For beer lovers, the hop harvest stands for the freshest ales of the year. As it unfolds in September across famous valleys like Yakima and Willamette, the newest crop is rushed off to aching brewers in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
Any good brewer will tell you that when it comes to hop-forward beers like IPAs, the fresher the hops the better. Anybody who has tasted the newest batch of 3-Way IPA or Pliny knows as much. It’s why beer heads scan for canning dates and ask for the just-made stuff. In terms of the extreme seasonality, freshness, and festive atmosphere, the fresh-hop run is the beer equivalent of Beaujolais Nouveau.
Your favorite brewery’s social media avenues are about to get crammed with drool-worthy photos of handfuls of hops, hazy beer creations, and inventive collaborations. Taste what they’re so jazzed about with these standout fresh-hop beer options during this, the best time of year for high-IBU brews.
Of course, being in close proximity to hop-heavy states like Washington, Oregon, California, and Idaho is ideal. But there’s also solid distribution these days, along with better hop transportation and means of preservation for brewers looking to make something fresh in a different part of the country.
Ask your local bottle shop staffer or grocery store booze steward for the freshest of the fresh and enjoy the harvest.
Block 15 out of Corvallis, Oregon benefits from being located close to quality hops, as well as some cutting-edge agricultural research from nearby Oregon State University. On top of that, they’re simply very good at what they do. Their hop-forward beers are all the better this time of year, like the spirited Fresh Flow and Sticky Hands IPAs.
Also near some great hop land, Bale Breaker has become one of the best hop-handlers in the brew game. If you can make it to their Yakima taproom, you’ll gain access to some of the freshest beers around — not to mention intriguing one-offs via their Imagination Station program. With their own hop farm, production facility, and tasting room, Bale Breaker functions a lot like an estate winery. Be on the lookout for fresh runs of their wonderfully hoppy Field 41 Pale Ale and Leota Mae IPA.
Fans of the danker beers will love this year’s Fresh Hop Eliot from Portland’s Ex Novo. It shows stone fruit alongside fresh grass and green tea notes — a verdant hop field in a can. The standard Eliot is a great year-round offering but taste it side-by-side with the seasonal version to fully understand the might of the fresh hop.
Pennsylvania’s Tröegs Brewing fully embraces the annual hop harvest. Their Hop Cycle family of beers showcases the various seasons of the year-round craft. But the best is the Hop Knife Harvest IPA, brewed late August through October. It is zesty, tropical, and as balanced as they come.
San Diego’s Modern Times has become a household name among West Coast hop enthusiasts. In addition to smaller-batch fresh-hop renditions available at their tap houses, the producer also cans a very fresh and very delicious Ghost Mountain IPA this time of year. Packed with Nelson, El Dorado, and Ekuanot hops, it is fruity and refreshing.
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