It's Fresh Hop Time!
September 18, 2017 2:26 PM   Subscribe

Eastern Washington is officially the hop capital of the world. It's that time of year again, fresh hop harvest season. One of our favorite little cones growing on a bine is making it's way across the US into kettles to make the beer we all love. This year Eastern Washington toppled Germany as producing more hops than anywhere else in the world. As part of a hop growing family this makes my heart swell with pride. Washington is a really neat state. Lots of news tends to focus on the Seattle area, but the Yakima area of the state is unique and a really cool experience. Also be sure to check out Fresh Hop Festival!
posted by KingBoogly (20 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
And Portland's fresh hop festival is coming up soon too! At an old school amusement park. Get nice and toasty on fresh hop brews and then lose it all on the tilt-a-whirl.
posted by vverse23 at 2:50 PM on September 18, 2017

The town smells like the better parts of beer, especially close to the places where they process it. Strangely, though, they have only recently gotten into microbreweries. On a trip there in 2012, smelling the hops in the air, I went to a bar and asked for something local. The bartender shrugged. They do a bit better with their cider though.
posted by zabuni at 2:50 PM on September 18, 2017

Relevant Stranger article: Drink Those Wet Hop Beers While You Can

Anyone know a good place to find one on tap in South Seattle?
posted by splitpeasoup at 2:51 PM on September 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Western Washington: hip
Eastern Washington: hop
posted by not_on_display at 3:04 PM on September 18, 2017 [12 favorites]

The parkway in Tacoma used to have a Randall night every Tuesday.
posted by Annika Cicada at 3:08 PM on September 18, 2017

Also the Red Hot in Tacoma. I mean, that's not South Seattle but it's south of Seattle so yeah. All the spots I know of to find the good beer in south Seattle are in Georgetown...
posted by Annika Cicada at 3:11 PM on September 18, 2017

Indeed! The brewery I work for is kegging a wet Cascade take on our flagship IPA tomorrow. Here in the Midwest, we pay dearly to have fresh hops over-nighted to us. Ultimately, it makes for a pricey pint in the tasting room and could hardly be considered sustainable practices, but it is certainly one of the more highly anticipated events at the brewery. Looking forward to my first glass of it first thing tomorrow morning.
posted by barrett caulk at 3:20 PM on September 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Wet-hoppy floral-up-your nose beers are my favorite. Unfortunately, they tend to get mixed in with the "hop-in-the-boil" IPA's, even in Portland, where beer sellers should know better. Oddly, my favorite such beer was New Belgium's "Mighty Arrow", a Spring seasonal that they seem to have stopped brewing.

I've got hops growing on the South side of my house - not enough to brew with this year, but perhaps next year. Mmmmm.
posted by dylanjames at 3:24 PM on September 18, 2017

Coincidentally, last night I just opened the first bottle of a homebrewed, wet-hopped Chinook ale. It's the first time that I tried brewing one, but two several-year-old hop bines in the garden gave such a nice harvest that I thought I'd give it a try with half the harvest, and dry the rest for a future batch of beer. I think it could use a few more days of bottle conditioning to carbonate, and it's a touch too malty, but it's reasonably tasty, and I look forward to seeing how the flavors change over the next few weeks.
posted by JiBB at 3:34 PM on September 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yay, hops!

My home region (in upstate New York) used to be the hop capital of the country, up until Prohibition killed the industry. (We have a pretty good climate for hops—though not as good as Washington!—and trains would bring the hops from the farms to Albany for processing, and then floated down the Hudson to New York for consumption.)

There are still old hop houses (barns used for curing and storing hops) all over the hillsides around here, and they make me smile when I go past them.

Also, if you're a history and hop nerd like me, here are some photos of hop production back in the day. (They used to grow hops on big cedar poles, and just before harvest they look kinda like funny faux-trees!)

We're growing a few varieties (okay, a lot of varieties) in our garden, to keep the tradition alive. (Also they smell so good!)
posted by ragtag at 3:58 PM on September 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

My great-grandparents had a hop farm in Yakima before they switched to apples.

I feel like this gives me the authority to state that Cascade is the worst hop variety EVER.
posted by elsietheeel at 4:08 PM on September 18, 2017

splitpeasoup, me and the missus were just at the Columbia City Ale House yesterday and they had signs on the table alerting people that they would be carrying fresh hop ales (and to drink them up while available). Flying Lion Brewing just a little further south mentions a Fresh Hop Pale on their website, but alas, no mention of when it will be available. Further down Rainier in Hillman City is Slow Boat Tavern and while I can't vouch for whether they will have fresh hop beers on tap, they always have many interesting things to drink. That's what I can think of off the top of my head from my little neighborhood in the South End. I'm all ears if anyone has any other suggestions to add.
posted by friendlyjuan at 4:56 PM on September 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'd probably take a look in at NW Peaks as well, which isn't much further down from Slow Boat. I'm not in love with any of the beer I've had there, but it's serviceable IMHO, and you certainly may like it. I'll cheerfully endorse the Flying Lion though - their beers tend to be right on target with my tastes - sturdy but not over the top.
posted by wotsac at 5:12 PM on September 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh, this reminds me of a documentary called Bitter Harvest that focuses on the previously unacknowledged role of Chinese hop farmers in the Willamette Valley. It was still a work in progress, but full of hopeful and sad stories, as were the panelists in the discussion afterwards.
posted by dylanjames at 6:01 PM on September 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

The fresh hops beers are everywhere right now. Like anything, they can be wonderful or terrible. I had a fresh hop pale ale the other day that was really good, but the one I had before that was like sipping on pureed hop juice.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:27 PM on September 18, 2017

I grew hops in my garden last year. They are pretty and smell great. You can make tea with them! And then I gave them to a friend who brews beer and now I receive beer back in gratitude. It's a perfect system.
posted by lollusc at 8:04 PM on September 18, 2017

Here in Cheney, WA, nearly in Spokane (which is 20 miles away from Idaho), we have a hop plant that grows some each year and starts to climb across the ladder we've put up for it but then it gets super hot and we don't just pour water on it non-stop and so it dies back and I don't think it's ever produced a single hop. But it's fun to have in the backyard. When I lived in La Grande, OR for a while, one friend had top plants trained onto lines running from the planting bed to her roofline and those stretched across her patio and provided shade. That was cool.
posted by hippybear at 10:09 PM on September 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I feel like this gives me the authority to state that Cascade is the worst hop variety EVER.

Pretty sure that title belongs to Sterling, AKA the bland, flabby noble hop in every shitty Ameican Lager ever. Sterling is the hop equivalent of the exchange student everyone hates because "we get it, you're from Europe, but you're still a dick about everything..." (I'm pretty sure it's a branch of Fuggle, but with worse everything) I mean I know once we didn't have choices, but now... ugh.

At least Cascade grows in my back yard, and it's a good high alpha bittering hop used in pretty much everything. But, yeah, in terms of flavor or aroma, if you advertise you use Cascade, I make the Look of Disapproval.

However, the science of hop cultivation and the new cool subvarietals is pretty amazing. And beer. Beer is cool too. I made a wet hop beer a few years back, the amount required compared to processed pellet hops is insane. I used almost a half pound as aroma hops in a five gallon batch, the flavor was still subtle.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 3:01 PM on September 19, 2017

Homebewing was pretty popular when I was going to school in Logan Utah years ago, (because of Utah 3.2 beer). This guy had grown some hops in his back yard and picked some and added them to a pot of wort he was boiling up. To his horror, a horde of earwigs crawled out of the hops to die a horrible wriggling death. Note to squeamish home hop growers: I heard this at a party so it may be entirely apocryphal.

Some years late I worked for the Oregon ag department and the "hop trailer" was a mobile home where where they tested hops during harvest. I never saw it in action, but the trailer smelled strongly and deliciously of hops even when had been empty of people and hops for months.

That pretty much exhausts my hop anecdote repertoire.
posted by gamera at 11:57 PM on September 19, 2017

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