It’s harvest time for fresh hops in the Pacific Northwest. This last Saturday the Wheeler Pavilion at Lane Events Center was host to the Willamette Valley Fresh Hop Tastival in celebration of Oregon hop farms and craft-brewed beers.
Bob Jensen, a promoter with Eugene’s Big Green Events spoke with EDN, saying that he was expecting a showing of upwards of 1000 people at the Tastival. “We have 1500 pint glasses ready, we’re hoping to sell them all.” Jensen said what makes this Tastival distinct from other beer tastings that occur in the area is that “there aren’t a lot of hop festival’s around unless they’re happening in the fall, because that’s the only time you’re going to find fresh hops. The rest of the year they’re not fresh, so it provides a unique characteristic to the beer.”
Before walking beneath an archway adorned with hops, the tasters entered the building and received a Tastival Pint glass and two tickets for samples of their choosing. With nearly twenty regionally crafted sampling’s present, and just two tickets with entry, extra ticket sales were a big hit. Those featured at Saturday’s event included:
- Steelhead’s Hopasaurus Rex
- Tracktown 200 Meter IPA
- Tracktown Wet Hop
- Gilgamesh Brewing Harvester Ale
- Gilgamesh Double IPA
- Ram Brewery Big Red IPA
- Ram Brewery Hop Sack harvest Ale
- Ninkasi Tricerarillo (a cousin to Tricerahops)
- Ninkasi Total Crystallization (Step child to Total Domination)
- Hop Valley Alphadelic IPA
- Hop Valley Alpha Centuri Binary IPA
- Widmere Liberty Fresh Hop
- Oakshire Triune
- Deschutes Fresh Hop Mirror Pond
- Deschutes Hopped Trip
- McMenamins Thundercone.
Tastival sponsors, Hop Union, Oregon Brewers Guild, and BC Hop Farms LTD, hope to accrue support for future events, specifically home brewer competitions. According to Jensen,”we’re really just kind of getting a toe-hold here this year on this event and really there’s a lot of other organizations that will come in to contribute towards the vision of what we can do here.”
Matt McClain of Eugene, a volunteer at the event, as well as a fourth generation homebrewer, added that homebrew competions haven’t been around for a while because “we’ve had some legal issues in the legistlature within the last couple of years with the homebrewing in Oregon – now that those have been resolved, I think we will see an expansion of homebrew competitions coming back – that’s one thing we can look forward to with this event – homebrew demonstrations as well as homebrew competitions.”
Many in attendance were, in fact, homebrewers themselves: those with a knowledge, appreciation, or affinity for the process of hand-crafted small batch beers.
“Wet Hop” – that’s what attracted Greg, from Eugene, to the Tastival Saturday; it’s one of his favorite types of brew. When I spoke with him, he told me “I’m a wet hop fan, I brew beer so I like the fresh hops and this is the time of year when you get them – and this year, more beers have benefited from that market, and in the past it hasn’t been that way, so it’s been interesting to watch the new brews come out.” Greg told EDN that he had been brewing for 15 years, having stepped back from it a couple of years ago, because “my kids are both brewing so I kind of passed my equipment on to help them brew.” He said his most frequent brews included Ale’s, IPA’s, and some stouts (specifically, a delicious sounding chocolate raspberry stout). Greg said that what initially caught his interest and motivated him to start brewing his own hand-crafts related to his formal education as a micro-biologist, “I’m very interested in the brew process from the standpoint of aerobic/anaerobic – it’s just the kreb cycle in action….brewing is very interesting once you start it, you let it start and you see the life in it.” He also added, “homebrews have an essence – they’re fresh, they’re usually very smooth, they age well – most people think that after two to four weeks you can drink them, but they actually have a better shelf life.”
Greg said of IPA beers that, “IPA is one of those beers that you have to take the first sip, let it sit on the back of your tongue, and then 30 seconds to a minute later take the second sip, giving you an entirely differest taste because your sensors change pH and you acutally perceive it differently. So, it’s really important when you’re [tasting an IPA] to know what you’re doing because your first impression might be ‘oh that’s so bitter, oh, that’s so grapefruity’.”
Another homebrewer in attendance, Art, from Eugene, told EDN that what drew him to the Tastival was that “I’m a homebrewer so I wanted to try out the difference between the fresher hops and the older hops – I buy mine online, so I don’t know how fresh they are, I wanted to get a sampling of what the fresh stuff is like, I can definitely taste the difference.” Art told me he had sampled the Deschutes Mirror Pond, Deschutes being his favorite brewery. Art said that he has been homebrewing for about a year now, producing three gallons, a pony keg, per month.
When asked why he purchased his hops online, rather than at one of the local homebrew resources, he said because he brews smaller batches, “it’s easier for me to find smaller quantities [of hops] pre-packed for me, the local stuff is packaged like they’re expecting that you’re doing full keg brewing.”
Overall, homebrewers and hand-crafted beer enthusiasts from the local community enjoyed the unique opportunity to sample the best of the regions fresh hopped beers at an event that can only take place one time a year. Cheers!
— Elisha Shumaker, EDN