From the bottle label of the 13th annual release of Sierra Nevada Brewing's Harvest Wet Hop Ale:
Our Harvest Ale was the first American ale ever brewed with 100% fresh-picked, "wet" hops. In just one day, we harvest hops in Yakima, WA, ship them that night to our brewery in Chico, CA, and then rush them into our brew kettle as they are unloaded at dawn the next day.
In my glass, I noticed aromas of the field (grass or hay), forest (pine, woody), fruit (orange marmalade), and a minty/eucalyptus note. There's a touch of biscuity malt as a slight counterweight to all those aromatics.
How do 'wet-hops' differ from 'regular' hops? Here, from the New York Times:
Hops give beer its distinctive bitterness and lend it other lively notes that range from citrus to flowers. But brewers usually use dried processed pellets of hops [or the cured whole cone]. The fall hops harvest is their brief window of opportunity to brew with the fresh green cones to make beers with a subtle range of hops flavor.
Standard high-hop styles, such as India pale ales, which can be quite bitter, don’t usually work with fresh hops, said John Harris, the brewmaster at Full Sail Brewing Company’s brewery in Portland, Ore.
“In order to taste and feel the hops, you have to put them in the right kind of beer,” he said. “If the beer gets too bitter, you start losing the nuances of the fresh hops.”
A Hop and a Sip to Fresh Ales
Dining & Wine
New York Times
October 20, 2009
Cured hops have less of that 'green' field character and more of a spicy, herbal character. In addition, the hop bitterness of cured hops can be measured, an important parameter for brewers when formulating consistent recipes.
I have yet to taste a truly wet-hopped beer, just out of the fermenter. Beer is a perishable foodstuff: drink it fresh.
“These [wet-hopped] beers won’t hold up,” Mr. [Phil] Markowski [the brewmaster at Southampton Publick House in Southampton, N.Y.] said. “They’re brewed for the moment. It’s like fresh local tomatoes and corn, an old-fashioned way to remember traditional seasons.”
That being said, Sierra Nevada's 2009 Harvest Ale was a delight, even in this form. It's 6.7 alcohol by volume (abv).