I'm very excited about the Fresh Hop Tastival coming up Saturday at Hopworks. Although I didn't go quite as overboard this year as last, I have been running around trying to taste some of the 2008 fresh hop beers. Here's what I got around to, roughly in order of favorite to least favorite:
- Full Sail: Lupulin with Nugget Hops
- Full Sail: Lupulin with Cascade Hops
- Laurelwood: Hop Bale Pale
- Bridgeport: Hop Harvest
- Laurelwood: Fresh Nugs
- Lucky Lab: The Mutt
- New Old Lompoc: Fresh Hop Red
- Deschutes: Hop Trip
- Widmer: TEAser
- Full Sail: Lupulin with Mt. Rainier Hops
- Rock Bottom: Hop Harvest
- Hopworks: Fest of Fury
- Rogue: Independence Fresh Hop Ale
- McMenamins CPR: India Pale Ale
- Roots: Hoppopotamus
- New Old Lompoc: Hop Press
After my disappointment with the first batch of Lupulin to come out, I was really happy to try the other two batches and find that they almost got me back to that happy place I was last year with the Amarillo-hopped Lupulin. Hop Trip fell a little in my estimation this year, mainly because the rest of the competition was so good. For example, I really slammed Bridgeport in 2007 because the hoppiness drowned out the freshness, but I feel like they got it right this year.
The Lucky Lab also got it right with the Mutt this year: it tastes much better than last year's. It's an amazingly mild 3.2% ABV -- that's even lower than Oklahoma/Utah 3.2%, which is ABW (about 4% ABV) -- but the fresh flavor shines through. The flyer describing it at the bar mentions that it was brewed with 45 pounds of fresh hops, but the hop-gleaning party supposedly yielded 125 pounds. Hopefully that means that there are three batches of it made up and ready to drink.
The Widmer and Laurelwood 2008 offerings tasted better to me also. Widmer's uses an experimental new hop with supposedly 0% bitter alpha acids, though I thought it was nicely bitter. New Old Lompoc didn't brew Star of India -- which I thought was really good last year -- but they did a great job with the Fresh Hop Red. It's very similar to last year's Harvest Man -- I think they're both based on their Proletariat Red -- but with a more prominent fresh hop flavor.
Even with that head start, there are a lot of beers on the list that I can't wait to try, like Ninkasi, Double Mountain, Pelican, and the fresh-hopped pale from Hopworks. The Tastival will be a great time, don't miss it!