For something so associated with brash bitterness, hops are surprisingly delicate—breaking down almost as soon as they’re harvested. So during fresh hop season brewers engage in a time-sensitive frenzy commensurate with that of, say, the first Copper River salmon run in April—fresh product zoomed in and processed immediately.
Washington State, in particular, goes crazy for fresh hops, since Yakima Valley was in 2015 the biggest hop producing region on earth, knocking reigning Bavaria from the top spot.
There’s a smattering of events around Seattle, mostly of the tap takeover variety—30 to 40 on tap at the Pine Box's Fresh Hop Fest, another 20 breweries represented at Hale’s Palladium's Fresh Hops Festival—and certain individual breweries have dug in with glee.
Fremont Brewing’s annual Cowiche Canyon fresh hop ale came out on the September 22. But they have a new project, too: all through September they’ve been running four iterations of Field to Ferment, a line of fresh hop pale ales, each made with a single variety of Washington hops—centennial, simcoe, citra, mosaic. The ales have rotated as crops were harvested, but if you’ve missed the Field to Ferment brews at the source and still feel like sipping your way through a harvest narrative, all four will be on tap at Brouwer’s Cafe’s Fresh Hop Celebration.
Stoup Brewing has three, starring simcoe, mosaic, and comet hops. And tiny Cloudburst has a whopping six wet hopped beers either brewed or brewing—including two promising collaborations: Wetwired, a wet mosaic IPA with Holy Mountain, and Citra Slicker V.2, a wet citra IPA with Yakima’s Bale Breaker. Stoup and Cloudburst will both be at Latona Pub's Fresh Hop Night.
Though the true event occurs at the source: the Fresh Hop Ale Festival in downtown Yakima has over 40 breweries and 100 beers. The brewery list reads like a who’s who of west coast beer—from little local favorites like Two Beers and Ruben’s, to venerable giants like Deschutes and Sierra Nevada. The festival draws some 7,000 goers, many walking around crowned with vaguely Dionysian hop wreathes. A beer bike zipping around the streets, dispersing brews? Sure. The air downright resinous with the new crops’ aroma? Indeed.
It’s kind of like our own version of Oktoberfest, in praise of Pacific Northwest beer’s essential flavor, and with gloriously fewer tubas and lederhosen.