Every fall a seasonal beer variety is released to much acclaim. No, I am not talking about the insidious march of pumpkin beers that invades point of sale displays everywhere. I am talking about fresh hop beers.
Normally, hops are harvested, dried, and stored in either whole cones or pellets. This process, understandably, destroys some of the oils and aromatics that make hops so delicious when combined with malt to make beer. As craft brewers have widened their net in ways to differentiate themselves from the macro brewers and their faux craft labels fresh hopping became “a thing.”
The idea is that you take hops harvested within the past few hours and use them in a brew. As this process is limited in time frame there is a small amount of beer that can be produced. It is seasonal and limited in ways that pumpkin beer cannot ever aspire. Until recently I had not been given the opportunity to try many fresh hop beers because none of my regional brewers went down this path owing to the lack of hop farms in the upper Midwest. That is until I saw a six pack of Deschutes Brewery Hop Trip Pale Ale:
The beer pours a dark amber color which puts it squarely in the American or Belgian pale ale category. This speaks to a strong malt body that is supposed to be a backbone for an explosion of hop flavors and aromas. Hop Trip clocks in at 6.1% ABV, so it is stronger than some ales but not out of the ballpark when it comes to wanting to stay upright late into the evening.
At “only” 38 IBU there is something missing from the statistics. Like dry hopping, fresh hop beers bring more hoppy goodness to the table without contributing significantly to the bitterness. However, the similarity to a dry hopped beer is something I could not get out of my head as I drank this fresh hop ale.
At ~$11 for a six-pack, Hop Trip was ~$2 more than a regular six-pack of Deschutes Brewery beer at my local purveyor. For that extra cost I am missing what was special. Sure, the beer was good and it had a lot of hoppy goodness but there was little to differentiate it against a well-done dry hopped beer using the same hops. Maybe it was not fresh enough or the malt body was too much to let the delicate fresh hop notes shine. Either way I am not seeing what the increase in cost really bought me.
I would be interested to see how this beer tasted near the completion of its minimum bottle conditioning—my example was bottled in October and consumed in mid-November—or if the beer were available in a draft format. Take a drink and tell me if your opinion of this fresh hop beer is different:
See what others are saying about Deschutes Brewery Hop Trip Pale Ale at Beeradvocate.