Hops fresh off the vine
With summer drawing to a close, hop farmers throughout the Willamette Valley are bringing in their fragrant harvests. To celebrate the region's bounty, the Oregon Brewers Guild is gearing up for the Portland Fresh Hops Fest. Featuring nearly 70 Oregon breweries, the annual festival will be serving beers made with hops brewed within hours of harvesting, including Wilsonville's Vanguard Brewing.
According to Brian Butenschoen, the executive director of the Oregon Brewers Guild and host of the Portland Fresh Hops Fest, Oregon grows about a third of the nation's hops. Due to the abundance of fresh hops available at the end of the growing season and the farms' close proximity to numerous breweries, the Portland metro area has become a haven for fresh hops beers.
Unlike traditional beers that use dried hops in the brewing process, beers that use fresh hops have a more hop-forward flavor. Butenschoen says the difference between fresh hop beers and traditional beers can most easily be compared to the difference between fresh and dried herbs.
"People in the Northwest tend to like hoppy beers already, so this is like an added bonus," Butenschoen says. "We're excited to have all of the Oregon Brewers Guild members coming."
Each brewery will showcase at least one fresh hop beer, including Vanguard Brewing's Cascade Redhead Red Ale.
"We're really looking forward to it," Lin Anderson, co-owner of Vanguard Brewing, says. "Our beer is actually still brewing right now, so it's going to be super fresh and finish just in time for the Fresh Hop Fest."
Using Cascade hops from Crosby Hop Farm in Woodburn, Anderson says that the hops give the Redhead a pop of citrus flavor, producing a fresh tasting red ale. And since Crosby is only a 25-minute drive from the brewery, she says that the freshness will really come through.
"We actually drove down the morning that we used them in our beer," Anderson says. "It doesn't really get much fresher than that! They pick it and within hours it's in our beer."
With a first-come-first-serve tasting format, Butenschoen says that it's not unusual for breweries to run out of their beers before the end of the festival.
"You don't want to show up the last hour on Saturday," Butenschoen says. "These beers are mostly one-and-done, so it's best to show up Friday or in the morning Saturday for the greatest selection."
"It's such a neat event for us to participate in and to show off the bounty of what the Pacific Northwest has to offer," Anderson says. "It's a whole lot of fun."