Say it with us: lotsa hops. Right now in the Pacific Northwest, it’s harvest time for humble humulus lupulus—those special little green cones that both preserve our favorite beverage and pack it with flavor. We're talking flavor notes ranging from passionfruit to pine and black pepper.
Peak freshness is the appeal of the fresh hop beer season, when cones straight from the vine are thrown still “wet” into the brew, often yielding flavors you won’t get from vacuum-packed hops and pellets. We should know—Willamette and Yakima valleys are pretty much the horn of plenty in the global hop market.
This year, it’s a bumper crop, with national trade organization USA Hops predicting an increased harvest yield (up 13 million pounds from 2015) to service a very “thirsty market.”
Fresh hops your jam? You're in luck. This Saturday, September 24, Hood River throws down its annual fresh hopstravaganza. This year, Hops Fest offers somewhere in the vicinity of 75 beers—perhaps the region's most comprehensive tap list of fresh hop offerings. The 2016 line-up reads heavy on Citra, Amarillo, and the classic Big Cs (Centennial, Chinook, Cascade)—all packed by the pound into a list that ranges from sour IPAs to Cascadian dark ales. If that doesn’t make you salivate, check out these juicy picks:
Look Out Fresh Hop—Worthy Brewing
Hopped with Goschie Farms’s first-ever harvest of experimental hop X-331 (so new it even sounds like the future!), this pale promises to sling serious dankness along with aromas of grapefruit.
Killer Red Ale—Double Mountain
When this year’s harvest of Perle arrived early, the Hood River brewery was ready. The resulting biscuity red—with Sterling hops thrown in for good measure—fits the season with flavor notes of “apple and forest.”
The Lake O brewer takes a double IPA and makes it over as a fresh hop sour. In this citrusy beast: Amarillo and Centennial hops from Woodburn’s Crosby Hop Farm.
Oktoberfresh—Zoiglhaus Brewing Co.
From the heart of Lents, a perfect Oregon toast to the long-ago nuptials of Crown Prince Ludwig Princess Therese. Oktoberfest goes local with this Märzen, spiced with grassy, fresh US Golding hops.
Off the Fence—Crux Fermentation Project
For this Northwest-style pale, Crux threw in the crop of Cascade hops growing right outside the brewery. From the festival notes: “Talk about fresh, these hops hit the hop back less than 10 minutes after being picked!”
The 2016 Hood River Hops Fest takes place on Saturday, Sept 24 from noon to 8 p.m. in downtown Hood River.