Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fresh Hops 2010: Third Report

This year I've kept a pretty good streak going of trying a different fresh-hop beer each day: today makes it the three-week mark. By the way, I'm talking about fresh hops, not dried fresh hops (see rant #1 and rant #2).

Some days I actually tried two fresh-hop beers. It's been a good year! So I have plenty to add to my three categories of "must try", "worth a try", and "don't bother". It's tough, because some of the "don't bother" beers are quite tasty, they just don't win in the fresh-hop category, or they are not really fresh-hop beers, no matter how hard the brewers wish they were.

Must try:
  • Deschutes Fresh-Hopped Mirror Pond
  • Ninkasi Total Crystallization (fresh-hopped Total Domination)
  • Full Sail Lupulin (right now it's the First Gold variant)
  • Rock Bottom Hop Harvest
  • Upright Tyler the Elder
  • Bridgeport Hop Harvest
  • 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
  • Three Creeks Cone Licker
  • Beer Valley Hwy 19
  • Rogue Chatoe Wet Hop
  • Fort George Hopstoria
  • Issaquah (Rogue) Wet Frog
  • McMenamins Thundercone
Don't get distracted:
  • Lompoc Harvest Man Red
  • Silver Moon Hoppopotamus
  • Hale's Harvest Ale (all dried hops)
  • Hopworks Gayle's Pale (all dried hops)
  • Deschutes King Cone
  • Hopworks Goldilocks (all dried hops)
  • Widmer Black Nugget (all dried hops)
  • Rogue/Eugene City Brewery Tracktown Wet Hop

I've tried to get those roughly in order of how much I prefer them. If you take only one piece of information away from this post, it's that you must try the fresh-hopped Mirror Pond brewed by the Portland Deschutes operation. It is my favorite beer of all time. Following that, Ninkasi has finally come out with not one but two excellent fresh-hop beers this year, which is only a surprise because their fresh-hop beers have been very disappointing every year so far. The fresh-hopped version of Total Domination is fabulous, and I liked the Parlay Bitter a lot also.

Another thing to note about a lot of these beers is that you're going to lose some of the goodness if you drink them too cold. Take the time to let them warm up a little. For me, this was especially true of Upright's Tyler the Elder and Laurelwood's Hop Pickin -- at first taste there was nothing to write home about. Upright's was also a little too phenolic or chemically at first. But after they got to tasting temperature, those were two really well-done beers.

I didn't make it to the Hood River Hops fest last weekend. Actually, I've never made it out there. Maybe next year. But you can read Angelo's positive review, Jason's negative review, or this report from Ben. I am very excited about the upcoming Fresh Hop Tastival at Oaks Park this Saturday. In light of all the fresh-hop cheating this year -- and the ridiculousness of calling something a "tastival" -- I hope Brian will rename it next year to the "Wet Hop Wastival". Also, keep an eye on Belmont Station's tap list this week -- it's heavy on fresh hops. Finally, remember to consult the 2010 Fresh Hop Map for all your pub-going needs.


  1. I'll back up the 'worth a try' on the Conner Ale ESB.

    Goldilocks is dried? Interesting . . . the festival definitely did not make that clear - the sheet had 'fresh hop' beers marked but did not differentiate.

  2. @Ben: Christian emailed me that he does not do wet-hopping. So I'm sure the Fest of Fury is all dried hops too. Though apparently Hopworks' homegrown hops were thrown "wet" into an experimental brew on their new nano system, which makes me happy.

    It is also my understanding that Big Horse's Vernon the Rabbit Slayer uses 100% dried hops. But is still promoted as a fresh-hop.

    Same for Widmer Black Nugget.

  3. I tried the Deschutes beer and it just tasted too grassy to me. However, it was served a bit warm (I was at an OBC event and came to it late) so I'm willing to give it another chance.

  4. I wish there would be a season where all the local breweries would put out their malty, non-hoppy, beers. All these hops are killing me!

  5. I am in no way as comprehensive in my pursuit of these beers as you, Bill, but from my more limited sample, the stand-alone king is Rock Bottom's. Man, that was a good beer.