Brewing with Wet (Fresh) Hops


By Jack Horzempa

Fresh Wet Hop Bines

What are the differences between wet hops and dried (kilned) hops

The hops that we typically use when homebrewing our beers have been dried by the hop farms using kilns shortly after the hop cones (flowers) have been harvested. The hop cones immediately after harvesting are wet (fresh) and they need to be dried out otherwise the hops will very quickly start to rot. Ideally this kilning occurs within hours of hop harvesting.

Here is a video illustrating the commercial kilning (drying) of hop cones:


During the kilning/drying process the wet hops will transform from being about 76 – 84% moisture to about 8 – 10% moisture. This is a necessary step for hops to be preserved for future brewing. As can be discerned here, there is a marked difference in the weight of dried hops from wet hops. A common rule of thumb is that 1 ounce of dried hops equates to something like 5 – 6 ounces of wet hops. When brewing with wet hops this difference in weight needs to be accounted for in the beer recipe formulation process.

The other difference between wet hops and dried hops is in the sensory/flavor qualities. The kilning process has impacts beyond just dehydrating the hops including the fact that delicate/volatile aroma oils are outgassed during the heating process.

And if the hops are further processed via pelletizing, the compression that occurs creates further heating which will impact the delicate/volatile aroma oils. These changes could be viewed as being negative changes but drying hops is a necessary aspect for creating a stable product which will be good for brewing for a long time (e.g., several years if the processed hops are stored freezing cold in oxygen depleted mylar packaging).

The wet hops will present different aroma/flavor qualities as compared to dried hops. There will be more of the delicate/volatile aroma oils that would otherwise be driven off via kilning and/or pelletizing. There will also be more qualities from the hop cone material which I have read folks describe as being a “green” flavor. I personally can’t relate to this specific descriptor since “green” is a color for me but the increased amount of cone material will be impactful.

The analogy I have used in the past, which is quite useful to folks who like to cook, is the difference between cooking with herbs which are fresh vs. dried. For example, when cooking with fresh basil you will obtain a different flavor profile in your dish as compared to if you made that same dish using dried basil.

How to obtain wet hops

I likely have a unique journey into being a hop ‘farmer’ as opposed to other homebrewer hop farmers. The one hop plant I have in my backyard is a result of my sister drop shipping a hop rhizome to my wife as a birthday present (my wife’s birthday is in April). My wife and I visited a brewpub in Lake George Village, NY during one summer and we sat outside on a patio for lunch (and beers) with a wooden trellis as our overhead cover with hop plants growing above and providing shade. It was an idyllic setting and the beers were pretty good. My wife told my sister about this and the following birthday the gift arrived. The hop rhizome was from gardeners.com and the packaging simply stated “Hop Rhizome” with no mention of the variety. This hop plant was intended to be ornamental and I purchased an Arch Trellis for this plant:

Home grown fresh hops

This hop plant grew well despite my lack of specific farming skills. I simply dug a hole, threw the hop rhizome (which looked like twig to me) in the hole, and covered up with the dirt. I did water the plant initially (and today when we have dry spells) and my wife would occasionally fertilize (with Miracle-Gro fertilizer). It wasn’t until after several years that a ‘light bulb’ went off and I thought to myself: why not homebrew a wet hopped beer with these cones? I was fortunate to get to know Stan Hieronymus from attending National Homebrewers Conferences (now marketed as HomebrewCon) and he very kindly responded to my numerous e-mail queries. One of the things he advised me on was when to harvest the hops for brewing. He suggested that when most of the hop cones had about 30% browning of the cones this was an ideal time for harvest. I have been doing this for the past 9 years and this works for me. And while harvest time is not the exact same day each year it has been pretty consistently at the same timeframe: second – third week of September for my hop plant/location.

For homebrewers who are looking to grow hops plants in their backyards (or wherever) I would recommend that you grow them the ‘right way’ using a trellis system and select just the strongest 3-4 hop bines. There are several online resources to provide the proper guidance here:




Purchase wet hops

For homebrewers who prefer to not be farmers but still would like to brew a wet hopped beer there are some options. Do you have any homebrewing friends (e.g., members of your homebrewing club) who grow their own hops? Maybe they would permit you to harvest some hops to brew a wet hopped batch (in exchange for drinking some of your beer)?

If homebrewing friends are not an option, there are hop vendors who supply wet hops for commercial brewing and perhaps that is an alternative source you could tap into. If you have a relationship with a local craft brewery that annually produces wet hopped beers maybe they would be willing to share some of their supply with you?

In the past I have read where some homebrew stores would permit their customers to pre-order wet hops. It may be worthwhile to check with your Local Homebrew Store (LHBS) to see if this is an option.

Keep in mind that regardless of your source (homebrewing friend, commercial brewery, LHBS, etc.) that you will need to be able to brew the beer when the hops are harvested since wet hops need to be used withing 24 hours (48 hours tops if the hops are stored cold after harvesting). Given this timing, perhaps growing your own hops is logistically the easiest solution.

While we are discussing the purchase of wet hops, there is a new product from Yakima Chief Hops - Frozen Fresh Hops for commercial breweries:


With this new product commercial breweries are no longer hostage to harvest time to produce wet hopped beers but can instead produce them year-round. But the logistics are a bit more challenging since this product needs super cold temperature storage (i.e., between 0°F and 14°F) which is essentially freezer temperatures. They must be transported via sub-freezing shipping containers and/or REEFER trucks and stored at freezer temperatures upon receipt by the brewery. If the brewery only has a cold room (i.e., refrigerator temperature) this new product must be used fairly quickly (i.e., within 48 hours of receipt). If you have a relationship with a local craft brewery that has freezer storage and they order this new product from YCH then maybe they would sell you some to homebrew a wet hopped beer.

How and when to use wet hops in the brewing process

Wet hops could be used in every step of the brewing process but this could be tricky for some of the additions.

Wet hops for bittering (beginning of boil)

There is no way to know the alpha acid content of the wet hops (with the potential exception of YCH Frozen Fresh Hops) so I would suggest that using them for the bittering addition is non-ideal. You could just make a guess about the alpha acid percentage based upon hop variety but it would be safer just to use commercial hops which provide an AA% on the package for bittering. That is what I choose to do when I homebrew my annual batch of wet hopped beer.

Other additions in the kettle

Since later additions in the kettle are for flavor/aroma this is an ideal way to used your wet hops. Since adding hops at the end of boil (knockout) is the best time to preserve hop aroma oils that is how I choose to use my wet hops. I place the freshly harvested wet hops in a big nylon bag at the end of boil and conduct a hop-stand of 30 – 40 minutes; this will best obtain and preserve the wet hops aroma oils.

Dry Hopping

In theory you could also utilize wet hops for dry hopping but there are some considerations to keep in mind:

Harvest timing:

Since you will be brewing on one day (ideally at the optimum harvest day for a given hop plant) the dry hop addition will be occurring several days later which will be a sub-optimum harvest date if using the same hop plant (hop variety). If you have several hop plants/varieties perhaps a week later one of your other plants would be in optimum condition for harvesting for the dry hop addition?

Potential contamination:

My personal concern when using wet hops is that there may be some tiny insects within the cones which could harbor bacteria which could infect the beer. I am not so much concerned about the insects per se but what they may be carrying (for example fruit flies are notorious for harboring bacteria which can infect beer). When I add my wet hops to the kettle I know that the high heat will effectively kill any bacteria which may be present on (or within) the wet hops. I personally would never consider using freshly picked wet hops for a dry hop addition out of contamination/infection concerns.

Beer styles best suited for producing a wet hopped beer

Since wet hops could be used the same as dried hops in the production of beer it could be argued that you could brew any beer style you want with wet hops. But since a main difference of wet hops vs. dried hops is they preserve the delicate/volatile aroma oils it seems to me that a beer style which features hop aroma (but not dry hopping) would be ideal candidates. For me that is an easy answer: American Pale Ale.

How I brew my annual batch of wet hopped beer – Gary’s Harvest Ale

As I already mentioned I annually (starting in 2013) homebrew a wet hopped beer and over the past few years I have a good friend Gary help me as my hop harvester so I have started naming this beer Gary’s Harvest Ale in appreciation for his help. As the wort is boiling Gary will harvest the cones from the hop plant in my backyard. Each year we obtain varying amounts for the harvest and we collectively decide how much of the wet hops to used. This would appear to be an interesting exercise/choice but heretofore every year the decision has been to add them all at the end of boil. As a word of caution: a large amount of wet hops acts like a sponge and will suck up a fair bit of wort and I learned fairly quickly to use a higher than normal target for the OG to compensate.

Before I get into the details of the exact recipe for Gary’s Harvest Ale (which is an APA) a few thoughts.

Select your favorite bittering hops for producing APA/IPA type beers. For me this would be German Magnum but other choices such as Warrior, Horizon, etc. would be suitable.

Out of habit when brewing APAs I choose to add some flavor hops for the last 15 minutes of boil but perhaps no hops for flavor could be considered a better choice; i.e., let the wet hop aroma/flavor be the sole flavor contributor.

My favorite yeast for fermenting APA/IPA beers is Fermentis US-05 but select your preferred yeast for this beer.

Recipe: Gary’s Harvest Ale

Batch Size: 5.5 gallons

Target OG: 1.053 (achieved)

Target FG: 1.008

Color: 5 - 6 SRM

Target Bitterness: 50 IBUs


  • 10.5 lbs. 2-row Pale Malt

  • 0.5 lbs. 20-L Crystal Malt

  • 1 ounce German Magnum (12% AA)

  • 0.5 ounces Cascade (5% AA)

  • 16 ounces (2021 harvest value) of wet hops

  • Fermentis US-05

Additional items:

  • 1 tsp. rehydrated Irish Moss flakes (last 15 minutes of boil)

  • ½ tsp. Wyeast yeast nutrient (last 10 minutes of boil)


Mash at a water-to-grist ratio of 1.5 qts/lb. Add lactic acid (if needed) to achieve a mash pH of 5.2 – 5.4. Mash at 153 °F for 60 minutes. Sparge until approximately 7 gallons of wort is achieved (tailor amount based upon your boil off rate to obtain 5.5 gallons of wort post boil).

Boil vigorously for 60 minutes in an uncovered brew kettle adding the German Magnum hops at the beginning of boil. With 15 minutes of boil remaining add the rehydrated Irish Moss flakes. Add 0.5 ounces of Cascade hops for the last 10 minutes for a flavor addition & Wyeast yeast nutrient. Add wet hops at end of boil and conduct a 40 minute hop-stand.

Ferment warm per the recommended fermentation temperatures by the yeast vendor (I choose to ferment at 70 °F). Package when primary fermentation is complete.


Replace 2-row Pale Malt with 7 lbs. Briess Pilsen dried malt extract. Steep crystal malt in 1 gallon of hot water (150 – 170 °F) for 30 minutes.

Dissolve extract in enough hot reverse osmosis/distilled water or filtered tap water to yield a pre-boil volume of around 6.5 gal. Adjust this volume as needed to account for your boil-off rate. Stir thoroughly to dissolve the extract and bring to a boil. Add the liquid from the steeped specialty malt to the brew kettle.

Boil vigorously for 60 minutes in an uncovered brew kettle adding the German Magnum hops at the beginning of boil. With 15 minutes of boil remaining add the rehydrated Irish Moss flakes. Add 0.5 ounces of Cascade hops for the last 10 minutes for a flavor addition & Wyeast yeast nutrient. Add wet hops at end of boil and conduct a 40 minute hop-stand.

Chill, pitch, and ferment as above.

Below is a photo of Gary’s Harvest Ale which was bottled October 21, 2021 and even at 10 months of age (cellar stored) this beer is still drinking very nicely. I don’t understand the science but for some reason my wet-hopped beers hold up extremely well with age (which is counterintuitive for being a hoppy beer).

Wet Hop Pale Ale Recipe

It will soon be hop harvest season. Time to get wet & wild*!

* The wild part is optional. 😉

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