Ah, the first Hop Trip of the season; I enjoyed Deschutes Brewery‘s annual fresh hop beer this evening—one that’s been brewed every year since 2005—and every year it’s the seasonal variations that keep this (style of) beer interesting and help highlight just what an agricultural product beer actually is. Last year, Hop Trip was much less aromatic due to an early harvest of the hops; this year, the aroma is there and it seems more “fresh” overall.
Even though Hop Trip is classified (by people who care about such things) as a Pale Ale, it’s really much more of an American Amber with brown sugary, caramel malts that provide a nice backdrop to showcase the fresh hops. (The hops themselves are Crystal hops from the Willamette Valley.) It’s brewed to 5.5% alcohol by volume and 38 IBUs—though honestly, with fresh hops I imagine there’s enough of a utilization and/or chemical difference that I’m not sure IBU numbers have meaning in this context.
The beer pours a nice copper color and crystal clear, with a big, fluffy, off-white head piling up on top—which leaves nice lacing down the sides of the glass as you drain it. The aroma is bright and catty and green, a touch spicy, with hints of brown sugar in the background. It’s not overpowering—not wafting off the beer slapping you in the face—but it’s persistent.
The first sip is green and fresh, really fresh, and juicy; there’s a pleasant vegetal note, like kale or something similarly lightly spicy but leafy. The Amber Ale base is crisp and a touch buttery with some caramel sweetness. The hops find themselves again towards the back of the mouth with some bitterness, and throughout you just keep noticing how fresh it tastes. It finishes creamy-smooth and super-balanced—this year’s version is particularly drinkable. If you can get it, get it and drink it now.