As you have all likely figured out by now I live in the land of milk and honey. No wait, that’s not right. The land of breweries and strip clubs. You probably thought I was going to make that a humorous trio and say that that one’s not true either, but it actually is. Portland, OR has more breweries and more strip clubs per-capita than any other city in the United States. I’ll leave discussion of the strip clubs to another sort of blog and instead share with you another delightful fact: Portland sits on the Columbia river, the dividing line between the largest hop-producing state in the nation (Washington) and the second largest hop-producing state in the nation (Oregon). What with our abundance of creative and passionate brewing operations and our surplus of locally grown hops (OK, there’s no such thing as a hop surplus), it stands to reason that many of those brewers would take advantage and create some unique fresh-hopped* beers during hop harvest season for all us lucky locals to enjoy. And damn do they!
*I use the terms ‘fresh hopped’ and ‘wet hopped’ interchangeably. I think I’m right about that. I think.
Last week I managed to sneak a few minutes to myself in between meetings, classes, homework and conferences and visit Belmont Station, the bottle shop I have said nice things about in the past. After ruining my meal budget for the month picking up bombers to stash in my fridge for study-break purposes I sat down at the bar for a turkey sandwich and a pint. I of course grabbed the draft menu before worrying about the food, and my toes curled right up with joy when I saw that they had a fresh hopped flight with offerings from several of my favorite breweries at the top of the menu. I jotted down some notes about each, and thought I’d share them with you all (mostly to make all the other Aleheads jealous). And here they are:
Silver Moon Hoppopotamus – This fresh hopped ale uses only Cascade Hops, and only fresh hops are used throughout the entire brewing process. It smelled and tasted like a citrusy hop wonderland. Also, Silver Moon made a fun YouTube video about fresh hopping (the host is pretty clearly pretty drunk, as he should be). This was my clear winner of the four. 3.5 hops
Laurelwood Cavalry IPA – The recipe for this one is apparently similar to their Workhorse IPA. The nose was quite floral with a subtle pine and citrus presence, and the flavor was very green and grassy. 3.0 hops
Hopworks Give Me Liberty English Best Bitter – This beer was hopped only with fresh Liberty hops. It had a very subdued, generic hop presence in the nose with a little light malt observable as well. The flavor was kind of like a mouthful of bitter salad greens. 2.5 hops
Migration 69 Pound Perle – A fresh hopped pale ale using, I presume, 69 lbs of perle hops. This beer puzzled me a bit. The nose was very subtle and kind of dark grassy, for lack of a better description. It tasted of grains, a very very subtle hop bitterness, a very light malt presence, and then this lingering hop bitterness that coated my entire mouth at the very end, almost like what I’d describe as bitter herbs. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to say about this beer, and am still unsatisfied with this description. That said, I didn’t love it. But Migration did post a cool video on their blog of the hard work part of the hop harvest, shot during their trip to pick up said hops in Silverton, OR (see the Sept. 23rd entry). 2.5 hops
Though I enjoyed some of these beers more than others, some of that probably had to do with how far away from their brew date the individual kegs were. The delicate notes you get with fresh hops break down quickly and don’t last long (perhaps The Professor will give us a dissertation on how that works sometime). But regardless of individual enjoyment, I found it fascinating to see different breweries takes on this unique seasonal brewing opportunity. And next year I’m definitely not going to miss the Hood River Hops Fest!