Beer of the Week: Green Truck

County Fair, frozen fresh hops allow Nickel Beer Co. to brew wet-hop double IPA outside of hop-harvest season

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Does anybody out there have one of those friends who is just obsessed with some obscure item or topic, so much that they bring it up without fail whether or not there’s a conversational segue? For me, that friend is Tom Nickel. The owner of Nickel Beer Co. (not to mention O’Brien’s Pub and The Pub at Lake Cuyamaca) and a World Beer Cup champion brewer, he loves hoppy beers. But that love for IPAs pales (get it?) in comparison to his outright infatuation with wet-hop IPAs. Also referred to as “fresh-hop” IPAs, this style of beer is produced during fall’s hop harvest season when breweries are able to procure whole-cone hops and get them straight into their beer, typically within hours of being picked off the bines. Doing so results in a beer that’s incredibly verdant in terms of aroma and flavor, and nobody I know enjoys the ingestion or production of these IPAs more than Tom. Every year, he challenges himself to make as many as possible before harvest season is over and he must begrudgingly go back to drinking cut-rate regular San Diego IPAs. I kid, of course, but if this guy could drink wet-hop beers year-round, he most certainly would. And thanks to a special request and some modern ingenuity, for the first time ever, he’s able to get his hands on one in June…and so are you. Enter this week’s featured beer, Green Truck, a wet-hop double IPA that’s won awards at the San Diego International Beer Competition. That distinction and the San Diego County Fair’s desire to offer gold-medal brews from that contest at its new Craft Beer Experience area, led organizers to ask Nickel to brew Green Truck for them. As a result, it will be available at that event every day until the fair folk fold up their tents and roll out of town. But how, you ask? Frozen Fresh Hops. Fresh-harvested whole cone hops sub-zeroed Birds Eye-style to hold in all of their just-picked vibrancy, they are an innovation of Washington-based Yakima Chief Hops, and the entire reason this beer could be tapped in the summer for the first time. In addition to fresh-cut grass, lovely notes of pineapple, passion fruit, guava and orange pith coalesce en route to a resinous finish. It’s a tasty beer that I’m stoked to have more than once this year – and at the typically beer-barren Fair, no less. Now, that’s fresh!

Green Truck wet-hop double IPA has been brewed every wet-hop season at Nickel Beer Co. since we opened in 2013. Over the years, the hops and where they are sourced from has changed from San Diego to Oregon as availability of local hops has waned, but never has it been brewed outside of the August/September time frame of hop harvest. When the San Diego County Fair contacted me and said that they would like to pour the beer at the new Craft Beer Experience for the entire duration of the event, I at first said it couldn’t be done. Then I remembered that Yakima Chief had sold Frozen Fresh Hops in the past. I was in luck and they still had some frozen Mosaic wet hops available. One hundred pounds of beautiful frozen hop cones were overnighted to the brewery while we brewed up the beer. The result is an 8% alcohol-by-volume double IPA with great tropical-fruit notes and a classic wet-hop flavor. I am honored and grateful to be able to share this beer at my hometown County Fair! And for anyone keeping count, we have already made two wet-hop beers this calendar year, so I am hoping to hit 10 total!”

Tom Nickel, Owner & Brewmaster, Nickel Beer Co.
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