It’s the most wonderful time of the year… For hop-heads. Fresh hop season—the growing, priming and gathering harvest for hops has been completed across Yakima Valley, home to approximately 75 percent of this great nation’s hop acreage, and put into a variety of sudsy styles for the hop enthusiasts’ drinking pleasure.
Many areas of the Northwest celebrate the bright, bold and bitter beers of fresh hop, but none quite like the festival in the motherland—Yakima, Wash.’s 11th annual Fresh Hop Ale Festival. Nearly 5,000 beer lovers rolled into town on the weekend of Oct. 5, filling up the hotels and streets of downtown Yakima and splashing the season’s finest of beers in their glasses. Music crooned from vocals and instruments of Seattle’s Imagine the Giants and The True Spokes at the center stage, brewers dinners were hosted, food from Yakima’s famous Miz Dee’s BBQ, Antijito’s, Boozie Cupcakes and more were slinging their savories for all to try and multiple wine and cider were available for the beer-less to imbibe on.
In true celebration of fresh hops, it is only right to find a true representation of the Humulus lupulus plant. More than a dozen industry professionals from hop growers and distributors to beer writers, wholesalers and media (like yours truly) sat down to taste through a plethora of fresh hop ales, some coming in the form of stouts and pumpkin ales to imperial India pales and Belgian-style ales. A tough race, the winner was identified by its standout hop profile, balance and complexity. Oh, and the want to have more.
Bellingham, Wash.’s Kulshan Brewing Company In-Tents Fresh Hop took first place, with last year’s champ Seattle’s Fremont Brewing Company Cowiche Canyon Fresh Hop Ale coming close behind and Bend, Ore.’s Deschutes Brewing Company‘s Chasing Freshies in third.
Homebrewers also got their time to shine with the Most Pour Award. Homebrewer and hop distributor Karl Vanevenhoven took home Best in Show as well as first place in pale ale, Yakima occupational therapist Nolan Ver Steeg ranked first in the India pale ale department and event organizer Derry Jefferis was first in imperial India pale ale.
Get ’em while their hop—these ales aren’t around for long and will be gone before you can even call ’em fresh. Be there next October to witness the splendor of hop for yourself.