This weekend was a big day for fresh hops here in Oregon: both the Hood River Hops Fest and the Sisters Fresh Hop Festival took place on Saturday, the first year they both occurred on the same day I believe. Both are in the same vein but the Hood River festival is bigger (with more breweries and 51 fresh hop beers on tap) while the Sisters festival is more smaller and more intimate and provides the great backdrop of Central Oregon in the form of small-town Sisters.
One of these years I’ll make it up to the Hood River fest as well, but this year (for the second year in a row) I hit up the local fest instead.
The event takes place in Sisters’ central Village Green Park, a nicely-sized area where they set up the tent and tables on the western end along with several food trailers, live music (inside the tent which starts later in the day), and a few extra vendor and/or promo tables. The eastern side of the park sports a nice play structure for the kids and the park restrooms, which are definitely a step up from the usual festival portapotties.
Sisters is a picturesque touristy town, with Old West facades on the buildings fronting the main highway through town and plenty of foot traffic, but for all that it’s not the usual venue for a beer fest, and in fact these small-town issues can get in the way: If you recall my review from last year, you’ll remember a truck had hit a power pole the night before which killed electricity to the entire town which set things back a bit; and this year, heavy smoke from a long-burning nearby wildfire put the viability of attending in question.
Fortunately the air was mostly clear by the time we arrived at noon (when they opened) so the event rolled out without a hitch. Like last year, glasses were $5 (for a nice full-size pint glass) and four-ounce tastes were $1 each. There were 11 breweries present, pouring a total of 21 beers, with 17 of those actual fresh hop beers—an impressive turnout!
I tried nearly half of those, eight in all. My notes on each are below.
The Mutt – Lucky Lab – 4.5% abv: Green, mellow nose. Clean pale ale with nicely solid bitterness and spicy fresh green character, a bit earthy and resiny.
Co-Hoperative – Fort George – 5.8%: Earthy but not especially pungent. Crystal malts, a touch steely and muddled, earthy and herbally bitter.
Fresh Hop Ember – Seven Brides – 7%: Not really “fresh hoppy”… caramel/lightly roasty base with light balancing bitterness, lightly “green” and floral.
Tastes Like Purple Fresh Hop Pale Ale – Ninkasi – 5.6%: [Might be the best name of the bunch.] Lightly berry-fruity nose, with a hint of catty. Really nice toasty malt base, bracing. Hoppy with hints of berries.
Failing Street Fresh Hop IPA – Alameda – 6.2%: [“Brewed with 17 varieties of fresh hops grown 5 blocks away from the brewery”] Spicy, earthy, herbish, most unique nose of the day. Maybe chili? Once I take a sip—the fruity-spiciness of chilies for sure, though there’s no heat.
Crystal Zwickel – Crux Fermentation Project – 6%: Really fragrant, most fragrant of all so far; fresh and sweaty and lightly floral. Nice malt base with fresh earthy hops. Seems very fresh. Best of the day.
100 Hops – Oakshire – 5.4%: [Centennial wet hop pale ale] Earthy, chili-like note like Alameda’s (from the Centennial hops I’m guessing). Freshly earthy. Spicy up front, not chili spice though; resin and stems, not super “fresh” but nice zing to it.
Santiam Fresh Hop Harvest Ale – Cascade Lakes – 5.8%: Steely, sweet caramel nose, a bit of mineral water freshness. Doesn’t “pop” like some but is a nice pale ale with a wet mineral/stone note. Malty and light green, almost mustard-green character.
All in all it was a really nice day and Sisters put on a really good, if low-key, festival. My favorite beer of the day was the Crystal Zwickel from Crux, and the next ones in line would be The Mutt from the Lucky Lab and Ninkasi’s Tastes Like Purple. But big props to all the breweries that brewed up a fresh hop beer and were able to bring them this weekend—this is a style of beer that is tied to a particular season perhaps more than any other but we still get to have multiple festivals celebrating it here in Oregon!