There’s no doubt that fall is here, and we’re not talking about the changing color of leaves, the suddenly cold nights or the empty thrift-store shelves after Halloween costume shopping.
There’s no doubt that fall is here, and we’re not talking about the changing color of leaves, the suddenly cold nights or the empty thrift-store shelves after Halloween costume shopping. Fall is the time for fresh, hoppy beers, and the Fresh Hop Tastival this weekend is the best way to celebrate this turn of the seasons.
You might have heard about hoppy beers. They’re the ones that make your mouth pucker, with international bitterness units (IBU) measuring up to 100 (for comparison, a Coors rates a meager 15). These beers generally use dried hops. But fresh hop beers use “wet” hop flowers that have been picked only hours before brewing. The result is a stronger hop flavor, a difference comparable to eating fresh basil rather than the dried, bottled stuff.
Fresh hop beers tend to have more floral, citrus and vegetal notes. In fact, when brewers go a little too far, a fresh hop beer can end up tasting like freshly cut grass.
Oregon is one of the country’s finest hop growing regions, and the beers premiering this weekend can boast that the flower they use is locally grown. The festival is part of a statewide series of Fresh Hop Tastivals, a labor of love put on by Oregon Bounty and the Oregon Brewers Guild. It provides a chance for more than 25 top craft brewers to “out-hop” one another with a total of more than 50 beers on tap. More importantly, it’s a chance for students to taste-test and pretend we haven’t been settling for Budweiser all summer.
Upright Brewing is one of many Portland brewers you can expect to see. They’ll be showing off a brew using Liberty hops named “Fresh Hop of Bel-Air.” It’s a Saison-style beer, based on a traditional Belgian method, which tends to avoid the spices American craft brewers so dearly love to throw into their brews.
Upright won’t be using spices in this beer and will instead rely on the fresh hops to provide a delicious, earthy taste. Using Oregon hops is no new challenge for Upright, as they use only local malt, hops and yeast, and sell their beer locally. The brewery is new to the festival this year and is excited to work alongside renowned brewers like Bridgeport, Deschutes and Lompoc.
Recently, hoppy beers have become a big hit with craft brewers. Some Portlanders have complained about the hops craze and wondered if it will last. Alex, an Upright brewer, expects the fad will continue.
“Certain trends come and go,” Alex said. “I thought, five years ago, these super-hoppy beers would disappear.”
They’ve only become more popular. This is the Tastival’s third year, and other hops festivals are staying strong in the Northwest, like the seventh annual Fresh Hop Ale Festival in Yakima, Wash., last week.
Now that you know a little about fresh hops, you ought to go put your nose in some delightfully hoppy beers this weekend and practice being the beer snob that you’ve always dreamed of becoming. Just as the warm days of summer are fading away, these beers won’t be around long—so go celebrate while you can.