Sunday, October 4, 2009

Beer # 154 - Hop Pale Pale, Laurelwood Brewery, Portland Oregon AND Others from the Hood River Hops Fest 2009!

With over 31 fresh hop beers (though over 50 beers available to sample) the 2009 Hood River Hops Fest premiered some excellent examples of fresh hop beer styles. Ranging from Pales Ales to Red Ales, Amber and Wheat to Imperial IPA, Octoberfest to Farmhouse style and even a Hemp ale - the 27 breweries involved gave a well-rounded showing of ales and lagers. Their one similarity - the fresh hop! A glorious occasion to come together!
I sampled 15 beers and was impressed with the range and varieties available. This was a perfect time to sample the differences in aroma, taste, body and finish of different hops - Amaillo, Chinook, name it. If you want to line up a taste test of hops, this is your place. There will be a Fresh Hop Tastival in Portland on October 10th and in Eugene on October 17th, check for details... There were many beers to try, but I managed to scratch down a few brief notes on each of my samples...

-One of my favorites from this year was the Hop Pale Pale from Laurelwood, a brewery that continues to impress. It pours a cloudy amber. A good way to introduce yourself to the Amarillo hop, the aroma is all hop. The bitter full body has a rounded finish that lingers nicely, giving you great breath!

-Ninkasi, my favorite brew-find of 2008! brought their Nugg E. Fresh Wet Hop Ale - a red ale featuring Crystal hops. It had darker characteristics in both color and flavor, with a fuller body and not quite as crisp as some of the others I sampled. The hop was very soft and though it was a red, there was no real sweetness present. I thought it a great beer and if I had more tokens, I would have returned!

-Pelican Brewery, an all-time favorite of mine (with a picturesque brewpub in Pacific City) presented their Elemental Ale - which displayed the virtues of the Sterling hop in this strong pale. It was crisp, but the hop seemed to soften the crispness, rounding out the body. Sterling isn't as floral-y as other hops and tends to a more earthy balanced flavor.

-Walking Man Brewery, up the river in Stevenson, Washington - just a skip across the Bridge of the Gods, featured two beers, their Hoptoberfest, an Octoberfest Lager and the Holalong IPA. At 6.9% this big IPA held bold flowery hop that lasted well through the finish. You will walk away with the virtues of the Chinkook hop still on your palate. It is crisp and delicious, a good complement to these fall days! The Hoptoberfest held it's own with imported German malts and hops. Rich and malty, it tended toward the sweeter side with a coppery finish. Another welcome compliment to fall.

-Three Creeks Brewery from Sisters, Oregon, presented their Santiam Hop Harvest, which I kick myself for not trying. It is a Farmhouse Ale with Santiam fresh hops. Their other beer was the Desperado Imperial IPA, which I did sample. It has a nice full rounded body with big hops, but not overly bitter or flowery. It did seem to have an excess of CO2, but it's nice lingering finish helped forgive it...

-Eliot Glacier, from Parkdale, Oregon, sampled their Belgian Espresso Stout and their Gnarl Ridge Double Dry Hopped IPA. The Stout was in the dubbel tradition of ales and held big noteso of chocolate, espresso and yeast. Almost a brown ale in character until the yeast settles in on the palate giving it a unique tang. It has a nice full body with a lingering sweetness after the yeast spice. The Gnarl Ridge shifted gears drastically, offering up big earthy hop and a nice full finish.

-Double Mountain, from right there in Hood River, offfered up the Dapper Dan, a mild brown ale and the one I tried, the Killer Green Fresh Hop IPA which kicked it up a gear with Brewer's Gold hops. A big full body with a nice long hop finish that dominates the palate.

-Hopworks Brewery from here in Portland made an appearance with their 7-Grain Survival Stout and the Sodbuster's Pale Ale. The Sodbuster's featured Crystal hops. A little thin, it offers up an interesting sweetness that curbed the bitterness, resetting the palate quickly.

-Upright Brewing had their Upright Four Farmhouse Ale and the Fresh Hop of Bel Air. With a name like that, I couldn't refuse. It is a Saison with Liberty hops. Citrus notes combined with the yeast to deliver a uniquely tasty beer. White pepper and spice on the back of the tongue, finishing with the citrus tones.

-Big Horse Brewing from Hood River appeared with their The Strange, a Hemp Ale and Vernon the Rabbit Slayer. Again, I'm a sucker for names. Vernon is an Imperial IPA with Simcoe hops. It is big with earthy hop and a malt backbone. There is bitterness-a-plenty and it dominates the palate with Simcoe.

-Amnesia had both their Copacetic IPA and their Fresh Hoppalata Pale Ale, which features Liberty hops. It packs a punch with an earthy big body and a nice lingering finish.

-Astoria offered up their Bitter Bitch Double IPA and the Hoptimus Prime 2.0 Pale Ale. Featuring Simcoe and Cascade, the Hoptimus offered up the earthy Simcoe flavor with a nice pine, as well. The Cascade hops helped to make an interesting and unique finish on the beer that lingers for awhile on the palate.

-One of the first Fresh Hop Beers I ever tried years ago was the Hop Trip from Deschutes. This Pale Ale with Crystal hops was my introduction to the Fresh Hop style and I finished the festival with this beer in honor of it's place in my personal beer history. My palate was quite useless at this point to commit to a proper tasting, so I will leave it at this: a great beer!

I hope you will have a chance to introduce yourself to some of these fine Lagers and Ales - some are available in stores, others at the breweries and of course, at the upcoming Fresh Hop Fests. It's a short harvest season, so don't delay!


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