Hyperbole abounds when you ask local brewers to talk about fresh hop season. That’s the time of year—typically anywhere from mid-August through mid-October—when hops that are mere hours out of the field begin arriving at area breweries. Station 26 Brewing’s manager of marketing and events, Hamlet Fort, likens delivery day to Christmas morning. Chris Bell, the co-founder of Call to Arms Brewing Company, says those hops can turn a crummy day into a great one. A lot of that joy is due to David Warren, who owns the Western Slope hop farm High Wire Hops; Warren has provided approximately 12,000 pounds of hops to local brewers since 2012. “When fresh hops arrive, it’s [a brewer’s] favorite day of the year,” Warren says. “And there’s only a two-week window when [fresh hops] are available.”
During the majority of the year, brewers use dried hops that have a much longer shelf-life. During fresh (or wet) hop season though, brewmasters race against the clock to add the fresh product to their brews as quickly as possible, before the hops spoil. Think of fresh hops as flavor steroids, if you will, which don’t add to the beer’s bitterness but rather give it an unparalleled aromatic and flavor boost.
“In brewing, hops are the sexy star of the show,” says Great Divide Brewing Co’s brewery manager Brandon Jacobs. “Harvest season means we have the chance to showcase the best ingredients in our beer.” Which means it’s also time for you to take advantage of fresh hop season by checking out these five local selections.
Call to Arms Brewing Company
Fresh-Hopped Brews: More Like Bore-O-Phyll (IPA), Feats of Strength (Double-IPA)
According to Bell, fresh hop season is an even bigger deal for smaller breweries, such as Call to Arms, who may have a tougher time accessing hops that have been recently harvested. It’s a reality that Bell and his team have adjusted to quite well, seeing as Call to Arms’ Bore-O-Phyll took home gold at the 2018 World Beer Cup. But this year, Bore-O-Phyll and Call to Arms’ double IPA will get a fresh-hop upgrade, amping up their already-floral aromas.
Station 26 Brewing
Fresh-Hopped Brew: Juicy Banger IPA
Station 26’s brewers have created a fresh hop version of their Juicy Banger IPA—due out in the first week of September—which will celebrate the hoppy aromas and fruity flavors of the fresh ingredient without adding much in the way of bitterness. It should taste a lot like a traditional West Coast IPA.
Great Divide Brewing Co.
Fresh-Hopped Brew: All-Colorado Beer
Part of what makes fresh hop season so special is the tradition of local brewers and farmers working together. No beer embodies that ethos better than Great Divide’s All-Colorado Beer, which was made with fresh cascade hops and dried cascade pellets from High Wire Hops and water from the Platte River. Expect this brew to arrive in the second week of September; it will be available in the taproom (where it’ll taste, well, freshest) and in cans at Denver area liquor stores.
Lone Tree Brewing Co.
Fresh-Hopped Brew: Fresh-Hop IPA
Lone Tree won’t have this brew ready until mid- to late-September, but with 100 pounds of fresh hops—split evenly between cascade and chinook—its Fresh-Hop IPA will certainly be worth the wait. Lone Tree sourced its hops from High Altitude Hops near Larkspur, Colorado, so those hops traveled fewer miles than any of the others on this list.
Banded Oak Brewing
Fresh-Hopped Brew: American IPA
Banded Oak will tweak its house IPA with the additions of fresh chinook and centennial hops. And to take this fresh hop IPA even further, Banded Oak brewers are going to decrease the presence bitterness and malts, which means nothing will get in the way of letting the fresh hops shine. The special brew will be available in mid-September.