Two Beers Brewing, Seattle
This little brewery in Seattle's industrial SoDo neighborhood has expanded production, expanded its brewing facilities and tasting room and expanded the fresh hop season by introducing its IPA way back on Aug. 31. That's no small feat, considering the hop harvest usually begins around late August, but the end result is well worth it. Spiked with a strong passion fruit and grapefruit aroma, Fresh Hop 2012 put heaps of Centennial hops on its nose and used local Apollo, Cascade, Columbus, Super Galena and Warrior hops to get its brisk-yet-bitter flavor. Don't let the copper color and caramel malt fool you: This beer is far less subtle than the "Fresh Hop" name implies.
Fort George Brewery in Astoria, Ore. From the banks of the Columbia River just down the slope from Fort George Brewery, you can see the huge steel-span bridge into Washington, hear the sea lions on the docks just beyond the old canneries and nearly smell the hops the neighbors are growing. This year, a dozen of those neighbors donated their hops to Fort George, which spent a day picking them off the vines and turning them into this light, amber concoction of indeterminate hop origin. Fort Geoge made four fresh hop beers this season -- its Fresh Hop Sunrise Oatmeal Pale Ale, Fresh Hop Vortex IPA, the subtle Hopstoria session beer and Co-Hoperation -- but none capture Astoria's community spirit quite like Co-Hoperation. If the kids from The Goonies actually grew up in their Astoria-based "Goondocks" setting and took up brewing, this is the beer they'd make. Wet Hop American Summer "After Dark"
Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats in Rehoboth Beach, Del. This is far enough from hop country for Dogfish Head to raise a few eyebrows with its "fresh"hop beer, but the 40 pounds of Citra hops overnighted to Dogfish Head's brewpub resulted in a small batch worthy of West Coast respect. This dark 5% ABV ale looks malty and has hints of malt and coffee throughout, but is all citrus on the nose after Dogfish Head brewers spared 90% of their hops for the last 15 minutes of the brewing process. It's not the most conventional fresh hop beer out there, but it may be the best the East Coast has to offer. Fresh Hop Mirror Pond Ale
Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Ore. If a beer drinker is still too afraid to wade into fresh hop waters after you've offered him or her a bunch of new varieties, perhaps it's time to go with something they know. Deschutes' fresh-hop offering is just a different take on its mild, delicate Mirror Pond American pale ale. It's not too bitter, not too strong at 5% ABV and not so unfamiliar that a novice craft beer drinker will run screaming from it into the warm embrace of the maltiest fall beer on the market. If anything, this alternative Mirror Pond just showcases the floral aroma and subtle flavor of its core Cascade hops. All of the hops in this batch come from a single plot of heirloom Cascades, so it's tough to claim a fear of new beers when passing up a brew made with some of Deschutes' longest-standing ingredients.