On Saturday we attended the Sisters Fresh Hop Festival that took place in, er, Sisters, and even though the weather wasn’t nearly as nice as in past years (it was drizzly and cool, which meant we spent all of the time under the main tent), we had a good time and enjoyed a wider selection of fresh hop beers than ever. Herewith are some notes and pictures.
The press release had listed 17 breweries, and the program the day of the event had 16; unfortunately there were only 15 present. Worthy Brewing was on the release but not the program or at the event, and Harvester Brewing was on the program but not present, which was disappointing because I would have liked to try at least one gluten-free fresh hop ale.
There were also several breweries that brought an additional non-fresh hop beer to pour, which I mostly didn’t drink—however, of the 14 total beers I tried that day, only 12 were fresh hop: GoodLife’s listing of “A Different Season” was incorrect and was in fact their Descender IPA. This was just unfortunate timing as I ran into Ty and Katie Barnett of GoodLife and they revealed that GoodLife simply didn’t have the time to brew a second fresh hop beer (of course, being too busy brewing everything else is not a bad problem to have, either).
The other non-fresh hop beer I had was my final beer of the fest, Redhook’s Pumpkin Porter; unfortunately I’d already tried this beer this year and while it’s okay, it wasn’t what I was expecting (Mark had mentioned that Widmer brought a pumpkin beer which naturally got me excited).
Here are the beers I tried, in order, with a few notes attached (the ones in parentheses are the non-fresh hop beers):
- Smith Rock Brewing Fresh Hop Oatmeal Pale — A touch earthy, “flat” as opposed to bright (brewed with Cascades on their own vines)
- Smith Rock Brewing Tumalo Fresh Hop IPA — Orange, fruity, juicy, very nice (brewed with hops from local Tumalo Hops Company)
- Deschutes Fresh Hop Pine Drops IPA — Wet and mossy (tasty)
- (GoodLife Descender)
- GoodLife 150 Hippies — Crystal malts, kind of murky in the hops (big mishmash of community hops)
- Fort George Co-Hoperative — Belgian yeast(?), acetone notes
- Crux Fermentation Project Cruxtennial — Nice spiciness, very green and appealing
- Crux Fermentation Project Off the Fence — Green, fresh, milder than Cruxtennial but nice (brewed with hops grown in front of the brewery)
- Cascade Lakes First Street Fresh Hop Ale — Sterling hops which (fresh) are really spicy with an earthy character
- Three Creeks Hop Wrangler Fresh Hop Red — Very earthy (Nugget hops), lots of crystal malt, wet
- BridgePort Hop Harvest — Light and bright, slightly sweaty, pops nicely
- Ninkasi Total Crystalation — Nice aroma, sweaty, strong bitter note, nice but overly woody
- Seven Brides Fresh Hop Emily’s Ember — Was hoping for their “44 Magnum” instead but it was pouring all foam. Smoky
- (Redhook Pumpkin Porter)
The Sisters Fresh Hop Fest is four years old now, so I think it’s fair to offer up some constructive criticisms based on age and my own experience with other fests:
- More food options: There were two food trucks that I recall, and this fest could easily have handled more to offer more variety. There’s a fair number of people who attend and they will spend money on food.
- Additional tent/outdoor covering of some sort: This really only applied this year with the inclement weather but for that rain an additional tent or shelter of some sort would have been great.
- More bathroom options: The fest takes place in Sisters’ Village Green Park which has public restrooms, but they are across the park (no great distance, admittedly) but there was a line several times that I went. Some porta-potties would definitely help.
- Possibly lighting and heat inside the main tent: More of a minor quibble but I notice they seemed to be having some troubles with the lights they did have and with the overcast day (already dim) it was darker than it could have been under the that tent. Likewise, the chilly damp air required jackets and some portable propane heaters would have been great for some people.
All in all though, I really enjoyed the Festival and I’m happy to see it grow each year.
Finally a disclosure: the Fest reached out to me earlier in the week to offer me the glass and five tickets (basically the cost of entry if you were drinking), which I gratefully accepted.