Tag Archives: Fresh Hops

Eugene Fresh Hop & Oktoberfest Roundup

Now begins the season of seasonal beer! In the Northwest, that means fresh hop beers, brewed with raw, wet, sticky, grassy hops that impart the true effects of the summer growing season. I look forward to seeing who makes the best use of this inconvenient ingredient (they soak up a LOT of wort, and require heavy scheduling to get them from farm to kettle within hours). The Wheel’s fresh hop beer is already gone because they brewed a super small batch, but it was a crazy mouthful of peachy Centennials.

Also, obviously, we have Oktoberfest, which begins today (9/22)! The lovely gold-to-amber lagers have heft in two ways: alcohol strength and how you treat the stein. Here’s a rundown of Eugene-area breweries and beer bars joining in the celebration of the end of fire season. I’ll update as more information comes in:

Events by Date:

Weihenstephaner Festbier Cask Tapping at The Bier Stein
Saturday, September 22, 2pm – Get into the spirit of Oktoberfest served in the old-fashioned tradition, straight from the cask! (Today, most of the Oktoberfest beers are served from giant storage tanks below ground in the fest halls. Augustiner, the only fully independent old brewery in Munich, still serves its festbier from wooden barrels.) The Bier Stein will have plenty of festbiers and Marzens on draught, too. More info: thebierstein.com/events

Falling Sky Oktoberfest Brewers’s Dinner
Sunday, 9/30, 6:30pm at the Deli, purchase tickets in advance. Beer dinners at Falling Sky are never short of good beer and lots of food. The menu looks lovely, with all the from-scratch goodness Falling Sky is known for. The beers will include the annual release of  Cloud Gazer Oktoberfest Bier. More info: https://fallingskybrewing.com/falling-sky-brewers-dinner-ticket.html

Weihenstephaner Beer Dinner at The Bier Stein
Wednesday, October 3, 6pm, purchase tickets in advance – This may be the classiest way to experience German beer during Oktoberfest. With 6 courses plus a welcome beer (Original Premium, of course!), the menu features a nice mix of tradition and inspiration, and is the only place you’ll get to try Braupakt (a hop forward hefeweizen, collaboration with Sierra Nevada) paired with a Thai-style papaya salad. It really works! $65 includes all food, beer, gratuity, and a good time. More info: thebierstein.com/events

Beer Releases by Brewery:

ColdFire: Marzen – 6.1% abv, 18 IBU. Brewed using a beta>alpha step mash with Pilsner and Munich malts, Hallertau Mittelfruh and Saaz hops.

Falling Sky: Nuggets of Wisdom Fresh Hop English Pale Ale – 6.1% abv, ~40IBU. Fresh Nugget Hops from Goschie Farms. Release Date: Friday 9/28

Small Tents Session Style Oktoberfest Lager – 3.6% abv, ~19 IBU. On tap now.

Ryein’ on the Hill – Rye Oktoberfest-style Lager. 5% abv, 20 IBU. Release Date: 9/23 for our Worlds Shortest Bike Race at the Pub location.

Cloud Gazer Oktoberfest Bier – 5.7% abv, 25 IBU. Release Date: 9/30 during the Fall/Oktoberfest inspired Brewers Dinner at the Deli.

Falling Sky & Coldfire: Fresh as You Like It Imperial Fresh Hop Brut IPA – 9.5% abv, ~68IBU. From Scott Sieber, head brewer at Falling Sky: “Fresh Amarillo and Chinook from Crosby Hop Farm and wet/dry hop addition of freshly shattered Mosaic hops.” They used the liquid nitrogen freeze & shatter method developed by Breakside a few years ago. Release in early October.

Manifest: Fresh hop Pumpkin Sour – 5.6% abv. Here is the description from founder/brewer Brandon Woodruff: “We made a fresh hop Pumpkin Sour using only fresh hop sterling hops. The [sic] was open fermented using spent Cabernet barrel staves to inoculate the wort. Doing the first 80% or so of fermentation the beer had 20 lbs of fresh hop Sterling (2.8lbs per bbl). Once transferred to unitank 2lbs of espresso was added. The beer is packed full of pumpkin and spices. The spices used were Chinese five spice, all spice, fresh ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Beer itself leans more toward a Flanders red than American Sour. Some malt sweetness.” Release date not included.

Oakshire: Fresh Hop Ale 2018 – 6.6% abv India Pale Ale brewed with 100% Crosby Hop Farm Amarillo. Release Date: 9/25. (Note: This is the first year release of Amarillo grown on Crosby soil.)

Plank Town: Oktoberfestbier (5.6% abv, 22 IBU) & Seavey Lupin Fresh Hop Pale Ale (5.1% abv, 35 IBU)
Plank Town released its Oktoberfestbier in August. Brewer John Crane describes it as a very quaffable malty lager with honey and spice aroma and flavor.

Seavey Lupin, also on tap now, was brewed with 21 pounds per barrel of fresh Willamette and Cascade hops from Norton’s Hop Farm on Seavey Loop Road. Crane says it has a “fresh, grassy and herbal aroma. Nice malt character followed by a clean dry finish.” This will be showcased at Tap & Growler at the beginning of October.

Sam Bond’s Brewery: Comet Fresh Hop IPA, 6.0% abv, available on draught and in package around 9/27. (Note: I love Comet hops for the fresh, bright orange aroma, and am stoked to try a fresh hop version!)

The Joy of Hop Harvest

I visited my first oast in 2011 at Hop & Brew School in Yakima, Washington during the hop harvest. With the temperature breaking 130 and the humid air made more lethargic by sleepy vapors, I saw a football field-sized, three-foot-deep bed of freshly de-bined hops and thought, What a wonderful world. The extensive piece I wrote about the action packed two-day experience was published in the newsletter of the Cascade Brewers Society and read by approximately twelve people.

Seven years later, the process is no less beguiling; nor has it changed much. This year, I toured Crosby Hop Farm’s fields and processing plant with my New School crew Ezra (founder) and Michael Perozzo (southern WA contributor). I took some video that smoky morning, and spliced together a quick tutorial on the process (I did the music too!):

Those are the basic maneuvers performed at any hop farm. What the video fails to capture is the momentum of history, the pace of information, and the contiguity that hop farmers have with the craft beer world.

Before the early 00’s, hop farmers were dealing with a just few people who represented giant brewing entities with no need for creativity. At the same time, hop breeders were at the precipice of the future, with Simcoe and Amarillo hops achieving acreage for the several hundred craft breweries (microbreweries we called ’em then, kids) that made beer with flavor and adventurousness. Yes, Cascade had been a hit long before, but that was low wave on a shallow shoreline compared to what was about to crash on the sands of our sensory glands.

The evolution of craft beer in the 21st century parallels that of social media and global information sharing. With the communities that flourished on the internet, including the beer rating sites Beer Advocate and RateBeer, beer drinkers had a “virtual pub” in which to discuss and rave about their favorites. The IPA buzzword “IBU” and now-patented hop varieties, with their “citrusy” and “dank” aromas, quickly rose in the ranks of the collectively inebriated unconscious. There was demand, craft brewers listened hard, and in turn put demand on hop growers for more aroma varieties.

Over the decades of commercial hop growth and brewers contracting in hop futures, there has always been a shifting balance of aroma and bittering hop acreage. Farmers must be brutally honest with their plants to be successful, which means tearing out rows to replace them with varieties that, ideally, will be very popular in two years. Despite the Internet, hops don’t grow any faster.

Fast forward a little bit, to around 2008. Although fresh hop beers were not entirely new, their popularity had grown quite a bit. This meant that more brewers were getting directly in touch, going to the fields, and trading information with hop growers.

Crosby Hop Farm has taken a leading edge on this front. Blake Crosby, a 5th generation hop farmer, sunk his teeth into the business several years ago. Rather than just sell hops to wholesale brokers, he guided the farm through a renaissance that would incorporate growing, processing, importing, and direct sales and marketing into an all-hops-everything juggernaut in the Willamette Valley.

I covered the early season process and a bit about Crosby in an article for the Oregon Beer Growler earlier this year. But this tour, just when the harvest was winding up to go full bore, made it clear that the relationships that hop growers like Crosby and Goschie farms have with brewers and drinkers is another seam strengthening the fabric of craft beer.

Since Crosby integrated other aspects of the hop business, it’s had to build a strong marketing team and develop language that diverges from the agronomic lingo you’d hear at a Hop Growers of America meeting. Now, the story of the farm becomes part of its terroir. Its Salmon Safe certification isn’t just for the land, it’s part of the salesperson’s toolbox. Welcome to the 21st century, hops!

Though marketing is never a measure of quality in any product, closing the gap between producer and consumer does enhance the information relay. Does a beer drinker need to know the hop grower? Obviously not, the same way we don’t need to know our chicken farmer. But it sure does help make informed decisions. And really, hops are far outside of the scope of scrutiny for the ethically-minded consumer. The Salmon Safe designation is, as far as I can tell, the best compromise between conventional and organic pest and fungus management. Every hop grower I’ve spoken with says that the time and effort to get a much lower yield using organic practices is hardly worth it on any sort of production scale. That’s to be taken with a grain of salt, as certain hops do better in different climates and can be successfully grown organically; those are not the hops people are looking for in an IPA, though. The point: if you, the consumer, prefer drinking organic beer, you have the ability to contact the producers of organic ingredients and find out who uses them.

As we roll into fresh hop season, complete with the crazy array of fresh hop festivals in the region, it’s worth appreciating the incredible amount of hard work at hop farms between August and October. A lot of the manual labor is done by temporary workers, many of whom are Latino men and women. Many farms have on-site labs. Crosby has a pelletizer as well, and a warehouse of hops to manage and rotate through. Hops go from the field to a ready-to-brew format in just a couple days, which is part of what makes the harvest so exciting; in the coming months, as breweries start brewing with their 2018 hops, we’ll start tasting the effect of this year’s weather on the first crop of Amarillo grown on Crosby soil.