The smell is unforgettable.
As soon as you walk into the giant warehouse, the aroma of hops hits you before you see them, piled into small hills or flowing on conveyor belts. The smell of fresh hops are a special blend of spicy herb and grassy earthiness, with a piney and resinous aroma that sticks to your clothes and lingers long after you’ve left their presence.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to tour around Yakima in late September and enjoy the annual Fresh Hop Ale Festival. The media tour visited a number of farms, and we got to see the machinery and people that help hops make the journey from farm to warehouse, to brewery to glass.
I’ve been in love with fresh hop beers ever since. We are fortunate to live in a region that has an embarrassment of riches in terms of fresh hop beers. Just a short jaunt over the mountains, local brewers can pick up giant bags of hops and return the same day to get them in the kettle. Brewers east of Idaho and south of Colorado are as green as hops with envy.
After taking 2020 off, the Fresh Hop Ale Festival is back this year. For beer lovers, I can’t encourage you enough to go at least once. It’s a wild party that takes over downtown Yakima, with upwards of 50 breweries — both Washington and national stalwarts — showing off their fresh hop creations. This year’s festival is Oct. 2 and includes the fresh hop stylings of local hop wizards at Skookum Brewery.
Can’t make it to Yakima? Here’s where to get some fresh hops:
Before the pandemic hit, 5 Rights’ head brewer and owner R.J. Whitlow connected with Ben Edmunds when the celebrated head brewer at Breakside Brewing in Portland, Oregon, stopped by the then-recently opened small brewery in Marysville.
Edmunds expressed his admiration for Whitlow’s creations, and the two talked about collaborating on a beer. After a few false starts, the two finally sat down and hammered out a beer. Fortunately for us, that beer is a fresh hop.
Dippin’ Hops is a fresh hop beer made with Strata hops from Washington and Oregon farms. The beer itself has subtle resin notes that pair well with soft fruit notes. It’s a must-try this fresh hop season.
This weekend, 5 Rights will put on its annual Freshies and Friends event that will showcase fresh hop beers from 11 breweries, including Reuben’s, Varietal and Airways. The event is Oct. 1-3. Tickets are $18, and include five tasters and a collectible glass.
Skookum are no strangers to fresh hops. They’ve won multiple best of awards at the aforementioned Fresh Hop Ale Festival. Head brewer Hollis Wood and his team regularly churn out great fresh hops this time of year.
Skookum is canning a bunch of fresh hops, including its Wet Side Connection, a 100% Citra fresh hop beer that won at Fresh Hop Ale Festival. Collaborations with Varietal (Temple of Bloom) and Old Schoolhouse Brewing (Ka’ Pow) will also be on tap and canned, and fresh hop Billowing Waves, a big time Mosaic IPA, and Rising Bines, which is 100% Mosaic, will also be in cans later this week.
The Everett brewery has seven fresh hop beers that are either on tap now or will be later this week. All the fresh hops are single hop beers and are made with Ahtanum, Chinook, Citra, Mosaic, Sabre, Strata and Cascade hops. All but the Cascade fresh hop will also be canned.
Along with putting out the array of fresh hops, Crucible is celebrating half a dozen years in business. Crucible’s sixth anniversary celebration is set for noon to 10 p.m. Oct. 2 at its Everett location.
The theme of the anniversary party is “Letterkenny,” the Canadian comedy series, and Crucible plans to pour a few barrel-aged sours and its annual barrel-aged Russian Imperial stout, Putin Out Stout. A limited number of bottles of Putin Out Stout will also be on sale.
Annually Frank Sandoval takes local hops from the gardens and back yards of his Snohomish neighbors and friends and turns it into a fresh hop beer. This year’s version of the Local Hop fresh hop beer is made from hops from five different locations, and will hit SnoTown taps later this week.