To me, ‘craft beer’ and ‘fresh’ seem to go hand in hand. Smaller batches of brews made with educated brewers, high quality ingredients, and a whole lot of TLC make for the Yeezys of brews (they’re fresh, you should cop). On the flipside, the 12 pack of Miller that’s been sitting at the bottom of a pallet for two years equates to a pair of New Balance white trainers. And like Ryan Gostling in Crazy Stupid Love, you should chuck those worn out white trainers (Miller) off the second story of a shopping mall and grab something fresh.
**Just to be clear…I don’t condone throwing bottles of shitty beer off of mall balconies…just don’t buy it in the first place!
Craft breweries have taken what it means to be fresh to the next level with ‘fresh hop’ beers. To qualify as a fresh hop, the hops must be picked and added to the brew in the same day. To spell this out, they’re picked from the vine in the morning, transported to the brewery during the day, and added to the brew in the afternoon/evening.
There are some excellent local hop farms that make fresh hop brews a viable option for BC brewers, including Chilliwack Hop Farm, Fraser Valley Hop Farms, and Satori Hop Farm, to name a few. Some breweries even grow their own hops on-site; Persephone Brewing in Gibsons being one of the best examples.
Earlier this fall, the Van Pours team plus a few friends decided to jump on the oh-so-delicious fresh hop bandwagon and sample eight local offerings, all from different B.C. breweries.
Rather than a simple taste test though, we created a “beer bracket”. You’re probably thinking, “what the hell is a beer bracket?” That’s a fair question. Basically, a beer bracket is a single-knockout style tournament that pits a pair of beers against each other. Participants taste the two beers from each match-up and vote on their favorite. The beer with the most votes moves on, while the loser is eliminated. This continues until only one remains and is dubbed the champion, or in this case, “The Freshest”. We figured that it works for college basketball in March, so why not?
We randomly drew the match-ups for Round 1, and here’s where we landed:
All beer descriptions are a combination of tasting notes from everyone that participated in the Fresh Hop Bracket.
Quarterfinal #1 – Postmark vs. Powell Street
Powell Street Fresh Hop
- Hop-forward nose, malty finish. Decent IPA but not overly memorable.
Postmark Fresh Hop
- Easy drinking, with a malty, pale ale taste and some added earthy tones. Hop flavor is fairly subtle.
Winner: Powell Street
The hop lovers have spoken!
Quarterfinal #2 – Off the Rail vs. Steamworks
Off the Rail Fresh Hop Harvest IPA
- Good balance of malt and hop flavors. Subtle fresh hop aroma and a clean finish with no lingering, bitter aftertaste. This offering definitely stands out from other OTR IPAs.
Steamworks Hop Attack Fresh Hop IPA
- Crisp and hoppy nose with a nice bitter aftertaste. This beer is absolutely hop forward, but also features some subtle fruit notes. Overall, a fantastic IPA. Would you expect anything less from Steamworks Brewing after the release of their Flagship IPA?
Both beers are great fresh hop IPAs, and comparable in a lot of ways. Steamworks edges out Off the Rail in this one.
Quarterfinal #3 – Phillips vs. Yellow Dog
Yellow Dog Alpha Dog Fresh Hop Pale Ale
- Light citrus nose with a slight floral aftertaste. Perfect hop and malt balance. This is an amazingly delicious pale ale with a decent bite to it. Woof.
Phillips Green Reaper Fresh Hop IPA
- Malty nose, with complex bitter finish. Lots of hop flavors at play here, with noticeable fresh hop aromas.
Winner: Yellow Dog
It’s not often that you get to taste a pale ale this flavorful and balanced.
Quarterfinal #4 – Strathcona vs. Dageraad
Strathcona Wild Double Pale Ale
- Mix of sweet citrus and earthy/wood aromas, with a malty caramel taste. I’d compare this in flavor to that of an ESB, but with higher alcohol content. Solid pairing with some gourmet pizza (conveniently, Strathcona makes pizza at their brewery).
Dageraad Wet-Hopped Blonde
- Sharp citrus hop notes, and apricot/peach flavours. A very interesting, cloudy and unfiltered blonde that falls right in line with Dageraad’s Belgian-style beers.
Semi-final #1 – Powell Street vs. Steamworks
Semi-final #2 – Yellow Dog vs. Dageraad
Winner: Yellow Dog
Steamworks vs. Yellow Dog
Drum roll please……….
Champion: Yellow Dog Alpha Dog Fresh Hop Pale Ale!
This was a close match-up. Both breweries make fantastic hop-forward beers. It came down to the wire but Yellow Dog came out as the TOP DOG…and I’ll see myself out…
Thanks to all of the breweries that hooked us up with beers to sample, and to all B.C. breweries that made a fresh hop offering this year – PROPS! The dedication to quality in the craft beer industry in this province is amazing. The variety of fresh hop brews being produced continues to grow each year, and I can’t wait to see what next year’s harvest brings. Although it may be difficult to find any fresh hop beers on the shelves right now as we’re a couple months past their release, I hope our fresh hop bracket has perked your interest for next fall when B.C. breweries make it rain fresh hop beers once again.
Here’s a few more photos from the evening:
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