The Portland Fresh Hops Beer Fest opened yesterday at Oaks Park. This was the first time I attended in 7 years. When I last attended in 2010, the event was known as the Oregon Bounty Fresh Hop Beer Tastival. Besides dumping the word Tastival, the event has changed little over the years.
Prior to the fest, I downloaded and studied the detailed beer list. My intent was to cover a range of styles and different varieties of fresh hops. Here's what I sampled, in the order I tasted them:
Baerlic "Pioneer Fresh Hop ESB" featuring Mt. Hood
Montaville Brew Works "Pocketful of Goschies" (Red Ale) featuring Strata
Yachats "Fresh Hop Amarillo Sour" (Lacto Sour) featuring Amarillo
Great Notion "Fresh Hop Juice Jr." (Hazy IPA) featuring Mosaic
Hopworks "Total Blackout" (Imperial CDA) featuring Centennial
Little Beast "Hop Smakken" (Belgian Pale Ale) featuring Liberty
Breakside "Fresh Hop Cascade Wanderlust" (IPA) featuring Cascade, Summit, Mosaic, and Amarillo
Crux "Dr. Jack" (IPA) featuring Cascade
So, what makes fresh hop beer truly different? Some will argue that there are subtle differences in aroma or flavor. While I love these beers, I'm fairly confident that I would not be able to identify fresh hop from regular beers—and I'm really into hops! I grow my own, and I just brewed a fresh hop IPA a few weeks ago.
For me, community is what makes these beers special. Staring with the family farmers that lovingly grow the hops, to the brewers that take care and effort to use them at their optimal freshness, to the event organizers to curate these unique beers. All of these things bring beer geeks together in anticipation to gush all over these beers! That's what makes fresh hop beers special to me.
If you haven't tasted any fresh hop beers, get yourself down to Oaks Park today and experience them for yourself. The festival opens at noon and ends at 8pm!