Category: hopworks

A Fresh Hop OdysseyIn the Northwest, the period from Memorial…

A Fresh Hop Odyssey

In the Northwest, the period from Memorial Day to Halloween – give or take a week or two depending on the weather – is fresh hop season. It’s the one time a year when brewers can throw hops straight from the bine into their brew. The rest of the year, brewers use hops that have been dried to preserve them. Fresh hop cones begin degrading the second they’re picked. Within a few hours they already show signs of rotting. Within a few days, fresh hops turn to compost. 

The limited viability is what makes fresh hopped beers so hard to make, and few brewers outside hop growing regions attempt them. But in Oregon and Washington, so near the Willamette and Yakima Valleys, fresh hop beers are an annual tradition. Every brewery from Alameda to Zoiglhaus is throwing fresh hops into any beer they can. 

The first beer to hit shelves this year was Hopworks Totally Chill Hazy IPA with fresh Centennial hops. I don’t think the haze really let the fresh hops shine. There was an odd sort of oniony note on the nose, but it turned into tropical fuzz on the tongue. But I feel like the subtle fresh hop aromas were buried under layers of sweet bready malt.

Our bottles of Double Mountain’s Killer Red faired better. Also hopped with fresh Centennials, Double Mountain drew out more fall flavors by adding fresh Perle hops, too. Cranberry and fresh chopped wood on the nose. Pine needles and spruce meets citrus rinds on the tongue. The red ale base adds a nice toast note underneath without getting in the way.

When Sarah got a whiff of Stormbreaker’s Handfuls of Fresh Hops, she winced. She said it smelled “questionable.” It smells like pot. It’s infused with pungent  Centennial and Amarillo hops. It’s raw and rough. It’s very herbal – basil, thyme, arugula. It tastes like the bitterest greens. It’s not a subtle beer.

For a change of pace, we moved back toward the fruity end with Hopican from Old Town Brewing. Hopicana is a hazy IPA with fresh Mosaic and Citra hops. It smells like fresh strawberries. The flavor is woodier – cedar and grapefruit. The body is full and juicy with a vanilla sweetness. But again, I thought all the malt covered up the freshness.

At this point, I should probably mention we didn’t drink all these beers in a single sitting. Freshness is incredibly important to fresh hop beers, so the best way to sample them is as soon as they hit the shelf, or even better the tap handles. But I digress.

Back at Double Mountain, Killer Green was ready. This IPA is chockfull of fresh Simcoe and Brewer’s Gold hops. It’s a straightforward IPA. The old pine and grapefruit aromas spread out across the palate. It definitely tasted fresh.

But nothing is as fresh as Gigantic’s Sodbuster VI: the Return of the Simcoe. It tasted incredible. In a word: herbaceous. Handfuls of garden fresh basil. Bunches of fresh cut flowers. Fresh squeezed grapefruit juice. Perfection.

Mazama Brewing’s Green Magic canned some of the same sorcery in a smaller package. Fresh Centennial hops meted out a constant low level of deliciousness. It’s exactly how a pale ale should taste. Balanced unassuming, but with a depth of character that only reveals itself through multiple glasses. 

Next up, Field to Ferment from Seattle’s Fremont Brewing. Again, Centennial hops take center stage. It’s green and plant-y – spicy herbs, notes of cedar. Nice, but missing a bit of fruitiness.

The last beer of our 2018 fresh hop odyssey brought fruit in spades, but was about it. Hop Bot is Gigantic’s all Citra fresh hop ale. It’s got a nice citrus note, but also a load of berries. Blueberries, under ripe raspberries, maybe a red currant. Whichever berry it is, it tastes seedy and leafy. Not bad, but I think I’m convinced now, I only really like the old hops.

The Future and the PastWhen the shelves are crowded with the…

The Future and the Past

When the shelves are crowded with the next big thing, it’s good to remember that popularity is cyclical. Ideas that seem daft today will be everywhere next year, and gone a year after that. Right now glitter beer is the contentious next big thing. It’s shiny! It’s fun! It’s gross! It’s going to make your poo sparkle! Who knows, next year it could be everywhere. And the year after that it could go the way of black IPA.

Black IPA, also known as Cascadian dark ale around these parts, is the marriage of the dark roasted malt of a porter or stout with the heavy American hopping of an IPA. It shouldn’t work on paper, and I’m sure in the early stages there were many weird iterations, but the style captured a certain adventurous spirit.

It shouldn’t work – and it’s still arguable whether it’s does – but somehow it goes together. Drinking a dark IPA is a bit like tasting those fancy single origin coffees. The tasting notes offer stone fruit and orange blossoms, but at first all you taste is coffee. It’s just a subtle difference in aroma and a tingle at the back of the throat. Oh! That is a little different. That is a bit like a peach.

Secession CDA from Hopworks is one a of the few of these roasty hop bombs that have survived into the hazy IPA era. It pours out blackety black with a creamy meringue head. It smells a little odd. A mixture of roasted grain and perfumy hop flower. The flavor starts out familiar enough, a little bit astringent and toasty, before moving into the light notes of citrus near the back end. It’s not particularly fruity, just a little suggestion of orange peel and pine. It’s subtle but very unique. No one could confuse it for a robust porter.

New Hops!Hopsworks has a brand new IPX on draft and bottles….

New Hops!

Hopsworks has a brand new IPX on draft and bottles. It’s fruity and fresh, though there is a hint of Hopworks house bitterness. Is it the house yeast? Bad packaging? Thank god, it fades if you let the it breath, leaving behind a soft apple and lime flavored beer.

The secret to the flavor is Strata hops, which recently graduated from the Oregon State University and Indie Hops breeding program. Strata started with the chance pollination  of a Perle hop. Testers described the flavor as tropical and citrus, and dank – smelling of cannabis. My taste buds detected more light, ephemeral flavors like watermelon.

You may have tasted Strata a few years back when it was experimental hop X331, but you can soon taste it properly in beers from Sierra Nevada, Fort George, and others. Worthy Brewing is already making a new Strata hopped IPA, StrataSphere, look for it in bottles soon.

Fresh Hop Round UpWe’ve been drinking fresh hop ales for about a…

Fresh Hop Round Up

We’ve been drinking fresh hop ales for about a month now, and we’ve come up with a helpful set of fresh hop principles.

Lesson one: don’t mess around with your fresh hops. 

Someone at Hopworks thought it was a good idea to dump a load of fresh Centennials into a yeastie saison. It’s all yeast, no hops. I don’t even like it as a Belgian yeast bomb. Level Beer – a new outfit located near the airport – made a similar mistake. They’re first can release is a fresh hopped version of their Ready Player One saison. It’s super light and pretty pleasant, but again, the yeast covers up any real hop flavor.

Lesson two: drink it fresh! 

One again, Double Mountain has bottled two different fresh hop beers. We got a bottle of Killer Red pretty soon after the release. It was pretty tangy and sweet. The Killer Green was a several days older. It was pretty plain. Killer Red was juicy with spruce tips and red currants. It had zip and zing. Killer Green was mostly pine and citrus, with a hint of fresh sparkle, but it was almost all gone.

Lesson three: try to be restrained. 

Fremont’s Filed to Ferment is pretty good. It’s got a fresh hop zing, but on the back end, it’s all vegetables – green bell pepper in particular. I can’t decide if that’s a function of excessive hop material or just an Amarillo hop flavor. I’m leaning toward the former. I can see how some would taste it as a flaw, but I still liked the beer.

Lesson four: sometimes a simple beer is a better beer.

My favorite fresh hop beers so far have been super simple. Fresh Prince from Gilgamesh Brewing is a basic IPA – no bells, no whistles – but I like it a lot. It’s got a real bitterness to it. The fresh Centennials add extra floral notes on top of a dry bodied beer. 8 Pound Pale from Full Sail does the same thing. Fresh hops add a little sparkle to a balanced pale ale – fresh grass and sharp citrus. Nothing complicated, just a shining nice beer.

If you’ve got some fresh juicy hops, let them shine. Don’t make a porter. I’m looking at you Hopworks and you’re Cascadian Dark Ale.

20 Years AgoIn 1997, Don Younger – Portland’s favorite…

20 Years Ago

In 1997, Don Younger – Portland’s favorite publican – and Joy Campbell opened a tiny shop steps from the Horse Brass Tavern on Belmont Street. They sold bottled beer and imported food. Over time the food was replaced with more beer. Ten years later, Carl Singmaster came along and bought his way into the shop. They into a larger space with more room for beer and a small tap room on Stark Street, a few blocks north. Ten years have passed and Lisa Morrison joined on and they shop expanded, they added more and more taps, and Belmont Station became the most beloved beer bar and bottleshop in Portland. 

In April, the Station celebrated twenty years in in the beer business. There were theme parties ever day for nearly a month. Brewery’s as far away as Michigan brewed special beers for the occasion, but the only one I got my hands on was Double Vision from Hopworks. 

Double Vision is a “Pacific Northwest inspired English strong ale.” The northwest portion can really overpower the English subtlety. A healthy dose of Maris Otter malt gives the beer it’s girth, adding weight and minimal jammy sweetness. Centennial, Bullion, and Celeia hops add a healthy bitterness and a dry, dry finish. Every sip is punctuated with a big tongue smack. Double VIsion was inspired by classics like Fuller’s Vintage Ale, but it tastes more like an imperial red. It’s not bad, but not as balanced as I’d like.