It’s The Most Lupulin Time Of The Year
“In the heart of downtown Yakima on the first Saturday of October, something amazing happens.” The amazingness referred to above is Yakima, Washington’s 9th annual Fresh Hop Ale Fest. But you could’ve just as easily replaced “Yakima” with “Hood River” as an intro to their 8th annual Hops Fest. The two towns are about 120 miles apart and each hosted the same-ish beerfest on October 1. The hop harvest is a September ritual and these fests celebrate only beers brewed using hops so fresh, so wet, so sticky-icky, so pungent, that if they were any richer in alpha acids, 99% of #OccupyWallStreet’ers would protest. The sites for the fests are naturals since 77% of American hops are grown in the Yakima Valley with Oregon’s Willamette Valley not terribly far away accounting for another 15%. Only local breweries are featured. Of course they’re local given that the only stipulation for the beers that were poured is that they were brewed with whole cones picked from the vine not more than 24 hours before taking that warmest of baths in the hopbacks.
Among the 40 or so combined breweries were some larger craft brewers like Full Sail, located a very short drive away in Hood River, OR, as well as many microbreweries like, naturally, Yakima Craft Brewing.
Yours truly missed it on account of celebrating my babymoon with my wife.
Fortuitously, the Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, WA, (half an hour from Hood River but still 2.5 hours from Yakima) held its 3rd Annual “Celebration of Beer” fest with many of the same breweries invited and, though a whole week older, brought their fresh hop beers for me to indulge in. Yakima Craft Brewing’s Vern IPA was great. Snipes Mountain Brewing, located a bit south of Yakima in Sunnyside, poured B.U.tiful IPA, wet-hopped with one of the sexiest new breeds of hops called El Dorado as well as a mysterious wet-hopped Black IPA (Cascadian Dark Ale or CDA ‘round here) utilizing a test breed of hops that probably won’t go become available on the green hops market until next year…if ever. But for my scrip (the festivals don’t let you buy samples with cash), the winner was Double Mountain’s Killer Green IPA, showcasing farm-fresh Brewers Gold hops. This Hood River-based brewery is, indeed, killing it.
Wherever you live, whether it’s in the bountiful, verdant Pacific Northwest or not, a savvy craft brewery is probably just now tapping a fresh hop beer. If you haven’t yet, do yourself a favor and go find it. Savor each sip because you won’t get so much as a swallow until next year. If you’ve had already, which one or ones have you enjoyed the most?