Monday, September 20, 2010

Fresh Hops 2010 -- The Story So Far

Some years I try to keep up a streak of tasting a different fresh-hop beer every day while they're out. I'm going for it this year, but it already has some gaps. Maybe I started a little early, but I try and soak it up while it's available. Anyone have an idea for me for today? I don't have anything on the radar, so if you know of something available today that's not on this list, let me know.

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.

Must try:
  • Deschutes Fresh-Hopped Mirror Pond
  • Full Sail Lupulin (right now it's the First Gold variant)
  • Rock Bottom Hop Harvest
  • Bridgeport Hop Harvest
Worth a try:
  • Oakshire Harvest Ale (oops, all dried hops)
  • Sierra Nevada 2010 Harvest Ale
Don't get distracted:
  • Hale's Harvest Ale (all dried hops)
  • Hopworks Gayle's Pale (all dried hops)
  • Deschutes King Cone
Bridgeport and Rock Bottom have improved their fresh-hop beers this year, and you should check both of them out (though I didn't care for the cask version of Bridgeport's that was available at the beer release party).  Lupulin and Mirror Pond are returning favorites, though the Mirror Pond is not quite as stellar as last year.  Dave summed it up well by saying that last year's was unmistakably Mirror Pond, but with extra goodness from the fresh hops.  This year's is really good, but won't remind you much of Mirror Pond, and the freshness isn't as intense as last year. [Update 2010/09/26: I had the FH Mirror Pond again Friday, and the love is back. I don't know why the first try didn't grab me, but this beer is incredible. Don't miss it.]

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.


  1. Pity you didn't like that Hopworks--I assume it's an homage to Gayle Goschie of Goschie Farms. Which is very cool. I love that now even hop farmers can become celebrities. We do love our beer!

  2. I thought it was cool that Bridgeport featured Gayle at their Hop Harvest party. As a total beer groupie, I had to walk up and drunkenly bend her ear for a while.

    Last year Deschutes named one of their fresh-hop beers Goschie's Sterling.

  3. I know you clarified with me on harvest, but let me set it straight for those reading your blog.
    Harvest Ale-fall seasonal with dried German Hallertau pellets-bottle and draft
    Wet Hop Harvest-same beer BUT with wet American Hallertau-draft only
    Locavore-Pale ale with wet Eugene Grown Organic Chinooks. In my humble opinion, the better of the two we did.

  4. Thanks, Matt!

    The confusion was mine -- you guys never labeled or promoted Harvest as a fresh-hop beer. I can't wait to try the fresh-hop ones you mentioned.