, but it was only a matter of time before some new, hoppy options came back aboard.
My favorite of the fall seasonals is probably wet hopped beers. It’s been said that hops are to beer what grapes are to wine, and I think it is incredibly fun and interesting to taste the different nuances of the hops in a different state. We normally brew with hop pellets, which have such advantages as higher extraction efficiency, longer shelf life and the need for far less storage space. In order to make hop pellets, dried whole cones are shredded and grinded, then fed through a die to form pellets. Pellets are then refrigerated quickly, as the process generates a lot of heat, as well as to preserve their quality. Those hops then either sit in our supplier’s fridge or our own until brew day. If you’d like to learn more about how pellets are made, check out this page on Hop Union’s site: https://www.hopunion.com/hop-products/
Wet hops are different in the fact that not only are we using hops in their natural, whole cone form, but we are brewing with them less than 24 hours from when they were picked off the bine (that is not a typo, hops grow on a bine, not a vine). This year, I traveled to Rising Sun Hop Organic Hop Farm in Paonia, CO with 3 members of my team, brewers Jake and Gina as well as our bar manager, Bill. We camped on Rising Sun’s farm on Friday night with a large bonfire and plenty of Joyride beer. We awoke on Saturday and went to work. Commercial hops grow on a trellis system that is 18 ft high. The process of harvesting the bines involved cutting the bine near the ground with a machete, followed by a second person who has been elevated cutting the top of the rope that bine is currently growing up. The 18 ft long plant is then transported to a hop picker machine, which separates the cones from the leaves, ropes, bines and other material. Those cones travel up a conveyor belt into large burlap sacks, which we then use to haul the beautiful hops back to the brewery in Edgewater.
As the hops are still wet when we use them, it messes with our measurements a bit. A rule of thumb is to use 7 times the amount of wet hops as you’d use in a normal dried hop beer. The reason for this is to account for the water weight. In our flagship Edgewater IPA, we usually use around 20 lbs for a 10 bbl batch. In Fresh Nugz, we used just short of 120 lbs of hops for a 8 bbl batch. About 75% of our wet hops went into the whirlpool and the remaining 25% or so went in as a dry hop addition in the fermenter after primary fermentation had concluded. We used mostly Nugget hops (hence the name “Fresh Nugz”) with a small amount of Chinook. Nuggets grow really well in Colorado, and they’re known for their spicy and herbal notes. Chinook also grows really well in Colorado and is known more for it’s big pine flavor with a bit of grapefruit. Combined, I pick up fantastic piney, woodsy, herbal and citrus notes. A lot of times, I pick up “green” and vegetal notes in wet hops beers, but those are for the most part absent from Fresh Nugz.
The malt bill is identical to our Edgewater IPA, with mostly American 2 row and small amount of malted wheat, light crystal malt and an even smaller amount of Carapils for body. We fermented it with our house ale strain, which is very neutral, and attenuates and flocculates nicely. The beer finishes mostly dry with just a kiss of bready sweetness. We wanted the hops to be the star in this beer, as you would expect, and I believe this beer does an excellent job of showcasing what wet Nugget can be. I’m a big fan of piney flavors in my IPAs, which is a primary reason for me adding a bit of Chinook to the recipe.
Last year, Fresh Nugz was an American Pale Ale but this year we graduated it to IPA status. We ended up using 3 times the amount of hops as last year, and as you’d expect, the hops are much more prevalent. We will also have a wet hop Pale Ale this year, which will be our version of the Keep Colorado LocALE recipe designed by Dry Dock Brewing to bring awareness to the Keep Colorado Locale campaign, but that’s for another blog post.
Fresh Nugz is one of my absolute favorite beers to make, as it involves a few different processes, methods and techniques, but I am glad that I don’t have to brew that way every day. Every once in awhile is a treat. Speaking of treats, come and enjoy a Fresh Nugz. We only get to make it once a year, and it’s going to go fast. There’s nothing quite like some Fresh Nugz.