Friday, September 21, 2012

2012 Fresh Hop Beers and Festivals

We're just a week away from Oregon's granddaddy Fresh Hop event, the Hood River Hops Fest, next Saturday September 29, 2012.  My beer-blogging brother Ezra over at the New School pulled off the astounding coup of becoming the curator for this year's HRHF, and he put together a superlative lineup of beers.  Highlights include new breweries like Pfriem, Gigantic, and Solera; a couple of beers that I've already tried this year that are among the best ever; plus a first-ever fresh-hop offering by Block 15.  I don't recall ever getting a fresh hop beer from Lagunitas, but apparently there will be one at Hood River.  Seriously, read the list, you'll be amazed.  I also like it that Ezra notes the hop varieties on all the beers -- a crucial piece of information that is often lacking at events like this.

Last year was the first year I made it out to Hood River for the fest despite a longstanding interest in fresh hop beers.  Even though it's just in a parking lot in the middle of town, the views out toward the surrounding hills make a very nice setting for a festival.

Then Portland gets its turn the following Saturday, October 6, with the Portland Fresh Hops Beer Fest at Oaks Park.  I'm not sure the list is out yet for that festival, but Oaks Park is also a lovely setting if the weather is good.  Most importantly, I can ride my bike there on the Springwater Corridor.

This year I haven't gone as insane in trying to track down fresh hop beers as I have in years past.  The 2012 Fresh Hop Map tells the tale -- not much action compared to last year's map, and this year I have 3 people helping fill it in.  Still, it's becoming difficult to avoid fresh hop beers, so here are the ones I've tried so far (I will keep updating this list as the season goes on).  As usual, I'll rank them in order of my preference, and split them into four categories:  truly excellent must-try fresh hop beers, beers with good fresh hop character, good beers that somehow lost the fresh hop character, and beers to avoid.  Beers marked "(HR)" are on the list for the Hood River Hops Fest. 
[Update 2012/10/02: Beers that will be at Oaks Park on October 6 (according to the OBG's Fresh Hop Beer List (pdf)) are marked "(OP)".]

Must Try:
  • Laurelwood Fresh Hop Free Range Red (HR) (OP)
  • Deschutes Fresh Hop Bachelor Bitter (HR)
  • Deschutes Fresh Hop Mirror Pond (OP)
  • Double Mountain Killer Red (draft -- bottle isn't as good)
  • Ninkasi Total Crystallization (OP)
Good Fresh Hop Flavor:
  • Crux Crystal Zwickel
  • Alameda 100# Nugget
  • Deschutes Fresh Hop Deschutes River Ale
  • Upright Kiln 'em All (HR)
  • Logsdon Fresh Hop Seizeon (OP)
  • New Belgium Trip 14
  • Gigantic The Most Interesting Beer in the World (HR) (OP)
  • Rogue Chatoe Wet Hop (HR) (OP)
  • Lucky Lab Mutt
  • Pelican Elemental Ale (OP)
  • Lucky Lab Last Little Fresh Hop in Oregon
  • Full Sail Hopenfrisch Lager (OP) 
  • Base Camp Hoptastic Voyage
  • Ft. George Fresh Hop Vortex
  • Burnside Nuggets With Attitude
  • 10 Barrel Crosby Fresh Hop (OP)
  • Falling Sky Whoa Dang
  • Commons Fresh Hop Farmhouse
  • Three Creeks Cone Lick'r (OP)
  • Big Horse Paragon
  • Breakside Wet Hop Simcoe 
  • Anderson Valley Mendo Mellow
  • Falling Sky So Fresh, So Green Lager (OP) 
  • Oakshire Ask the Fish 
  • Hales Fresh Hop Supergoose 
  • MacTarnahan's Fresh Hop Amber
  • Migration Green Reaper 
  • Sierra Nevada 2012 Harvest Ale (bottle) 
  • Deschutes King Cone (HR) (OP)
  • Rock Bottom Fresh Hop Ale (HR)
  • Double Mountain Killer Green
  • Pints Fresh Hop Seismic Upgrade IIPA
  • Amnesia French Connection
  • Cascade Lakes Harvest
  • Everybody's Brewing Fresh Hop Head Stash
  • Sasquatch Fresh Hopped Healy Heights
  • Burnside Pub Draught
  • Astoria Fresh Hop
  • Golden Valley Crystal Fresh Hop 
  • McMenamins Thundercone (OP)
Good Beer, Can't Taste the Fresh Hops:
  • Bridgeport Hop Harvest (HR) (OP)
  • Deschutes Fresh Hop Black Ale
  • Lompoc Harvest Man Red
  • Pfriem Fresh Hop Strong Blonde 
  • Hopworks Powell Estate IPA
  • Beer Valley Fresh Hop Leafer Madness
  • Alameda Failing Street Fresh Hop IPA (OP)
  • Oakshire 100 Hops (OP)
  • Logsdon Fresh Hop Seizeon Bretta
  • Deschutes Fresh Hop Black Butte Porter
  • Hopworks Give Me Liberty (HR) (OP)
  • Pints Fresh Hop Saison
  • Ninkasi Smells Like Purple (OP)
  • Lucky Lab Reaperweizen
  • Block 15 Heliotropic
  • Schooner Exact Amarillo Fresh Hop
Beers to Avoid:
  • Two Beers Fresh Hop IPA (bottle)
  • Coalition Green Pig
  • Solera Kwazy Wabbit (OP)
  • Old Market Vers Bloem
  • Flat Tail Home Grown
  • Beer Valley Tri-State (OP)
  • Fire on the Mountain Magnum P.A.
  • Walking Man Cents and Centsability

Some of these beers deserve special mention.  Gigantic's beer reminds me of the first fresh-hop beers I ever tried, 7 or 8 years ago when the trend was just getting off the ground: an almost honeyed light ale with beautiful fresh aroma and flavor.  It's an indication of how far this style has progressed that the flavor that made me a maniac only gets you into the "good" category these days.  Speaking of which, my favorite from the last two years -- Fresh Hop Mirror Pond, which I have often proclaimed the best beer in the history of the world -- is outdone this year by Laurelwood's astounding fresh-hopped version of their Red Ale, and also by Deschutes' own fresh-hopped Bachelor Bitter.  Don't miss any of those three beers this year.

1 comment:

  1. How about the Sisters Fresh Hop Beer festival on 9/29. Looks like the fire is dieing down so it won't end up being the Sisters Smoked Beer Festival.


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