Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fresh Hop Tastival 2010

The insistent rain made for a damp day Saturday for the Oregon Brewers Guild/Oregon Bounty Fresh Hop Tastival at Oaks Park, but it was still a very enjoyable festival. I was happy to get to fill in some of the blanks on my fresh-hop dance card, including some really delicious ones. Full Sail's Hopfenfrisch was the first fresh-hop pilsner that has ever appealed to me, and was my favorite new discovery of the fest. It had a nice crisp flavor, with an appropriate amount of hopping that included that green fresh-hop flavor we're looking for. Next to that, I really liked Fort George's Cohoperative, which was light and flowery, showing off the hops really well. Double Mountain's Killer Green is a big monster as usual, and Astoria Brewing came out with one of the few dark ales that still showed off the fresh-hop flavor.

There were a few misses, though. As many people noted, the Hop Diddly brewed on the Green Dragon's pilot system was a complete disaster. I had Dave take a picture of me pouring mine right into the city storm drain, so it could mingle with Portland's combined sewer outflow a few yards away at the Willamette River. (Sorry to commemorate the Tastival with that picture, but I forgot to take any others.) The other beer that I dumped was Ram Brewery's Hop Sack Harvest Ale, which was pretty bland except for an unwelcome musky flavor.

Jeff Alworth had issued an advisory against Philadelphia's Sellwood Golden, and while it was a little homebrewy and not that good, it wasn't in the same league of awful as Hop Diddly. I even finished my sample of it as I scarfed down a Philly's cheesesteak. On the upside, McMenamins must have hand-picked the most awesome keg of Thundercone for the festival -- I enjoyed my first taste of Thundercone at the Crystal, but the festival batch was seriously good -- very lovely green floral hops flavor. Thanks to Rich for tipping me off to it. Anyone know which McM's brewery made that batch?

Because of the rain, I spent a lot longer in the tent Saturday than I did at last year's fest. It was a pretty awful atmosphere -- even though it wasn't very cold in the tent, it was so humid you could see your breath. The lighting was pretty grotesque in there also. I'll never complain about the convention center setting of the Spring Beer and Wine Fest again. Luckily, the rain mostly let up a little later, and it was possible to stand around outside.

There's one more Fresh Hop Tastival, this Saturday in Eugene. If you want a cheat sheet, here is my final ranking of the fresh hop beers I've tried this year:

Must try:
  • Deschutes Fresh-Hopped Mirror Pond
  • Ninkasi Total Crystallization (fresh-hopped Total Domination)
  • Walking Man Hop-Along
  • Full Sail Lupulin (I like the First Gold version slightly more than the Centennial)
  • Rock Bottom Hop Harvest
  • Full Sail Hopfenfrisch
  • Ft. George Cohoperative
  • Upright Tyler the Elder
  • Bridgeport Hop Harvest
  • Elysian/New Belgium Trip VI
  • Double Mountain Killer Green
  • Ninkasi Parlay
  • Lompoc Crystal Missile
  • Laurelwood Hop Pickin Pale
  • Lucky Lab The Mutt
Worth a try:
  • Alameda Failing Street IPA
  • Deschutes Hop Trip
  • Sierra Nevada 2010 Harvest Ale
  • Oakshire Localvore
  • Lompoc Ale Conner ESB
  • Pelican Elemental Ale
  • Deschutes Yam-a Lam-a
  • Sierra Nevada 2010 Estate Ale (usually better than Harvest, this year a little blander)
  • Everybody's Brewing Head Stash
  • Amnesia Mother Plucker
  • Astoria Fresh Hop Dark
  • Three Creeks Cone Licker
  • Beer Valley Hwy 19
  • Deschutes Lug Nut
  • Deschutes Fresh Hop Lager
  • Rogue Chatoe Wet Hop
  • Fort George Hopstoria
  • Issaquah (Rogue) Wet Frog
  • McMenamins Thundercone
  • Golden Valley Centennial Fresh Hop
  • MacTarnahan's Fresh Hop Mac's
Don't get distracted:
  • Lompoc Harvest Man Red
  • Coalition Liquid Sterling
  • Vertigo Midnight Harvest VSB
  • Cascade Brewing Rye Pale Ale
  • Silver Moon Hoppopotamus
  • Hale's Harvest Ale (all dried hops)
  • Hopworks Gayle's Pale (all dried hops)
  • Deschutes King Cone
  • Laurelwood Some Like It Hop
  • Philadelphia's Sellwood Golden
  • Hopworks Goldilocks (all dried hops)
  • Widmer Black Nugget (all dried hops)
  • Ram Hop Sack Harvest Ale
  • Rogue/Eugene City Brewery Tracktown Wet Hop
  • Green Dragon Hop Diddly


  1. I think there is one simple thing they could do that would be a major improvement: remove the side panels on the tent. It is not cold enough yet to warrant them and doing so would let in air, light and the lovely surroundings.

  2. Hey Bill,

    Have you tried the Sierra Nevada Estate yet? We featured it in a Bottle Battle against the SN Harvest and it won handily.


  3. @Patrick: That's worth a try, but the rain was really spitting at the beginning Saturday. It might have been messy at the edges. I don't know.

    @Gibson: Thanks for reminding me, I must have left some off my list. I did have it, and strangely I liked Estate less than the regular Harvest, which I thought was lovely this year. Had both on draft, don't know if that matters. It's kind of hard to believe that, maybe I should try it again.

  4. What about the Mother Plucker?!

  5. @Harry: Sadly, I haven't got to it yet. I skipped it at the fest knowing I'd likely have a chance to try it in the next couple weeks. Is it good?

  6. Where can one find the fresh hop Mirror Pond? Cheers.

  7. @Anon: Besides the festival, I've only seen FHMP at the Deschutes Pub. In fact, I had one today. But I suppose it's possible a keg would show up at Belmont, Bailey's, or Horsebrass.

  8. Whoa, and actual clear photo of the blogger. Bold!

    I appreciate your work on this, Bill. It's good that someone's documenting the season--so many fresh hop ales, so hard to get your brain around them.

    I stick by my Philly's diss (and note that you have it in the "don't get distracted" group), but Green Dragon's still has the pole position.

    The pils was good, too.