There’s nothing like a cold, refreshing beer after slaving away mowing the lawn.
But what if your beer was the lawn?
Not to get all bar-stool metaphysical, but that’s one of the ways to imagine the mystical allure of fresh-hop beers. Made from green hops harvested hours before they hit the brew kettle, these beers offer a special fall treat.
“It’s that fresh-cut grass,” award-winning 10 Barrel Brewing Co. brewmaster Shawn Kelso explains. “It kind of reminds me of when you’re a kid, you’re mowing the lawn, and if you get that wet grass, you’ve gotta pull the clumps out that are clogging up your bag. It’s that smell.”
It will translate into sensory nirvana from 26 local and regional brewers at the second annual Hoptober Freshtival outside Boise Brewing. The block-party-style event — from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17 — arguably is the must-do Boise brewfest of the year.
The first Hoptober Freshtival was a surprise hit for a brewery that had been open for only four months. Attendance was about 1,500, says Hannah Barnett, Boise Brewing’s marketing and events coordinator.
Boise Brewing is swinging for the fence this year. Like last year, Broad Street will be closed between 5th and 6th streets. But there will be twice as many breweries and beers, plus three cideries and a winery. That brings the total number of pouring entities to 30. Food trucks will help patrons soak up the beer.
“This is kind of one of those test years where we want to see if it can operate at this big level — and if it can, let’s see where this can go,” Barnett says.
“I want it to be the premier fresh-hop festival in the Northwest in two years,” she adds. “And I think that we have the opportunity to do that. I think there’s a need and there’s a want.”
Let’s go for it. Idaho definitely is a fitting place to celebrate fresh hops. It’s the third largest producer of hops in the United States.
Having hop farms nearby makes it enticing for Treasure Valley brewers during harvest, which lasts about 40 days.
Not that making fresh-hop beers is simple. It takes 3 to 5 pounds of fresh hops to get the same bittering you’d get with a single pound of pellet hops, Kelso says. And because freshly picked hops haven’t been analyzed by a lab, brewers operate on a certain stab-in-the-dark level.
“Not knowing what the exact outcome’s going to be — that’s always kind of cool for me,” Kelso says.
When it comes to brewing fresh-hop beers, Kelso favors hop-forward styles. (Incidentally, he’s the brewer who created 10 Barrel’s year-round Joe IPA, which is flat-out amazing.)
“I love IPAS — you know that,” Kelso says with a chuckle. “If you’re going to go to that kind of hassle of driving, getting the (fresh) hops, hauling them in, I just want the hops to shine. So that’s why I always do an IPA and an American-style pale ale.”
Kelso’s contribution to Hoptober Freshtival will be Idahop, “an all Simcoe, Idaho-grown IPA” that comes in at 7.2 ABV and around 80 IBU, he estimates.
But if you miss out on that one, don’t worry: There will be lots of other delicious beers to sample, including a non-fresh-hop option from Boise Brewing’s head brewer, Lance Chavez, that won a silver medal last month at the Great American Beer Festival: Black Cliffs American Stout.
Are you a newbie who wants to fit in with the seasoned hopheads at Hoptober Freshtival? Use these adjectives repeatedly while smelling and tasting fresh-hop beers: Fresh. Bright. Vegetal. And use the term “wet-hop.” (It means the same thing as fresh-hop.)
Just remember to treasure the plant-matter-laced moment. Because much like fall, fresh-hop beers will disappear before you know it.
“You just have a small window of time,” Kelso says. “One, to brew them. And to drink them. They tend to go fast. People have really picked up on them.”
Tips? Bar jokes? Reach out to Michael Deeds on Twitter: @michaeldeeds