The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a fine, but imperfect, story about five Wisconsin breweries partnering to create beer made with unkilned Wisconsin hops. The story hit a rough patch of air about half way in.
The advantage of using wet hops is that it produces a fresher, more authentic taste, said Jon Reynolds, managing director of the Midwest Hops and Barley Co-op, a growers organization based in Onalaska.
“People always ask, ‘What was beer like 100 years ago?’ ” said Russ Klisch, Lakefront Brewery owner. “Well, that’s probably what it was like.”
OK, trouble also appeared a little bit earlier, something in the second paragraph about the beers being “more flavorful.” Hey, I like the aromas and flavors that result when brewers use hops directly from the bine. There’s I reason a found time to attend the Hood River Hops Festival in September.
But I wouldn’t necessarily call the beers more flavorful, and I certainly don’t know what the bleep a “more authentic taste” might be.
I do know that using unkilned hops would not be the way to replicate the taste of beers 100 years ago. One hundred years ago, brewers used whole leaf hops (some, such as Sierra Nevada and Deschutes do today) that looked much like unkilned hops, but they were kilned and sometimes treated in such a way they lost many of their desirable attributes.1
One hundred years ago, Wisconsin brewers produced 5 million barrels of beer. One hundred years ago, the Wisconsin hop industry — which flourished briefly in the 1870s — was long gone.
That Wisconsin brewers are using Wisconsin hops is a pretty good story, and they way they are using them is equally interesting. No need to gussy things up with questionable claims and impossible to define words like “authentic.” (Yes, the C word also appears, but let’s not revisit that discussion.)
1 They differ in other ways as well, but you’ll have to buy the book.