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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Notes on the Fresh Hop Fest

I am slow at getting to my notes from the fest, but at long last, here they are. They're slightly idiosyncratic: I was so focused on the hops that I didn't take notes on the whole presentation of each beer. Essentially, I had six or seven very tasty beers, a couple head-turners (good) and one misfire. Except for the misfire, all were interesting and good (all B's or better on the patented rating scale). Instead, I took notes on the hops. And not, it turned out, very expansive notes. Still, here goes.
  • Liberty (Upright Fresh Hop of Bel Air). Surprisingly sharp hopping. The saison style can tolerate a little bitterness, and it worked well here. A fairly clean bitter note without a lot of ornamentation--sort of like dried Crystal hops.
  • Amarillo (Laurelwood Hop Bale Pale). One of the two best beers I tried. The Amarillo had much of the quality as the '07 Amarillo Lupulin--tropical fruit notes, lush and exotic. Shiny, citrusy, radiant. A bit more bitter than I recall Full Sail's being, but this was nice, too.
  • Santiam (Cascade Lakes Harvest). A sweet hop--a honey note and also a grassy quality.
  • Brewer's Gold (Double Mountain Killer Green). Fresh hop beers are generally soft and herbal--not this one. It lived up to its name with an aggressively bitter character. Sharp, clear, slightly tangy. (Worth noting that the DM boys threw in a few other hops--Simcoe, Warrior, Summit--to round the character out. Cheating? Your call.)
  • Hallertauer (Rock Bottom Octoberfist). The misfire. It both smelled and tasted "meaty," like the beer had been made with beef bullion. It tended just a bit to sour, and Sally described the note as "sauerbraten." I've noticed that fresh hopped lagers rarely work, so I don't know if that's at issue here, but it was decidedly not a good hop note.
  • Nugget (Ninkasi Nugg E Fresh). A surprisingly lightly-hopped beer from Ninkasi (intentional?). It was soft, gentle, and herbal. The hop showed lots of promise, but I'd like to see a few more the next time.
  • Chinook (Walking Man Hopalong IPA). The other contender for tastiest hop. Dried Chinooks are impressive--gritty, sharp, peppery, and sometimes grinding in their bitterness. Wet, they were also sharp, but the sharp edges were gone. They were fuller and greener. Of all the hops, it seemed the most saturated with green hoppiness.
  • Summit (Widmer Hopturnal Emission). The Summits were fruity and sweet, a bit like Juicy Fruit gum, with very little of their strongly characteristic orange/tangerine note.
After these, I tried the Rock Bottom Hoodwinked with Mt Hoods and the Big Horse Vernon the Rabbit Slayer with Simcoe. They were both fine, but I failed to take notes.

To reiterate one point, it's worth noting that every beer I tried (save Octoberfist) had very clear, clean hop notes. In past years, the hops often expressed a muddy lack of clarity. This year they were distinct presences. If you missed the Hood River edition, you have two more chances:
Portland, 10/10/2009
Oaks Park Amusement Park
7805 SE Oaks Park Way
Eugene, 10/17/2009
948 Olive St.
Go forth and taste!


  1. >>In past years, the hops often expressed a muddy lack of clarity. This year they were distinct presences.

    Kind of like you, Jeff!

    One thing to keep in mind is that hops are crops -- not always consistent from year to year. You might want to ease up on the gross generalizations.

  2. Anon, two things. By all means, criticize my analysis. Blogs are best when they're conversations. But if you're going to criticize, why not give some actual analysis back? These drive-by ad hominem attacks do little to add to the discussion.

    (Plus, not to put too fine a point on it, anonymous attacks are, well, not particularly bold.)

  3. lol @ Jeff

    Don't get too flustered by completely off-the-wall comments that have no backing... funny though... hops, and only in Portland! ATTACK!!!

    On another note... I am glad you found Laurelwoods to be one of the best, if not the best.... I feel that brewer over all others has the best grasp on hops, and what makes a great beer. That guy has got his yeast in check!

    I still need to make the trip out to Stevenson to even try a Walking Man brew.....

    Laurelwood to me makes the best beer in Oregon. And it's my opinion... and more so my taste, and what me and my body likes and can deal with. Live without Workhorse would be a live not worth living!

  4. v = f... don't know wtf happened there! ^