Beer Man

Beer-jolais Nouveau: Could fresh hops do for beer what Beaujolais Nouveau does for wine?

On the third Thursday of every November (today), vintners in France have been releasing a kind of red wine called Beaujolais Nouveau.

The wine isn't powerful or rich or even that all that good. Its main quality is light freshness. It's fermented for just a few weeks and is meant to be imbibed immediately.

In the United States, in the late summer and early fall each year, breweries around the country converge on hops farms in the Pacific Northwest -- and increasingly at hops farms closer to home -- and then rush back to their breweries to make fresh-hopped beers.

The goal is to capture the more citrusy, grassy flavors that fade just a few hours after harvesting.

Once they are brewed, however, these beers -- also known as wet-hopped beers -- are released any time between August and November.

Now Steve Indrehus, the head brewer at Tommyknocker Brewing in Idaho Springs, would like to change that by creating a wet-hop day for beer.

"The concept I'm tyring to promote is that breweries release their wet-hopped beers all at the same time to help market them," he says. "It would be fun to have a day that the industry could get together, and fun for consumers to have something to look forward to."

It also happens that a wet-hop day would coincide well with the Great American Beer Festival next year, which takes place September 29 through October 1, 2011. The date -- two weeks later than the 2010 fest -- would give breweries time to make the beers.

In October, Tommyknocker made a special wet-hopped beer called Colorado IPA Nouveau that was sold exclusively to Old Chicago restaurants in Colorado. It was part of the chain's recent efforts to make itself stand out again in the craft-beer scene.

Although Old Chicago is owned by Rock Bottom Brewing -- and, as of this week, a new parent company called CraftWorks -- it wanted to team up with other brewers.

"They want to be of a reputable beer bar and have a wider style and selection," Indrehus says of Old Chicago. "They are being smart business people. They want some of Breckenridge brewery's customers in their door, some of Tommyknocker's customers."

Tommyknocker picked the hops at San Juan Hop Farms in Montrose and brought them back to the brewery within 24 hours to capture the smell and taste of the field, Indrehus says. Other Colorado breweries have been using hops grown in Colorado as well - a fledgling industry that has grown rapidly over the past three years.

"If the concept takes off, it would be profitable for all of the hops growers," Indrehus says. "It's a no-brainer for all of us if we coin this Nouveau concept."

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