Lupulin Nouveau Season Arrives in Oregon
Sometimes things right in front of your nose are harder to see. In Oregon and Washington, the celebration of fresh hops has, dare I say it, almost become routine. It's anything but:
Oregon is home to 120 brewing companies, and nearly 100 fresh hop beers will be made during the hop harvest.... Four Fresh Hop Fests are scheduled across the state in September and October as part of the Oregon Bounty culinary tourism program. Each Fresh Hop Fest will feature original limited release fresh hop beers produced by OBG members. Fresh hop beers are only produced during the small window of Oregon’s hop harvest, which typically takes place from mid-August to mid-September. These once-a-year beers are ready for consumption in September and October and are packed with unique flavors that simply aren’t available the rest of the year.
Breweries of the Pacific Northwest weren't the first to produce fresh hop beers--that distinction goes, probably*, to England's Wadworth Brewery--but we are unique in the world for turning harvest season into a celebration of a new style of beer. Despite the abundance of hop fields in England, only a dozen or so breweries have followed Wadworth's lead and make fresh hop beers there. New Zealand may add a Southern Hemisphere season to the practice, but they still trail us by a few years. In no other countries do breweries seem to have an interest in it.
Beyond the Beaver and Evergreen states, almost nobody knows what's going on here. The beers don't travel well, so you pretty much have to drink them in situ , in that small window when they're super fresh. The season arrives after summer, when the tourists are heading home to put the kids in school and head back to work.
Even among casual beer fans in Oregon, the concept isn't perfectly clear. In order to understand fresh hopping, you have to know that regular beer is made with dry hops. Then you have to try to explain how fresh hops affect beer--which nobody actually understands--and, oh, never mind: just taste it. It's that experience that convinces, and for Oregonians, the experience is right at hand. But it's much harder to communicate that to people who live further afield.
So as with so much, we in the Pacific Northwest may have to just relish our bounty, knowing that it will go unappreciated by most of the rest of the country. All of which is to say: don't forget to relish. The rest of the world has no idea how tasty this beer is.
*A now-forgotten brewery in the NW may actually have been first. Michael Jackson wrote an article about Wadworth in September 1993 for the Independent, adding this curious line: "I can think of only one other brewery that has tried making such a 'biere nouvelle,' and that is in the far West of the United States."