Hop Swap Brings Local Flavor to Frog Hop Fresh Hopped Pale Ale

The 2011 version of Great Northern Brewing Co.’s Frog Hop Fresh Hopped Pale Ale is out and I enjoyed a bottle of it the other night.   Great Northern’s brewery in Whitefish, MT is just down the road from Purple Frog Gardens, a family market farm practicing sustainable farming techniques without the use of synthetic herbicides and pesticides.  In addition to the abundant vegetables, berries, apples, pears and other great crops, they grow hops.* Each fall, some of those hops are harvested and taken directly to Great Northern for use in their Frog Hop Fresh Hopped Pale Ale.

This year, some of the other hops in Frog Hop came from a fun barter system set up by Great Northern to encourage participation by area hop lovers.  They invited people in the Flathead Valley to bring in their home grown hops to their first annual Hop Swap.  Great Northern’s brewers negotiated with the locals who brought their hops in to trade for beer.

The hop harvest and swap yielded 126 pounds of hops for the fresh hop brew.  Great Northern describes Frog Hop as follows:

Pronounced tropical fruit characteristics and grassy hop qualities dominate the aroma while well-rounded maltiness balances the moderate bitterness.  As a result, Frog Hop is a very crisp, drinkable, and unique beer – perfect for enjoying on a beautiful fall day. 

Does the beer match up?  Yes, in many regards.  It pours a pleasantly rich golden color with a strong white head.  The color strikes me as being darker and richer than last year’s version. I get light aromas of floral hops, grass and some slight caramel malt. I also detected a bit more hop bitterness that last year, though bitterness is still on the light side and grain and caramel malt flavors dominate, particular in the finish.  It is indeed crisp and very easy drinking. 

For the third year in a row, I’ll make the same observation.  I like this beer quite a lot.  At 5.1% abv it makes for a nice, crisp, easy drinking, sessionable beer.  But with the very cool Hop Swap and Purple Frog Gardens hop harvest, I really want to enjoy those hops more.  I want them to hit me with that pronounced aroma and fill me up with great fresh hop flavor.  So keep brewing Frog Hop, but let’s see what Great Northern can do when it decides to fully feature those fresh hops!

 * Yes, hops actually grow very well in Montana as I can personally attest.  Most years, anyway.  The weather in Missoula this year did a whammy on them. Past years have created an abundant crop.