n a way, it's a blessing that the Hood River Hops Fest wound up being delayed. Not a blessing for Gorge residents, given that the delay's caused by the lingering Eagle Creek fire and the continued dicey situation along I-84 between Portland and points east. But certainly a blessing for fans of fresh-hop beer, since it lets them savor this uniquely Pacific Northwest beer season for that little bit longer.
Hood River's festival will feature wet-hop beers from 41 breweries in the Northwest, including a few Bend joints including Cascade Lakes, RiverBend and Worthy. Other local joints, such as 10 Barrel, Silver Moon and Sunriver Brewing, are showing off their own freshies right now, both at their taprooms and at Fresh Shops on the Pond, an all-day fest held on Bend Brewing Co's outdoor space Oct. 14.
The early fall, indeed, is the best time of the beer for people who want their hops to be as floral, bitter, dank and fresh-off-the-farm as possible. These can range from the altogether pleasant and approachable, such as Green Haze from Ninkasi in Eugene, to the more avant-garde, such as the OktoberFresh beer from Portland's Zoiglhaus that combines the German style with Centennial hops from the Willamette Valley. Ancestry also has Wheezin' the Juice out now, a 7.3 percent IPA made exclusively with Ekuanot hops (formerly called Equinox)—but given that hop varietal's harsh, sort-of-medicinal taste when riding solo, that might be too much (too fresh?) of a good thing.
With the rise in fresh-hop popularity, a couple of regional breweries are going all-in on their offerings. Crux, in particular, is worth a peek—it's not only planning three releases for the season, it's also canning them for distribution across the state. Dr. Jack is named after the creator of the Cascade hop, and as expected, it's an IPA packed with them, added to the brew kettle right after picking for maximum floralness. Crystal Zwickle features the Crystal hop, which is more of an aromatic type, and it's framed the hop around a spicy pale ale clocking in at 6 percent. Finally, Way Two Fresh is a near-10 percent imperial IPA made with Mosaic hops from the Willamette Valley and Simcoe hops from Yakima, both harvested on the same morning and put into the brew that afternoon. That's a lot of truckin'.
Deschutes is bound to have a half-dozen or so of their own through the season at their Bond Street pub, but also be on the lookout for Fremont Brewing, whose fresh-hop releases have grown in scope year over year. In 2017, the Seattle-based outfit is planning a series of three beers for sequential release—the first with Centennial hops, the second Amarillo, and the third Citra. This culminates in the on-site release of Cowiche Canyon Fresh Hop Ale, made with organically-grown hops from outside Yakima, to which Fremont has exclusive rights.
Whether in Bend or elsewhere, beer fans are spoiled for fresh hop choice. Hard to believe that stout season is coming up so soon...