Wormtown Wet Hop IPA, Worcester, Mass.
Date: November 13,2018
The Story— Only recently you could only get a wet hopped ale from the West Coast. Wet hopped beers are brewed from fresh hops — cut from vines hours before their immersion in the kettle. Wet hops have a integrity that’s hard to define and they’re not all that easy to brew. Fresh hops are almost always dried before they go to the brewer — for one thing it cuts the weight of shipping enormously. But wet hops are heavy and … well, wet. Brewers have to figure out how much water is in the plant and decrease that amount in the kettle and it’s rarely an exact science. Done right the hop flavor is evident but subtle, a careful hand with the malt is essential.
We’ve had over 80 wet hopped ales and lagers since our first one — a Sierra Nevada brought to a Brickskeller Tasting we hosted in 1997. There hasn’t been a bad one in the batch. We think that any brewery that goes to the expense and difficulty of finding wet hops and using them is committed enough to brewing excellence that “really good” would be almost a failure.
In one November weekend we found three wet hopped ales on tap and each one had its charms. We found the best of the bunch at a seafood restaurant in Worcester, Massachusetts — Sole Proprietor. (Note to lobster lovers — go there for the excellent lobster, but be sure they don’t “clean” it and wash off all the flavor). In a range of several beers, a few local stood out, but none more than Wormtown Wet Hop IPA. The hops came from a community farm producer nearby and the Wormtown brewers had an uncanny ability to sense what to do with them.
The Beer— it starts with a hint of metal-bitter, but it quickly turns to a lovely hops spice and ends with a dry and balanced bitter. The local hop flavor soars in a nearly unique melange of spice leaf and fruit. Some juicy fruit and stone as it drinks, but so much less in your face than most 21st century hops. Closer to a “hoppy” beer of decades ago– and such a welcome step back in time. Ellie appreciated the well crafted blend of hop flavors, clean malts and evident freshness. Oh my I wish I wish I could have brought back a keg of this gem!
Value — Excellent. At almost any price. The $7.50 “pint” was standard bar pricing for a beer, but this was as much an experience as a glass of beer.