Summer Closed With The 8th Annual Hood River Hops Fest
Fresh hop season has come and gone, and being Oregonians, we are not only spoiled with so many breweries close to home, but these breweries have access to some of the local fresh hops this time of year straight from the Willamette Valley. So as Summer closed, our beloved local brewers not only created new fresh hop beers, but also recreated versions of our classic favorites.
Every fall, the Hood River Chamber of Commerce brings together some of these fresh hopped beers at their annual festival; the Hood River Hops Fest. This October marked the 8th year that Hood River locals and beer enthusiasts gathered in Hood River on the first Saturday in of the month for this one day festival. You don't have to be a beer lover to enjoy the festival, as it's sponsored by some of Hood Rivers local businesses showcasing their products and services. Also at the fest you'll find a variety of entertainment; musicians, belly dancers and wine tastings from some of the multiple wineries in the Gorge. You'll find the beer in a long line of tents decorated with dried hops, two beers from each brewery. Of all the beers I tried, only one brewery really got my attention, and it just so happened to be Hood River's own Double Mountain. They came out with two amazing fresh hop brews, Killer Red and Killer Green. Killer Red is a Fresh Hop Strong IRA and it was my personal favorite, with a distinct smell of fresh hops yet an amazingly sweet and fruity taste with just the right amount of hop bitterness.
What are fresh hop beers? Fresh hop beers are made with the addition of fresh hops, rather than dried or preserved hops. Hops are picked from the hop field and tossed in the brew kettle on the same day to preserve the hops aroma and flavor. Hop harvest season is from late August to early October, and you'll see fresh hop beers appear on the scene just a week or two after the first hops are picked. These beers are best consumed as fresh as possible with the hops lending the beer a more earthy, herbal, floral, and even spicy character, depending on the hops chosen. Given such a short window to create these beers, along with the varying hop crops, many of these beers are experimental.
The fest brought me to Hood River and for the first time, I was able to spend a good chunk of time in this beautiful city. Hood River is home to Full Sail, Double Mountain, a smaller brewery called Big Horse, plus more than a dozen wineries. I'd be interested in going back to check out all of those breweries, but Hood River also has festivals and events year round that would be worth attending simply to explore this scenic city. Along with the Hops Fest, Hood River brings a Harvest Fest, Blossom Festival, Gorge games, and other family friendly events. Being that Double Mountain whipped up the best fresh hop beer I have tried this year, I'd love to go back to try some of their other brews on tap. Founded in 2007 with a passion for craft beer, Double Mountain focuses on being a "brewers' brewery". From Double Mountain Brewery's website: "From the beginning, our goal was to make beers that we liked to drink. All of our beers are served up unfiltered and long-aged, to deliver maximum flavor and character. The beers can be very complex and assertive, but with the ultimate goal of proper balance. We aim to satisfy both the hardcore aficionados and the more casual craft beer fan, all in the same glass."
Sipping a fresh hop beer with Full Sail's brewery and the rolling hills lining Hood River as a back drop while breathing the crisp air off the river is an experience in its own. Fresh hop beers represent the Oregonians love for the use of fresh local ingredients, and Hood River gave us a prime example of that, not only in the beer but in the atmosphere.
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