I haven't gone as insane this year as I usually do for Fresh Hop beers. I think it's the early arrival of the season -- the slow trickle of fresh-hop creations kept the pressure from building up to intolerable levels.
Still, it is a favorite time of year, and of course my fresh hop mania is what launched me down the path to beer blogging in the first place. So I have tried a few of 2009's fresh hop offerings:
- Deschutes Fresh-hopped Mirror Pond: Stellar, my new favorite. Drink it. Now.
- Deschutes Fresh-hopped Hop Henge: They've been playing around with Hop Henge for most of this year. Now with Fresh Hops? An amazing tour de force.
- Full Sail Lupulin: The 2007 champion (brewed that year with Amarillo hops). Of the three hops tried in 2008, the Nugget variety was best. This year I've tried the Crystal-hopped Lupulin, and it's another winner. Excited to try the other experiment: Cascades.
- Bridgeport Hop Harvest: Tastes a lot like Lupulin to me. Which is a good thing, letting the sweet fresh hops do the work.
- Laurelwood Fresh Hop Bale Pale Ale: Light and crisp, with the honeyed green-hop flavor that is called for.
- Hopworks Bike Beer: An IPA with some freshly-picked hops in it. A lovely beer, one of my favorites at BikeToBeerFest.
- Deschutes Hop Trip: Another perennial favorite. Once the FH Mirror Pond is gone, I'll start in on this Crystal-hopped beauty.
- Hales O'Brien's Harvest Ale: Something I look for every year. A nice, dense ale, with a little fresh-hop flavor on the top. [Update 2009/09/29: Apparently there are no fresh hops in this year's O'Brien's.]
Our work isn't finished yet. The Mutt was not yet on at the Lucky Lab earlier in the week when I was there, but I'm eager to try it since the sweat of my own brow went into the hops for it. I haven't hit Roots, Widmer, Lompoc, or Rock Bottom yet for fresh-hop ales, and of course there is the Fresh Hop Festival Saturday the 10th at Oaks Park. If that wasn't enough, Angelo has some seldom-seen fresh-hopped beers lined up as part of Brewpublic's 1st-anniversary party at Bailey's. Fresh-hop beers from Upright, Barley Brown's, Vertigo, and Standing Stone?!?! That's ridiculous Angelo, are you trying to kill us?
One more thing: if you buy a growler of fresh-hopped pale ale, and have a little left when it's past its prime, don't forget that the original Stale Pale Ale Martini was made with Laurelwood's Hop Bale. I had a flat Lupulin Martini the other night, and it was fabulous.
Life is short. Stop and smell the fresh hops.