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This is a brew that has been years in the making. When the idea for Lake Monster brewing was in its early stages, Founder Matt Zanetti and his father began planting hops on their small family farm just over the border in western Wisconsin. As this year’s crop came to maturity this fall, we got our first chance to utilize these hops by making a fresh-hop beer.
Fresh-hop beers are unique, because while the vast majority of beers use dried hop cones or hop pellets, a fresh-hop beer takes the hops straight from the vine to the brew kettle without any further processing. Once hop cones are picked, they either need to be dried within 24-48 hours to prevent mold damage and preserve flavor, or put straight into the beer fresh. For obvious practical reasons, dried hops are the norm, but breweries in proximity to hop growing regions have been making fresh-hop beers as fall seasonals for years, and we thought this would be the perfect way to showcase the hops from our own farm.
So a few weeks ago we went out to the Zanetti family farm and spent the day cutting down hop vines and picking the fresh cones, then took the fresh hop cones directly to the brewery and put them in the beer a mere hours after picking. Fresh hops have a flavor distinct from dried hops, much like the difference between fresh and dried herbs, and tend to give more resiny, grassy, herbal flavors. I wanted Loonatick to showcase the fresh hop flavor, and designed the beer around a clean American ale yeast and relatively light malt flavor to let the hops be the star of the show. We used fresh Cascade and Mount Hood hops, two classic American varieties that create a complex hop aroma and flavor.
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