First let me give you a few recommendations from what I've tried so far. Last year when I boastfully listed all the fresh-hop beers I had tried, Jeff Alworth asked a very reasonable question: "Which ones were good?". Now, almost every one of them on my list was a beer I would have again. Some of them were fantastic. However, many of them -- even some fantastic ones -- failed to really show off the distinctive flavor of green un-dried hops. This year I want to lump the beers into three categories: those that nailed the fresh-hop flavor and must be tried immediately; those that have a nice fresh-hop flavor but won't knock you out of your chair; and those that should not be allowed to distract you during this holy time of year.
- Deschutes Fresh-Hopped Mirror Pond
- Full Sail Lupulin (right now it's the First Gold variant)
- Rock Bottom Hop Harvest
- Bridgeport Hop Harvest
- Oakshire Harvest Ale (oops, all dried hops)
- Sierra Nevada 2010 Harvest Ale
- Hale's Harvest Ale (all dried hops)
- Hopworks Gayle's Pale (all dried hops)
- Deschutes King Cone
I usually am not very impressed by Sierra Nevada's Harvest, but I think they did a good job capturing the fresh flavor this year. And yes, it uses un-dried hops, unlike their Southern Hemisphere Harvest, and unfortunately unlike Hale's Harvest Ale, which the brewery has told me uses "FRESH dried" hops. I feel an Honest Fresh-Hop Project coming on. Nevertheless, Hale's is a robust, malty, hoppy delight, and it comes in six-packs. Good thing to have in the fridge this time of year.
Anyway, this is a work in progress. Next week I hope to have more recommendations as more beers come out [Update: click here for the second report]. And remember to check the Fresh Hop Map for where to find stuff.