Craft beer is a beverage built on seasons, with rotating releases being extremely popular these days. Just to start, you’ve got barleywine in the winter, maibock in the spring, refreshing wheat beers in the summer, and pumpkin beers in the fall. But, my favorite seasonal aspect of beer is fresh hop beers.
The majority of the country’s hops are grown in the NW, and hop harvest is now in full swing. Breweries from near and far are high-tailing it over to Yakima or the Willamette Valley to bring back sacks (or truck loads, in some cases) of fresh, wet hops. For those not familiar with the process, the large majority of the hop harvest is dried for use throughout the year. But, there is this limited window when breweries can choose to use the wet hops to brew beer. Hops give off different flavor and aroma profiles when fresh, and the resulting beers can be shockingly good.
Around Seattle, Two Beers Brewing was first to market again this year when they released their 2012 Fresh Hop at their tasting room this past Friday. They’ve already bottled a bunch of it up as well, so expect to see that in stores very soon, if not already. The first fresh hop beer of the year I tried was in Asheville on a trip in mid-July, actually. It was a pale ale from Pisgah Brewing, and I’m assuming hops must grow a bit quicker in that part of the country. Other breweries have been picking up their hops and getting them in the kettle over the past couple of weeks. You can expect to see various releases from now through the end of October. But, get them while you can. Fresh hop beers are obviously drank, um, fresh, and demand is always high for these beers.
If you are looking to find multiple fresh hop beers in one place, your best bet is one of the several festivals throughout WA & OR. Following is a list of some of them.
Brouwer’s Hop Fest
In the past, Hop Fest has been earlier in September which was a bit too early to include more than one or two fresh hop beers. They’ve smartly pushed back the date in order to include more fresh hops this year. Other than fresh hops, they’ll have a total of 60+ hoppy beers pouring throughout the weekend.
WA vs. OR Fresh Hop Throwdown at The Noble Fir
09/29 – 4pm to close
This is the second annual event, which I’m happily part of putting on. We’ll pit 8 WA fresh hop beers vs. 8 OR fresh hop beers in a battle to see which state prevails. There is a private judging earlier in the day, and doors open to the public with all beers on tap at 4pm. Last year, Laurelwood took top honors and led the way for an Oregon win
Yakima Fresh Hop Ale Festival
10/6 – 5pm to 10pm
Held right in the middle of the largest hop growing region in the country, any beer drinker should put this festival on their bucket list. The festival is a great time, and you can literally smell the hops in the air when walking around downtown.
Hood River Hops Fest
09/29 – Noon to 9pm
Fresh hop beers from 20+ craft breweries
Sisters Fresh Hop Fest
09/29 – Noon to 8pm
10+ breweries featuring fresh hop beer.
Portland Fresh Hops Fest at Oaks Amusement Park
10/6 – Noon to 8pm
Great location with probably 20+ fresh hop beers available. Was able to attend a few years ago and loved it.
Willamette Valley Fresh Hops Fest in Eugene
10/20 – Noon to 9pm