Beer Man

Fresh Hop Beers Are Getting Their Own GABF Moment This Year

Empourium Brewing hosted its own fresh hop festival last weekend.
Empourium Brewing hosted its own fresh hop festival last weekend. Empourium Brewing
There is really only one kind of beer in the brewing world that can only be made at a specific time of the year: fresh hopped beers. While many other styles, such as pumpkin, maibock and peach, are associated with a particular season, they can actually be brewed whenever.

But fresh, or wet, hopped beers, by their very definition, should only be made with just-harvested whole cone hops, and many breweries pride themselves on using hops that were on the vine less than 24 hours or even twelve hours earlier. (In Colorado, many use Western Slope-grown hops for their beers.)

Since hops are harvested in late August or early September, this means that fresh hop beers typically start showing up around that time as well — which can sometimes make it difficult for them to be included in the judging at the Great American Beer Festival, since competition beers are submitted in July.

click to enlarge Goldspot was one of many breweries that made a fresh hop beer this year. - GOLDSPOT BREWING
Goldspot was one of many breweries that made a fresh hop beer this year.
Goldspot Brewing
With pandemic protocols in place, the judging began even earlier in 2021, which meant that fresh hop beers wouldn't have been included at all if the Brewers Association, which hosts the competition, hadn't decided to go out of its way to create a special judging panel this year (the rest of the winners at GABF were announced on September 10). At least eighty entries were judged by a special late-season panel October 12; the winners will be announced Friday, October 15.


Doing so took extra work, but it was worth it, says GABF competition director Chris Swersey. “Brewers love the connection with their hop growers, and drinkers enjoy these unique hop-driven ales and lagers. They are "becoming harvest season staples within the year-round cycle of beer styles."

Dozens and dozens of breweries across Colorado have already released their fresh hop beers, and many of them are still available in taprooms and in cans. These include Comrade Brewing's Super Damp, which won GABF medals in 2014 and 2015 and is a fresh-hop version of its flagship Super Power IPA.
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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes