While the American craft brewing explosion has transformed many a casual sipper into a true-brew beer enthusiast, it's also left in its wake some whose palates are put off by the bitterness of particularly hoppy brews.
For those who don’t care for the double and triple IPAs prized by the “hop heads” among us, the subtler pleasures of fresh hop beers might be just what the OLCC-licensed doctor ordered.
Sometimes called “wet hop” beers, these seasonal brews are only available during the annual hop harvest—landing late summer and early fall—as they are made with fresh hops harvested mere hours before production. These lighter beers tend to forgo the bitterness of your typical IPA in favor the more floral, citrusy, and sometimes spicy characteristics of different hop varietals.
The best bet for diving into the fresh hop phenomenon? The annual Hood River Hops Fest, hitting the Columbia River Gorge on Saturday, September 28 from noon to 9 pm (minors welcome until 5 pm).
At this year's celebration, more than two dozen breweries will showcase their interpretations of the style, including popular Hood River breweries like Double Mountain (whose “Killer Green” fresh hop IPA has been a cult favorite among Northwest beer drinkers for a few years).
Local Portland darlings like Hopworks Urban Brewery and Breakside Brewery will also be on hand, as well as national heavy-hitters like New Belgium and Sierra Nevada, the latter of whom can claim their Harvest Ale, which debuted in 1996, as the first commercial fresh hop beer in the country. Local food, arts and crafts vendors, and live music all day fill out an event that could turn you into a hop head before you know it.