Sampled: 22 oz. bottle (full disclosure — sample provided by BridgePort).
Description: “Hop Harvest is a lower alcohol ale with a cloudy veil, made with Cascade pellets in the kettle for bittering, dry leaf Centennial in the HopJack, and fresh wet leaf Centennial hop in ruh. Caramel malt for a deep amber color, and a touch of wheat for foam head retention." — BridgePort Brewing
Random thoughts: To better understand the fresh hop fuss, here's a snippet from BridgePort's press release "...Armed with burlap bags, the group took to retrieving 400 pounds of fresh Centennial hops that were quickly sealed and loaded into the trailer for the drive back to the brewery. Within an hour, crews cut open the sacks and hops were blended with the base beer that had been prepared in advance and cooled to prevent cooking off the natural citrus and floral notes of the hops. Almost two weeks later, brewers lightly filtered the beer and filled kegs and 22-oz bottles with this farm-fresh brew."
So, in my opinion, fresh hop beers are small batch, seasonal brews that:
Utilize hops at the ultimate peak of freshness.
Provide brewers with a vehicle to have some fun.
Offer beer snobs and hopheads (I consider myself to be both) something new and interesting to try and talk (or blog) about. :)
The tasting: Color is golden straw, and the beer is hazy. Aroma is grapefruit (Centennial hops) but is not overpowering. The flavor of the malts is very subtle. I can't taste much, but I think it's by design. Flavor is mainly grassy hops—and they are very bitter. I didn't taste much citrus. My wife was unable to finish her small 3 oz pour due to the bitterness. Body is light to medium, and it has a nice mouth fee. The bitterness lingers.
Rating: 3 star. Good. I would drink this if someone gave it to me. I actually struggled with this rating because this was my first fresh hopped beer. However, I went back and looked at my rating definitions, and stuck to those criteria and rated Hop Harvest as 3 star. This beer is designed to showcase hops in aroma and taste—and it does a superb job. However, I prefer a beer that is bit more balanced with malts.
Now, to be perfectly honest, if I tasted this blind, I don't know that I would have detected that "fresh" or "wet" hops were used. I believe this is more a function of my inexperience with the style and a reflection of my unsophisticated palate. That will change this weekend at the Portland Fresh Hop Tastival (number of beers sampled will change—sadly, I will retain the same unrefined palate).
Have you had this or any other fresh hop beers? If so, which ones? I'd appreciate the recommendations!