With hop harvest season coming to a close it’s time to enjoy one of the year’s best beer seasonals: fresh hop ales. These beers highlight the flavors and aromas of hops by using them at their best, straight from the harvest. A well-done fresh hop ale has a certain extra zing to it that is hard to describe, but you’ll know it when you taste it.
The growing popularity has brought some debate about nomenclature and you’ll often see the names “wet hop ale” and “fresh hop ale” to describe them. Hop guru Stan Hieronymus described the difference succinctly on twitter recently: Wet = undried. Fresh = wet or freshly dried. Hmmm. . . . .
Truth be told, anyone who has brewed a beer with 100% wet hops learns quickly that the vegetal flavors from the green bracts can overwhelm the desired aromas and flavors of the hop oils (guilty). For that reason, dried and freshly dried hops are common in these beers, often with a finishing blast of some wet hops. That said, you’ll find entirely wet hop ales in the list below and it will be interesting to see how they turned out (that’s true of all of them).
Montana now has a commercial hop producer, Glacier Hop Ranch, and the proximity to these hops is greatly expanding the ability of area breweries to do fresh hop ales.
You’ll definitely want to take advantage of these beers and they come and go quickly. Thus, I present to you (in completely random order) the 2015 Montana Fresh Hop Ale Directory. (All dates are estimates.)
Cabinet Mountain Brewing Co (Libby)
Fresh Hop IPA: 7.35% abv with an unknown but significant IBU. 85 Lb’s of fresh Chinook, Northern Brewer, and Sterling hops from Glacier Hops Ranch added within the last 15 minutes of the boil. On tap Monday, Sept. 28.
Kettlehouse Brewing Co. (Missoula)
Garden City Pale Ale: Features three varieties of hops From Glacier Hops Ranch, Santiam, Northern Brewer and Brewers Gold. Supplemented with thirty pounds of Missoula’s finest backyard Hops. Set to be released in the Myrtle Street Taproom starting on either sept 30th or Oct 1st. This is the 8th year for the Garden City Pale Ale, always using local hops donated and picked by the brewery’s customers.
Flathead Lake Brewing Co. (Bigfork)
Mountaintop Wet Hop Ale: Golden Color beer made to accentuate the floral hop aromas using 100 lbs of Centennial and 50 lbs of Newport hops. Approx. 5% abv made with pilsner, munich, and Montana pale malts. These hops were personally selected, not processed, and used as quickly as possible in a “vine to kettle” operation. One brewer helped harvest the hops and drove them back to the brewery, calling the other brewer to start the mash and have it ready when the hops arrive. Expected to be released the second week of October.
Kalispell Brewing Co. (Kalispell)
Fresh Hop by Pop: The brewery’s first fresh hop ale, it’s a 10 barrel batch featuring 105 pounds of Montana-grown CTZ, Cascade, Tettnang, and Chinook fresh hops from Glacier Hops Ranch (noticing a theme?). This 5.8% abv red-ish colored ale is expected to be on tap Sept. 30. The BIG question at Kalispell is whether the beer or the baby will come first. Owners Cole Schneider and Maggie Doherty are expecting the birth of their first child at the end of September/early October, right around when Fresh Hop by Pop will be released. The beer’s fun name is an nod to Cole’s new title of dad. Update: On tap now (Sept. 30).
Fresh Hop ICONIC Pale Ale: 5.7% abv, 39 IBUs. A fresh hop version of Uberbrew’s ICONIC Pale Ale brewed with Cascade and Centennial hops. Mash hopped with Liberty, dry hopped with Cascade and wet hopped (wort run through hops using the mash tun as a hop back) with 80 lbs of fresh Cascade grown in the 59034, 59101, and 59105 zip codes. These hops were hand picked at the brewery the night before the brew. The beer is on tap now (Sept 24).
Red Bines Fresh Hop Red IPA: 7.1% abv, 77 IBU. A Fresh Hop Red IPA brewed with Cascade and Liberty from Glacier Hops Ranch and Citra from BT Loftus Ranches. This beer is expected to be released at the Montana Brewers Fall Festival in Missoula on October 16.
Great Northern Brewing Co. (Whitefish)
Frog Hop Fresh Hopped Pale Ale: A tradition at Great Northern for many years, the brewery hosts an annual hop swap where locals are invited to bring in their hops in exchange for Great Northern beer. For 2015 they collected over 220 pounds of hops and also received hops from Purple Frog Gardens and Glacier Hops Ranch. Varieties included Tettnanger, Serebrianka, Spalter, Vojvodian, Cluster, Magnum, Horizon, Zeus, Santiam, Neo, Challenger, Willamette, Nugget, Golding, and Comet. The hops are added to the boiling kettle within 24 hours of being harvested. Frog Hop has a balance of malt & fresh grassy hop character and is expected to be on tap September 28 at the Draught House in Whitefish and in 22 oz. bottles available in stores around the first week of October.
Bozeman Brewing Co. (Bozeman)
Bozone Terroir Local Fresh Hop Ale: Bozeman Brewing hosts a large community gathering to pick hops off donated bines to create a different version of this beer each year. Local businesses donate food, the brewery provides the beverages and volunteers pick hops from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. The varieties are unknown and come from throughout the Gallatin Valley. This year Bozeman put 340 lbs into a 20 barrel batch (and 20 lbs for dry hopping) to make a “big IPA.” On tap now (Sept. 21).
Tamarack Brewing Co. (Lakeside)
Bine Hopper Fresh Hop Ale: A 6.4% abv, 35 IBU, fresh hop ale made with locally grown hops. On tap now.
Carter’s Brewery (Billings)
Mark Clark’s Hommelbier: 80 pounds of locally grown and harvested hops fill the hopback for this Belgian Golden Ale. Expected date unknown. Update: On tap as of October 6.
Lewis and Clark Brewing Co. (Helena)
Neighborhood Fresh Hop IPA: 181 pounds of local wet hops were used to make this IPA. Update: On tap now (Sept. 30).
Beehive Basin Brewing Co. (Big Sky)
Mad Fresh Hop: Brewed with fresh hops from the Mad Hops pilot hop yard on the Madison River. On tap now.
Neptune’s Brewery (Livingston)
Montana Wild Hop #1: Neptune’s classic River Nymph recipe with the addition of 38 lbs of wild fresh hops from the Livingston area. A light session ale with a complex hop profile at 4.2% abv and an unknown amount of IBUs.
Blackfoot River Brewing Co. (Helena)
Hop Harvest IPA: An IPA dry-hopped with fresh Cascade and El Dorado hops from CLS Farms in Yakima Washington. The whole leaf hops were professionally grown, harvested and dried but they were never bailed or pelletized. Becky Peppelman and Tim Chisman collected these hops from the cooling room while they were in Yakima for hop selection, then flew them home to create the Hop Harvest IPA. According to Tim, bailing and pelletizing hops crushes the lupulin gland which can decrease the aroma by approximately 5%, so these hops are extremely aromatic. Anticipated to be 7.2% abv with 57 IBUs. Expected release date is early October.
The Front Brewery (Great Falls):
Sunset Fresh Hop IPA. On tap as of October 7.
If you’re in the Missoula area, you’ll want to keep an eye on The Dram Shop. Owners Zach and Sarah Millar report they are working to get quite the variety of fresh hop beers on tap as they become available and expect to receive:
Madison River Brewing Co. Green Emergent
Carter’s Brewery Yakima’s Best Eldo Wet Hop Ale
Lone Peak Brewing Co. Fresh Hop Brown Ale
Cabinet Mountain Brewing Co. Fresh Hop IPA
Blacksmith Brewing Co. Fresh Hop
Big Sky Brewing Co. Fresh Hop
Great Northern Brewing Co. Frog Hop Pale Ale
Kettlehouse Brewing Co. Garden City Pale Ale.
Though not Montana Beers, The Dram Shop is also expecting Deschutes Brewery’s typically excellent fresh hop beers, Hop Trip Pale Ale and Chasin’ Freshies IPA.
Others expected to have fresh hop ales (will update as additional info is received):
Bitter Root Brewery
Red Lodge Ales
406 Brewing Co.
H.A. Brewing Co.
Great Burn Brewing Co.
See one missing? Send me the info at firstname.lastname@example.org.