On Saturday we headed over to Sisters to check out the Sisters Fresh Hop Festival, the first of the Fresh Hop Tastivals that are taking place around the state. I’m calling this a “mini-review” because as festivals go, it was fairly low-key with relatively few beers (which is actually rather nice) so we were only there a few hours plus I only took two actual photos.
Overall it was a really nice event, though the town of Sisters itself presented a snag: apparently in the wee hours of the morning a truck hit a power pole outside of Sisters which forced crews to shut of electricity to the entire town for most of the morning—power didn’t come back on until about 11:30. As a result, only two food vendors were able to show up and even then due to the power outage they had a very limited menu. Fortunately the rest of the Festival itself didn’t require much power.
They had a single tent erected to hold the 11 breweries pouring beers. It was a hot day and we actually enjoyed it more outside of the tent (in the Park) in the shade, as the tent got progressively warmer and stuffier as the afternoon wore on, with more people inside and not much cross-breeze.
The rest of the Festival was about the fresh hop beers, of course. They had a handy flyer with the participating breweries listed (minus Silver Moon Brewing who was also there) with space for notes. Here are the beers I had, from those notes (in order that I had them):
- Three Creeks Cone Lick’r: Not terribly fragrant, but has a nice green flavor, somewhat spicy, and seems pretty fresh.
- Full Sail Lupulin: Got a bit of an off-note, almost paint thinner-ish. Bitter like maybe nettles or dandelion sap, but harsh. [I don't know exactly what was going on with this, but it was off and really the only one I didn't care for.]
- Lucky Lab The Mutt: Sour nose, almost funky; but flavor isn’t sour at all, it’s full of woody, strong hops, resin, not super “green” but potent. Really cloudy as well (the others were fairly clear).
- McMenamins Old St. Francis School Thundercone: Aroma full of grass, wildflowers and sage. Amber (flavor) with an herbal note, and more fresh-cut grass.
- Fort George Co-Hoperative Ale: Super mellow nose, with some “green” deep in there; got some dandelion bitterness and earthiness.
- Cascade Lakes Harvest Ale: Dandelion deep in the nose, that’s almost all that it is, aroma-wise. Lots of caramel with a green presence behind, but this really highlights the malt it seem.
- BridgePort Hop Harvest: (This was being served from bottles, the only beer not on tap.) Floral nose, kind of Hop Trip-y, fruity and green. Not as fresh as the draft beers.
- Deschutes Fresh Hop Chainbreaker White: Basically the same as “regular” Chainbreaker—fresh hops don’t have a prominent presence here—it’s a bit bright but more of the “white IPA” (think Conflux #2) character comes through.
- Ninkasi Tricerarillo: (The hoppiest and strongest beer at the Fest, at 8.8% abv.) My friend’s Paul’s pour was super minty on the nose, mine was fruity, it’s very odd how that changed. Big and sweet flavor, with a fruity green hop punch. Pretty sweet.
- Silver Moon Hoppapotamus: Sweet, graham cracker aroma, and floral. Viney, cleanly bitter, a bit of resin, and the biscuit/cracker notes come through in the malts.
Another nice aspect of this Fest is that, with the exception of Ninkasi’s beer at 8.8%, all these beers were fairly easy drinking and sessionable at 6.7% abv or less (I’m pulling that 6.7% number from Silver Moon’s Hoppapotamus strength—at least, last year’s version, I haven’t seen the numbers for this year’s yet) and many were in the 5% range. So you don’t walk away feeling like you’ve had too much to drink.
All in all I thought this was a good Fest, a nice “harvest” type of event showcasing the fresh hop offerings out there right now. If you get a chance to attend any of the other Fresh Hop Tastivals coming up in Hood River, Portland, and Eugene, I highly recommend it.