Saturday, September 13, 2008

First Fresh Hops 2008

Since John Harris' Lupulin Ale was my favorite fresh-hop beer last year -- and I wasn't alone in that assessment -- I had to be at the Full Sail Pilsner Room last Wednesday when this year's Lupulin was presented to the public. Actually, this was the first of three single-hop variations of the ale, all with the same malt bill. This first batch was made with Mt. Rainier hops.

It wasn't a madhouse at the Pilsner Room, like it was a few months ago when John presented some barrel-aged stouts and porters. So I was able to walk right up and say hello, and snag a seat at the bar so I could eavesdrop as John Foyston interrogated him about the beer. Brett showed up later and had a couple Lupulins with me.

On Friday evening, however, it was a madhouse at Bridgeport when Dave and I went over for the Hop Harvest opening night. I was glad we went, because in addition to this year's offering, they also served up the 2006 and 2007 incarnations of Hop Harvest. That vertical tasting confirmed my opinion that the 2007 Hop Harvest -- while an excellent strong IPA -- overplayed the hops and drowned out the fresh-hop goodness. The 2006 was more to my liking.

On to this year's beers. My first impression is that this batch of Full Sail's Lupulin doesn't have that green, green flavor that last year's had, that was so fantastic. John said that last year's was made with a last-minute windfall of fresh Amarillo hops from Hop Union. He was unable to get any Amarillos this year, but he says that apart from the hops the recipe is the same. That surprised me because the color is quite a bit darker than last year's. Dark but also clear -- wasn't the 2007 Lupulin kind of cloudy?

The 2008 Lupulin reminds me of Deschutes' Green Lakes Organic Ale, which I like a lot. It's got that roasty-sweet richness, plus a lot of hops, naturally. The very bitter finish calls to mind Sierra Nevada's Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale, though the SNSHHA didn't have that rich Green Lakes flavor backing it up. So, I'm a little disappointed in this first taste, but I will be very interested to try the other variants. [Update (2008/10/21): The Nugget- and Cascade-hopped versions are awesome.] And there should be plenty of it to go around: John said he'll brew seven times as much Lupulin this year as last -- 140 barrels vs. 20.

Bridgeport's 2008 brew -- also darker in color than previous years -- seems a little more on target than Full Sail's. You get a little more of the grassy fresh flavor, though the bitterness still is more predominant than I'm looking for. I give a "B" grade to each of the three harvest beers I've had this year -- the third one being Rock Bottom -- but so far my favorite is Bridgeport's.

Stay tuned: the season is just getting started.


  1. I completely agree. I was so disappointed with the Full Sail that I had to go to the bar and ask for a sampler because I thought my server had brought me the wrong beer. Unfortunately, she had brought me the right one. The 2006 Bridgeport was very tasty. The 2008 Bridgeport is the best of this year so far. But, I eagerly await more offerings.

  2. Jason: Yeah, I like the 2008 Lupulin, but it just doesn't scratch my fresh-hop itch. I hear that the next batch, with fresh Cascades instead of Mt. Rainiers, should be on by the weekend. It will be interesting to try.

    If you run across any other good ones, leave us a comment!

  3. Last year's Lupulin wasn't cloudy by my recollection. But of course I'm old and beer-addled at this point.

    Too bad about the Full Sail. Looks like Amarillos are the magic bullet, eh?

  4. Jeff: if the recipe's the same except the hops, I guess you're right. Still, I can't wait to try the 3 single-hop variations; John said at some point they would have them all going at once.

    Have you tried it yet? What's your opinion of it?

  5. I had the Lupulin on the night they brought it out. Having not had last year's batch, I can't make a direct comparison. This is my first run on fresh/wet hopped beer, so my opinion is new for the style. I found the Lupilin to be pretty good, definitely different than what I was expecting. Smoother, I guess - less of an assault on your taste buds.

    However, if this batch is on one end of the scale, I'm definitely interested in sampling other attempts.

  6. Ben: welcome to the fresh-hop world! This is a unique location in space-time.

    The 2008 Lupulin is a fine beer, I don't think "B" is a bad grade. It's not at the low end of the scale.

    But you'll have a blast as you try more of them and get to know that green herbal taste.