Three Fresh Hop Ale Events: Yakima, Hood River, and Seattle
September 28, 2011 - 11:28 AM-- by Kendall Jones, Washington Beer Blog --
Have you noticed all the fresh hop beers showing up at your local beer bar? I hope so. They're delicious. This extremely seasonal style of beer has become very popular in the last few years, which is not surprising given the beer-loving public's voracious appetite for all things hoppy. These days, local craft beer drinkers love IPA; however, fresh hop beers offer something different that their big, hoppy cousins.
This Saturday two festivals provide an opportunity for you to sample a number of different fresh hop ales side-by-side. One event is in Yakima and the other is in Hood River, OR. In a couple of weeks, an event in Seattle invites you to compare fresh hop beers from Washington against fresh hop beers from Oregon in a Fresh Hop Throwdown.
What it is
Fresh Hop Ale can only be brewed during the annual hop harvest. Depending on the year's weather, farmers harvest hops during late August or early September. By definition a Fresh Hop Ale must be brewed using hops that are less than one day off the bine. (Hops grow on bines and not vines.) That is, the hops must be used within 24 hours of harvest. The hops are still wet, which explains why some people refer to this style as Wet Hop Ale.
Normally, hops are harvested, kiln dried, and processed. Hops are most often converted to a pellet form that allows for very effective preservation, which means our craft brewers can make deliciously hoppy beer all year long. To make Fresh Hop Ale, brewers flock to the hop fields at harvest time to intercept batches of hops before they are dried and processed. The flowers are picked from the bines and thrown into the brew in their natural form.
Brewing with fresh hops lends a different sort of hoppiness to a beer. Where fresh hops shine is in adding floral or spicy notes to a beer. Big beers that are overly sweet or aggressively bitter can overwhelm the delicate nuances of the fresh hops. While your instincts might be to brew a big, burly IPA and fresh hop the heck out of it, you'd better be careful. Hop flavor and hop character are not necessarily the same thing. The process is a bit tricky - a delicate balancing act that can result in truly sublime beers.
This weekend we will be at the Yakima Fresh Hop Ale Festival in Yakima where event organizers invited us to act as judges. Last year we attended this festival for the first time (read it) and had a blast. The weather was great and the beer was spectacular. Where better than Yakima to enjoy a variety of fresh hop beers? After all, the Yakima Valley contains approximately 75 percent of the total United States hop acreage, accounting for over 77 percent of the total United States hop crop. Cheers to that!
Yakima Fresh Hop Ale Festival is this Saturday, October 1st, from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. The event features fresh hop beers from more than 20 local and regional breweries. Add to that recipe some local food vendors and live music, with dancing encouraged, and you can bet things will be hopping (so to speak). Some of the less-common Washington breweries participating include Icicle Brewing (Leavenworth), Laht Neppur (Waitsburg), Riverport Brewing (Clarkston), Paradise Creek (Pullman), Horse Heaven Hills, and many others.
Chris Miller, the former Head Brewer at Snipes Mountain Brewing and the man we like to call Hop Yoda, will be making an appearance. He will be pouring beer from his new brewery in Northern California - Berryessa Brewing. Some of us are pretty excited about that.
A couple hours south in Hood River, the Hood River Fresh Hop Fest runs from noon to 9:00 p.m. in the streets of downtown Hood River. An impressive list of breweries will participate. Understandably, you'll find a focus on Oregon beers from breweries like Full Sail, Double Mountain, Big Horse, Laurelwood, Burnside, Hopworks Urban Brewery, and many others.
On October 15th, Geoff Kaiser--one of our fellow beer bloggers/beer writers--presents the Fresh Hop Throwdown pitting 15 fresh hop beers from Washington and Oregon against each other in a side-by-side challenge. For the public, this means that you can sample 15 fresh hop ales in one place. There will also be a judged competition. A winning brewery will be determined, along with a winning state lineup. Results announced at the event.
Fresh Hop Throwdown takes place at the Noble Fir in Ballard on Saturday, October 15th. Public tasting begins at 4:00 p.m.
Participating Washington Breweries:
Participating Oregon Breweries: