By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Aug 08, 2022 at 2:02 PM

Every year Sierra Nevada’s fresh hop Celebration IPA rolls out during the holiday season and beer lovers snap it all up. Founders does one called Harvest Ale and Deschutes has its Fresh Haze, too.

They’re popular because folks love the aroma, brightness and flavor (as well as the idea) of using what are also called green or wet hops – raw hops in cone form, right off the bines.

That’s the idea behind two new beers coming from Water Street Brewery, that will use hops grown in the backyard of brewmaster George Bluvas.

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“I planted Saaz, from the Czech Republic, over 10 years ago and have a pretty large established plant,” says Bluvas. “American climate and soil have modified the flavors which were originally herbal and spicy like black pepper, to a fresh cut grass and vanilla like flavor.”

Brewers these days typically don’t toss hop cones into their tanks, instead relying on pellets or oil, both of which have improved shelf lives, consistancy and concentrated flavors.

Fresh hops are best utilized within a few hours of harvesting, says Bluvas.  

“Hops are a perennial, growing 20+ feet every year and then completely dying back to the ground rhizome, growing full again the following year,” he explains. “Fresh hops, in the northern hemisphere, have a harvest window of later august to early September, a short window to get these brewed.”

This year, Bluvas will use his homegrown hops in two brews: a Czech honey pilsner and a double IPA.

“Our Honey Lager Light is based on my favorite Czech beer Pilsner Urquell, which has a significantly stronger hop profile than my American version,” Bluvas says. “I'll do a late hop addition in the boil of an upcoming Czech Honey Pilsner.  

“I'll brew a base beer using pilsner and golden pilsner malt, adjuncting with Wisconsin honey.  This is similar to our Honey Lager base, but with a bit more Golden Pilsner malt for a stronger underlying ‘European’ malt character.

“It will hopped with Czech Saaz and then fresh hops added at the end of boil as well as "wet hopped" after completion. Basically, a stronger flavored version of our bestselling, award-winning Honey Lager.”

At the same time, says Bluvas, and at another of the Water Street Brewery locations – there are four: Oak Creek, Grafton, Lake Country and the soon-to-reopen Downtown – he will brew the double IPA.  

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“I'm going to do late addition with it as well,” he says. “The Double IPA will be slammed with hops od several varieties, so the wet hop will just be a component of a 90 IBU monster that will come out further into fall.  

“Look for pilsner in late September, and Double IPA in late October at all Water Street Brewery locations.”

Bluvas has done similar brews, including an IPA, using his backyard hops, in the past.

It bears noting here that other area brewers do backyard hops brews, too, most notably Company Brewing’s annual Riverwest Backyard Hops pale ale.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.