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Where Spotted: Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor, 1529 Connecticut Ave. NW
Price: $6.99 per 24 oz bottle
Hop Talk: I already buy beer compulsively, but when the fresh-hop seasonals arrive in the fall, I take to the grocery like a Gulf Coaster before the hurricane, scooping up every bottle labeled “fresh” or “wet-hop” or “harvest.” With regular beer, hop flowers are dried out (and often crushed into pellets that look like rabbit food) before they’re used in the brewing process. Resinous and aromatic, fresh hops lend a more delicate hoppiness than those typically found in bitter-bomb IPAs.
Fresh as Spring: I had just finished grandstanding on this Sierra Nevada bottle when I did a double take—the label said “Southern Hemisphere.” As in New Zealand. The hops were indeed harvested fresh, but back in April when they were immediately shipped to California and brewed into beer that then collected dust for six months before reaching my lips. In retrospect, the beer tasted stale, but in my enthusiasm to make a point, I was quick to justify it as “subtle.” All in all, it was a sobering lesson in the vagaries of “freshness.”