2010 Oregon Fresh Hop Tastival, Portland

I just learned about Fresh Hop beers a few weeks ago when I attended a release party at BridgePort Brewing for their Hop Harvest Ale.  Fall is harvest time and this festival spotlights beers that use fresh hops.  Although this festival has been held for several years, this is the first time I attended.

In general, most of the beers are small batch, limited run brews.  While some are bottled and distributed as special editions, most are available only on draft.  So the festival provides an opportunity to sample a lot of very unique, hard to find beers.

I'm a big fan of the Oregon Brewer's Festival, but I did notice some  differences.  First, the crowd was fairly light (I attended on Saturday, mid-afternoon) and the longest line was two minutes.  Second, the Fresh Hop crowd was a bit more mellow than the OBF crowd.   Third, you get to sample from a real pint glass!  No plastic mugs here.

I had the chance to chat with Spencer Gottter, Head Brewer, of Fort George Brewery in Astoria.  Unfortunately, I lost the video clip where Spencer describes their fresh hop offering.  But in the segment below, Spencer talks about his brewing inspiration, his background, and Fort George's plans to distribute canned beer.  Check this out for more on canned craft beer.

I wasn't able to spend a lot of time at the festival and only sampled 5 beers.  I won't write detailed reviews, but I noted a few comments and assigned a star rating to each beer.  They're listed in the order I tasted them.

Locavore Fresh Hop Pale (Pale Ale) - Oakshire Brewing, Eugene, OR
Hoppy aroma, very strong hop flavor, with not a lot of malts.  It had a lingering bitterness that I wasn't too crazy about.   3 stars -- Good.  I'd drink it again if someone gave it to me.

Locavore, Oakshire Brewing

 Tyler the Elder (Farmhouse Pale) - Upright Brewing, Portland, OR
Amazing aroma loaded with floral, honey, and fruit (I think apricot).  Taste is very interesting.  I'm not sure how to describe it.  It's a bit funky.  Not offensive, but funky nonetheless.  I expect the funk comes from the farmhouse yeast.  I'm glad I had the chance to sample it, but I don't think I could drink a full pint of this.  3 stars -- Good.  I'd drink it again if someone gave it to me.

Tyler the Elder, Upright Brewing

Hopstoria - Fort George Brewery + Public House, Astoria, OR
Some caramel malts in the aroma, not a lot of hops.  Getting some roasted malt flavors as well as some hops.  It's very nicely balanced.  Most of the beer here tends to be hop heavy, and Hopstoria is not.  It's very drinkable.  4 stars -- Really Good!  I want this again!

3rd taste:  Hopstoria, Fort George Brewery

Harvest Man Red (American Red) - Lompoc, Brewing, Portland, OR
Mainly malts in the aroma and taste.  Not a lot of hops in aroma or taste.  I wonder if this is one of the few beers that are not fresh hopped?  It has nice bitterness, but I don't think it comes from the hops.  Regardless, it's good.  3 stars -- Good.  I'd drink it again if someone gave it to me.

Harvest Man Red, Lompoc Brewing

Black Nugget (Dark Ale - Widmer Bros. Brewing, Portland, OR
Aroma is malts.  Taste is malts with lots of roasted coffee.  Again, not a lot of hops in aroma or taste.  It's heavy in body, and one of these would be plenty.
  3 stars -- Good.  I'd drink it again if someone gave it to me.

Black Nugget, Widmer Bros. Brewing

I don't think dark ales provide good vehicles to show off fresh hop characteristics.  In my opinion, if you really want to get the fresh hop experience, stick with the lighter ales (pale, IPA, amber).  I do wish they served at least one regular-hopped and one fresh hopped version of the same beer.  That would provide a really good comparison.  At the end of they day, I probably would not be able to identify a beer that uses fresh hops.

But it's all a good.  The beers here were great, and if fresh hops enable us to have another beer festival in Portland, I'm in favor of it!   If you'd like to attend the festival, you have just one more chance!  It's moving to Eugene on 10/16.

Did you attend the Fresh Hop Tastival?  If so, what did you think?


  1. I had a good time at the festival, there were only two beers I dumped, and most of the other ones were quite good.

    Harvest Man is indeed made with fresh, wet hops. I agree with you that they are a little bit of a waste in a beer with that much going on already. But the boys at Lompoc say it's nearly the same recipe as Proletariat Red, just with fresh hops, so maybe a comparison is in order.

    On the other hand, the Widmer you tried does not have any fresh, wet hops. Fresh dried hops. Don't get me started.

    I go nuts for these beers: here's my ranking of them, though I need to update it with things I tried at the festival.

  2. Bill, thanks for the link to your blog. I wish I had seen your list before I went to the festival! For my very last sample, I picked Black Nugget over Ninkasi Total Crystalization. I chose poorly. Too bad they didn't clearly identify which beers were or were not fresh hopped. Maybe next year. I see that you listed Tyler the Elder as a must try. While I wasn't crazy about it, I agree it's a unique beer that's worth a sample. Thanks again for the Twitter shout out! Look forward to following your work.


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