Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Portland Beer Week Fresh Hop Seminar 2021

I've spent a lot of time over the years obsessing about fresh hop beers, in fact fresh hops are the subject of the first post on the blog.  So I was not going to miss this year's "Fresh Hop Seminar & Tasting" held at Zoiglhaus this past Saturday as part of this year's Portland Beer Week.

Participants listened to tales of fresh-hop glory and misadventures told by Zoiglhaus's Alan Taylor, Von Ebert's Sam Pecoraro, and Ex Novo's Ryan Buxton.  We got tastes of a Tettnanger-hopped k├Âlsch and an oktoberfest from Zoiglhaus, a Sterling-hopped pilsner from Von Ebert, and a Simcoe-hopped variant of Ex Novo's Eliot IPA.  In recent years Fresh Hop Eliot has been one of the standouts of the season.  This Simcoe one was the best fresh hop beer of the afternoon, and noticeably better than the Centennial-hopped Eliot I tried at Ex Novo a few days ago.

As a bonus/punishment, we also got to taste some unfermented fresh-hop wort that will be one of the next Zoiglhaus fresh hop offerings (an IPA if I remember correctly).  Now, how the heck did fresh hops get into someone's wort?  In the jargon being thrown about at the seminar, that is a "warm side" application of fresh hops, and I thought that everyone decided a long time ago that you get more out of your fresh hops on the "cold side".

That may indeed be true, but Alan has good reasons for choosing the warm side.  At the most basic level, he is working with German-style hops like Tettnanger which are not grown in as great quantities in Oregon as big IPA hops like all the C hops or Simcoe or Strata.  If you want fresh Citra hops, your supplier might tell you, "we're harvesting all next week, what day are you coming?".  But if you want fresh Tettnanger, the farmer might call you at 10 AM and say "we looked at them this morning and it was time to bring them in, how soon can you get here?".  Hence he is not able to have fermented beer ready for dry hopping, and it works better to throw the fresh hops into the wort.

That hop potion was intense -- most of us just had a quick sip, but at least one intrepid fellow at the seminar finished his entire two-ounce pour.  Alan explained that most of the bitterness would go away after fermentation, after some byproduct of the yeast attached itself to the alpha acids and dropped to the bottom of the tank (there was a technical term for this that I forgot to write down).

Check out the fifty-pound bag of fresh hops in the picture above.  Unforunately we weren't given the chance to roll around on it as though it was a big human catnip toy.  But Ryan had a good story about checking four such bags onto a Southwestern Airlines flight in order to brew a fresh hop beer at the Albuquerque Ex Novo.  Much cheaper than traditional shipping, and despite the size, they meet the weight limit for checked bags!

This seminar format is a refreshing change of pace for a beer event.  A few years ago I had a great time at the Sour Blending Symposium (part of Portland Beer Week 2012).  I was sad not to be able to make it to this year's Cask Beer Seminar.  But I definitely recommend checking out any beer week seminars in the future.