Drinking: Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale

McMenamins Thundercone Fresh Hop AleAfter mowing the lawn tonight I opened up that growler of Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale that I picked up from McMenamins yesterday, a nice fresh hop follow-up to mowing and raking up freshly-cut grass. This is a tasty beer, and I’m writing down these notes even as I’m drinking it—sort of a semi-live-blogging session, you could say.

The stats on this beer are:

Malts: Canada Malting Superior Pilsen Malt, Franco Belges Caramel Munich 40
Hops: Chinook (Bittering), Fresh Brewer’s Gold hops (Flavor & Aroma)

OG: 1.061  TG: 1.013  ABV: 6.19%  IBU: 56  SRM: 7

At the Old St. Francis School here in Bend (which is where I got it), brewer Mike White brewed a six-barrel batch, using five pounds of fresh hops per barrel—or 30 pounds of fresh hops overall. The hops used this year, Brewer’s Gold, are a departure from the normal Cascades. Brewer’s Gold is primarily used as a bittering hop, with typically 5 to 10% alpha acids, and not one I can recall seeing used fresh (though I’m sure it has). Cascade hops, on the other hand, are the American aroma hop (really dual-purpose), with alpha acids ranging from 4 to 9%.

Appearance: Darker copper color, slightly hazy, with a nice fly-in-amber impression when held to the light.

Smell: The Brewer’s Gold hops impart a peppery, green earthy character, kind of leafy, like freshly-crushed dandelion greens or maybe arugula. Maybe even a touch of menthol. It’s very clean and fresh. Malts come out as bit as it warms and remind me of crackers.

Taste: Similar in profile to what I’m getting in the aroma: peppery, earthy, green, and that slightest hint of menthol. The pale ale base is mellow and a good backbone to letting the hops shine, biscuit-y and cracker-y, but otherwise out of the way.

Mouthfeel: Clean, medium-bodied, with that peppery fresh hop taste lingering on.

Overall: I’m enjoying this beer, and it’s different from the Thundercone I remember of previous years because of the different hops for sure.

This officially goes on tap this Friday, September 19, and if you love fresh hops then you need to seek it out! Each brewery’s version will taste a bit different, so if you get the chance to try more than one version, jump all over it. (I would still love to see an all-McMenamins Thundercone fresh hop fest with all the different breweries side by side!)

I’ll end with the “Running of the Brewers” video McMenamins made a couple years ago; it’s fun and just look at all those fresh hops…

Received: McMenamins Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale (2014)

I picked up a growler of the soon-to-be-released Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale from McMenamins Old St. Francis School today, courtesy of McMenamins:

McMenamins Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale

It’s slated to be released this Friday, September 19, but I got the sneak preview (though I haven’t cracked this growler yet—had plans this evening!). Each year the brewing of Thundercone is heralded by the “Running of the Brewers,” celebrating the hop harvest with 1000 pounds of fresh hops “frantically delivered from Sodbuster Farms… to 22 McMenamins Breweries all over Washington and Oregon.” This year the fresh hops used were Brewer’s Gold (as opposed to Cascade in previous years).

Fresh hop season is one of my favorite times of the “beer year” and I always hunt down as many as I can find. I’m definitely looking forward to pouring a pint of this one, it’s always one of the good ones out there (OSF brewer Mike White knows his stuff). I’ll post about it when I do.

Incidentally, the other fresh hop beer being offered at the Old St. Francis School, Mr. Peacock’s Special Bitter Fresh Hop Ale, is on tap now! This is an OSF-only house beer brewed with Fuggles and Mt. Hood hops hand-picked from the D&D Ranch out in Terrebonne (northern Central Oregon).

Fresh Hops Watch, 2014 edition

It’s that time of year again—hop harvest season, and the first fresh hop beers are hitting the taps. (I even homebrewed a fresh hop IPA last weekend, which will be ready in a few weeks.) With that in mind, I figured it was time to set up a running tally/list of fresh hop beers available in Central Oregon. I’ll continually update this post (and may keep it pinned on the homepage for a while).

Fresh hops

10 Barrel Brewing:

  • The Boss: On tap 9/12. First of four fresh hop beers from 10 Barrel. 5.5% abv. Hops used: Centennial hops from Umpqua Hop Farms
  • Big Daddy Fresh: Brewed by Shawn Kelso in Boise, will be at the Sisters Fresh Hop Festival. 6.1% abv. Hops used: Centennial from Gooding Hop Farm

Cascade Lakes Brewing:

  • Farmer’s Choice Wet Hop: Coming soon, will be at the Sister Fresh Hop Festival. 5.8% abv. Hops used: 150 lbs. of Centennial from the Umpqua Valley (Sutherlin, OR)

Crux Fermentation Project:

  • Cruxtennial Fresh Hop Belgian Pale Ale: On tap as of September 2. 6% abv. Hops used: Centennial and Crystal
  • Crystal Zwickle Fresh Hop Belgian Pale Ale: On tap now. Will be at the Sister Fresh Hop Festival. 6% abv. Hops used: Crystal
  • Off the Fence Estate Grown Fresh Hop Ale: On tap now. Will be at the Sister Fresh Hop Festival. 5.8% abv. Hops used: Cascade

Deschutes Brewery:

  • Fresh Hop Horse Ridge IPA: On tap as of September 3. 6.1% abv. Will be at the Sisters Fresh Hop Festival. Hops used: Centennial
  • Hop Trip: Available now, on draft and in bottles. 5.4% abv. Hops used: Crystal
  • Fresh Hop Oktoberfest: Coming soon, will be at the Sister Fresh Hop Festival. 5.2% abv. Hops used: Willamette
  • Chasin’ Freshies Fresh Hop IPA: Available now, on draft and in bottles. 7.2% abv. Hops used: Mosaic
  • Fresh Hop Mirror Pond Pub Pale: On tap as of 9/19 (or earlier). 5% abv. Hops used: Cascades from Goschie Farms
  • Fresh Hop King Screamer: On tap as of 9/23. 6.7% abv. Hops used: Mosaic
  • Fresh Hop Kolsch: On tap as of 10/8. 5.1% abv. Hops used: Crystal hops from Goschie Farms

GoodLife Brewing:

  • 150 Hippies Fresh Hop Ale: Coming soon. Co-op brew, with backyard hops provided by locals. 5.3% abv. Hops used: various locally grown

McMenamins Old St. Francis School:

  • Mr. Peacock’s Special Bitter Fresh Hop Ale: On tap now (as of 9/14). Will be at the Sister Fresh Hop Festival. 4.9% abv. Hops used: Fuggles and Mt. Hood from the D&D Ranch in Terrebonne
  • Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale: Release date September 19 (on tap now). Hops used: Brewer’s Gold

Rat Hole Brewing:

  • Fresh Hop Rye IPA: Debuting at the Sisters Fresh Hop Festival. 6.7% abv. Hops used: various locally grown
  • Fresh Hop Blood Orange Pale Ale: Coming soon (perhaps the Fresh Hop Fest). 5% abv. Hops used: various locally grown

Silver Moon Brewing:

  • Hoppopotamus Fresh Hop Ale: Coming soon. 6.4% abv. Hops used: Cascades from Crosby Hop Farm.

Smith Rock Brewing:

  • Fresh Hop IPA: Coming soon.

Solstice Brewing:

Sunriver Brewing:

Three Creeks Brewing:

  • Cone Lick’r Fresh Hop Pale: Release by Sisters Fresh Hop Festival on 9/27. 5% abv. Hops used: 300 lbs. of wet Centennial hops from BC Farms in Woodburn, OR
  • Hop Wrangler Fresh Hop Red: Release by Sisters Fresh Hop Festival on 9/27. 5.8% abv. Hops used: 150 lbs. of freshly harvested Chinook

Worthy Brewing:

  • WorthWild Fresh Hop IPA: On tap at noon on 9/12. Collaboration with Redmond’s Wild Ride Brewing, using hops from the recently-established Smith Rock Hop Farm out in Terrebonne. Hops used: Cascade and Centennial
  • Big Sticky Fresh Hop Pale Ale: On tap 9/16. 5% abv. Hops used: 200 lbs. fresh Meridian from Goschie Farms.
  • Homegrown Fresh Hop IPA: On tap 10/9. Hops used: “13 different types of fresh beauties grown in our hop yard”

Wild Ride Brewing:

  • WorthWild Fresh Hop IPA: Collaboration brew with Worthy (see above), on tap weekend of 9/12.
  • Journey to Planet Fresh Hop: Pale ale. Coming soon, will be at the Sister Fresh Hop Festival. 6.6% abv. Hops used: Nuggest from the Willamette Valley
  • Citranite Fresh Hop: On tap as of 10/7. Hops used: Citra from the Yakima Valley

Received: Deschutes Jubelales for 2014

The first Jubelales of the season from Deschutes Brewery arrived yesterday, heralding the onset of winter seasonal ales:

Deschutes Brewery Jubelale 2014

(At least they didn’t arrive in August like they have in years past!)

This is a classic and one of my all-time favorite beers from Deschutes. As the accompanying info sheet notes, this is the 27th bottling of this beer—and it was the first beer ever bottled by the brewery, way back in 1988. They bottled in used 750ml champagne bottles, directly from the taps.

The label is a work of fabric layering by Lubbesmeyer Studios here in Bend, definitely a unique process. Deschutes has a paragraph about it on their site:

This year’s label by Lisa and Lori Lubbesmeyer features original fiber artwork showing two people sledding in a playful winter landscape. The twins’ artwork was created through their unique method of layering and overstitching with fabrics. During their artistic process, they exchange the pieces, allowing the imagery to emerge spontaneously. The fracturing of shape and saturation of color occur layer by layer – allowing the texture of the fiber to build the imagery as they’ve responded to each other’s work. The final piece was meant to capture the essence of the lifestyle we all enjoy here in Central Oregon.

Keep an eye out for Jubelale hitting the shelves this month.

Dragon’s Gate Belgian Wit

Dragon's Gate Belgian WitWhen we visited Walla Walla this past June (read a bit about that here, with some related reviews here and here), one of the beers I picked up was Dragon’s Gate Belgian Wit, a 750ml corked bottle I found at one the downtown specialty shops. Dragon’s Gate Brewery is located in the nearby Oregon town of Milton-Freewater—or rather, outside of it, on a farm on the Oregon-Washington border—and their beers have been mostly confined to the Walla Walla valley area, so I couldn’t really pass up the opportunity for it, despite the bottle costing a relatively spendy $16. (I am thrifty; I have a standing rule that I won’t (usually) spend over $12 for a single bottle of an unknown beer.)

Dragon’s Gate occupies a fairly unique spot in the Oregon brewing pantheon, both by being located in far-eastern Oregon and by being located on an actual farm. Their own site blurb about themselves reads:

A farmhouse nano craft brewery located on the Washington and Oregon border in the Walla Walla Valley wine country. Our definition of a nano-brewery? Small, artisanal, handcrafted ales brewed 1 barrel at a time (while keeping our day jobs!). We brew Belgian inspired and specialty style ales that are complex, full-bodied, and unfiltered. All batches are hand bottled, then go through a process known as “bottle conditioning” which allows carbonation to occur naturally through secondary fermentation. We brew using only the finest ingredients and utilize hops that are grown on our 10 acre farm.

They offer up a variety of styles, though sadly I was only able to find their Belgian Wit. It’s 5.5% alcohol by volume and here’s how they describe it:

A “white beer,” this Belgian wheat beer has smooth mouth feel, grainy flavor, and massive head retention of wheat malt meets dry and phenolic Belgian witbier yeast and the tart, enticing character of coriander and bitter orange peel – very complex and delicate. An appealingly crisp, dry, and refreshing alternative to an American wheat beer.

Appearance: Pale golden, slightly hazy, with a fluffy white head that was maintained nicely throughout the session, fed by a steady stream of bubbles.

Smell: Spicy notes—savory spice, the coriander and bitter orange peel are there, along with cracked pepper. A touch of a soapy note. Raw wheat berries. Phenolic type aromas are muted.

Taste: Mellow, neutral wheat body with a creamy feel and character, tempered by orange peel and pith. Oily-ish bitterness coming from that peel. Very mild spices with the peppery coriander note coming through, perhaps a touch arugula-like. Bready/doughy, perhaps under-attenuated.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied with a creamy, thick-ish feel on the tongue.

Overall: Lacking the “brightness” for me that a Witbier should have, both in spices and effervescence in the mouth. Drinkable and a decent wheat ale by itself, though I think perhaps under-attenuated which lends to the heavier mouthfeel that mutes the spice characteristics.

Untappd. BeerAdvocate: 4/5 (1 review). RateBeer: 3.3/5 (1 review).