The season of the fresh hop beers is upon us, and it’s going to be an interesting one, I think. Deschutes Brewery as usual is brewing up a bunch—many of which will be on tap for their Fresh Hop Beer Tasting event later in October—though Hop Trip is their big one that should be hitting shelves any day now.
Hop Trip was brewed barely a month ago—back on August 26th it was when they drove over to the Willamette Valley for this year’s batch of fresh hops, and brewed it up that day. Then they sent me a bottle three weeks later, and I noted that this is about as fresh as it gets for bottled beer.
I actually drank it back on the 20th, 10 days ago, which makes my review almost older than the beer! (Seriously, where did the time go?)
Also of interest to the fresh hop heads… this year’s hop harvest seemed to arrive a couple of weeks earlier than normal, at least here in the Pacific Northwest, judging by the anecdotal stuff I’ve read online. Anyone have any hard numbers on this? What I know for sure is that this is almost a month earlier than Hop Trip has appeared in past years, judging by my past reviews.
Anyway, Hop Trip is a caramelly American Pale Ale, brewed to 5.5% alcohol. Liquid Solutions has it for sale right now (though their current picture is the old label).
Appearance: Nutty amber color and clear with brisk, lacey off-white head.
Smell: Green and hoppy, with malty caramel base… hops are sweet and bright but not too grassy or vegetal… in fact less aromatic than I remember from last year.
Taste: Fresh greens, mildly spicy, nicely sweet. Bitterness comes later in the mouth but it’s less “hop” bitter and more “mustard greens” bitter—a hint of peppery spice but very clean. Solid pale/amber ale base with lots of caramel/crystal malt notes, and a touch of chocolate.
Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied and pleasantly effervescent and a touch dry, though it finishes more sweet.
Overall: A very drinkable amber ale—you get more “fresh hop” in the mouth than the nose and it’s very pleasant—almost a Belgian-y quality without the Belgian spicing or yeast profile—somewhat mellow and quite drinkable.
Afternote: the relative lack of hoppy aroma this year was confirmed by Jason Randles of Deschutes (whom I chatted up at the Brewery’s Jubelale Release this evening). It wasn’t anything done different by the Brewery, it is in fact the character of this year’s fresh hops themselves—something to do with the early harvest I mentioned above, is my guess. Don’t worry, it’s still a great beer—and it’s a good example of how (even commercially) beer is still an agricultural product subject to the year-to-year variations of its ingredients.