It's peak fresh hop season in Portland, the magical time in the Northwest when brewers farm up their beer with fresh, green hops grown just a truck ride away.
The big ol' fresh hops fest in the Gorge was delayed by a bunch of teenagers who started a fire, but the utterly gigantic Portland Fresh Hops Fest is right on schedule at Oaks Park in Sellwood. The fest kicks off with an adults-only night on Friday, September 29, from 5-9 pm (adults only!). For family folk, it continues on Saturday, September 30, from noon-8 pm (minors allowed till 5 pm).
(Note that in our print newspaper we screwed up the times and said the festival closed earlier than it does—the fest goes till 9 pm Friday, and till 8 pm on Saturday.)
Portland Fresh Hops Fest is a whopper this year: 67 fresh-hop IPAs, sours, saisons and lagers all brimming with the flavors of the dankest hops of the year.
For $20 you get 8 tasters, with additional tasters just $2 apiece (or four for $5). But few except the insane will try all 67. For the past few weeks we've been tasting every fresh hop we can find—at breweries, at beer bars and at the fresh-hop parking lot pop-up at Burnside Brewing last week.
Breakside Cascade Wanderlust IPA
This is a no-brainer. After blind-tasting 72 Oregon-brewed fresh hop beers from 45 breweries, a team of Oregon Beer Awards judges just named Breakside Brewery's Cascade-fresh-hopped Wanderlust the best fresh-hop beer in the state of Oregon. And this year, the judges announced the gold-medal winner while you can still drink the beer. Isn't that nice?
Baerlic Pioneer Bitter Fresh Hop ESB
Guess what won the fresh hop gold medal at the OBAs last year? This beer. Guess what's back at Oaks Park this year? This beer. Pretty much all the Baerlic fresh hops have been good this year: If you can get to the brewery for it, try their Hellsner for a great subtle-hopped helles.
Great Notion Juice Jr. Fresh Hop
Maybe our favorite fresh hop of the year is already gone—Great Notion's hazy, juicy Fresh Hop Ripe Mosaic, which blew last weekend. It was everything we wanted fresh hop beers to be: juicy, farmy, aromatic, a big ol' flowering mess of green hop that deepened rather than distracted from the base flavor of the beer. Well, here comes the Juice Jr., wet-hopped with Mosaic. We've got wonderful high hopes.
Yachats Fresh Hop Amarillo Sour
This is a great sour lactobacillus-culture beer made complex with the beauteous grapefruit punch of Amarillo hops. Get some.
Stormbreaker Fresh Hop House Martell
Stormbreaker won the bronze in the Fresh Hops Oregon Beer Awards category with this monster—with 200 pounds of fresh-hopped Mosaic added to an already juicy Citra-hopped hazy pale. That's a big mess of tropical, and you're welcome.
Pfriem Mosaic Fresh-Hop Pale
Want to know what balance tastes like in a fresh hop beer? Well, here you go: Here's a wealth of fruit and pine, swirling across your palate.
Fort George Fresh IPA
Guess who can't fuck up an IPA this year? Astoria's Fort George has been flawless on the hop tip this year, and the all-Citra, super-juicy Fresh IPA is a champ this year—aided by thousands of pounds of hops, delivered fresh from Washington by refrigerated truck. Drink the hell out of it.
Portland Fresh Hops Fest is at Oaks Amusement Park, 7805 SE Oaks Park Way. 5-9 pm Friday, September 29. Noon-8 pm Saturday, September 30. $20 for 8 tasters. Additional tasters $2, or four for $5.