Breweries, beer halls and festivals are overflowing with seasonal beer bounty.
Fresh-hop is our true seasonal beer, only available when the hop harvest is ready. Guess what? It’s ready. Last Saturday, beer fanatics lined up for an hour in front of The Noble Fir bar for the 8th Annual Fresh Hop Throwdown in Ballard.
For the uninitiated, fresh hops, as the name implies, get plucked right out of the fields. Then it’s a race against time as brewers load up thousands of pounds of the flowering plants into their trucks and high-tail it to their breweries before the hops decompose.
These beers typically have an aroma akin to that of a freshly-mowed lawn and the resinous and deep floral notes that hop heads love.
They‘re a bigger deal around here than in other parts of the country. Because Yakima Valley produces 75 percent of the country’s hops, local breweries can make fresh-hop beer cheaper and without the logistical challenges that East Coast brewers face, like having to get hops shipped overnight.
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Our roundup of fresh-hop beer fests starts in Yakima, but you can hit just about any local beer hall or brewery to find taps of fresh hops out the wazoo.
Here are some fresh-hop beers many are chasing this week:
Fremont Brewing Co.’s “Field to Ferment” beer series and its fresh-hop brew from Cowiche Canyon will be a big draw again this fall. It’s available on tap now at the brewery and also sold in cans. It should be easier to find this year, since the brewery increased production from 1,200 barrels to 1,921 barrels for its “Field to Ferment” fresh-hop beers.
Cloudburst Brewing also increased production after selling out quickly last year. The brewer expects to have enough to last until mid-October. A couple of dates of note: on Sept. 29, Cloudburst will tap a fresh-hop beer it brewed with Holy Mountain. On Oct. 4, Cloudburst will tap a beer it brewed with the acclaimed Bale Breaker Brewing.
Another interesting beer that’s popping up around town is Anderson Valley Mendo Mello Estate Wet Hop Ale, brewed with Chinook and Cascade hops.
Other fests and fresh-hop-related events of note:
Fresh Hop Ale Festival in Yakima (Sept. 30)
It’s one of the year’s biggest beer events, with many top breweries showing off what they can do with fresh hops. Expect long lines. VIP early-admission tickets are sold out already.
Held at Millennium Plaza in downtown Yakima. Party starts at 5 p.m., freshhopalefestival.com
Seattle Fresh Hops Fest (Oct. 7)
An underrated event, this festival showcases more than two-dozen beers, including one from pFriem Family Brewers in Oregon, whose fresh-hop brews aren’t readily available across Western Washington.
Held at 4301 Leary Way N.W., Seattle, two sessions: 1-4 p.m. and 6-9 p.m., $25 tickets sold at strangertickets.com
Restaurants are offering fresh-hop pairing dinners now. Urbane restaurant in the Hyatt at Olive 8 hotel features a $45 three-course meal with fresh-hop beers from Reuben’s Brews. The pairing is estimated to run through Oct. 5.
And starting Sept. 30, Reuben’s Brews will have all its fresh-hop beers at its Ballard tap room. One of the best I’ve tasted this year was Reuben’s Amarillo, hoppier than last year’s version, but still going down easy for such a bitter brew.
Urbane Restaurant and Lounge, 1639 Eighth Ave., Seattle, 206-676-4600, urbaneseattle.com
Fresh hops in West Seattle
From Sept. 30 to Oct. 8, The Beer Junction will have between 20 and 30 taps of fresh hop available every day, including a fresh-hop cider.
Beveridge Place Pub will close off its parking on Oct. 14 (noon-6 p.m.) to host Fresh Hop Festival, with more than 30 beers on tap.
The Beer Junction, 4511 California Ave. S.W., Seattle, 206-938-2337, thebeerjunction.com
Beveridge Place Pub, 6413 California Ave. S.W., 206-932-9906, beveridgeplacepub.com
Always a big draw, this beer temple plans to feature at least 10 fresh hops on tap every day in October. Beer fans have marked Oct. 4 on their calendars, when Brouwer’s will feature fresh hops and barrel-aged beers from Fremont Brewing, tapping at 6 p.m.
400 N. 35th St., Seattle; 206-267-2437, brouwerscafe.com
On Oct. 15, a cicerone guides you through a flight of fresh-hop beers, including one brewed by Three Magnet Brewing, a rising stars in the microbrewery scene. All proceeds go to Rez Dog Rescue in Yakima. 11 a.m.-noon. Get the $25 ticket at brownpapertickets.com
2000 Benson Road S., Renton, 425-264-6391, thebrewmasterstaproom.com