And while they differ greatly in taste and approach, fresh-hops ales and pumpkin beers both signify the changing of the seasons and call for a celebration of the harvest. Here are a few upcoming events that do just that.
Fresh Hop Ales
Fresh, or wet, hops beers are brewed with whole-leaf, freshly harvested hops that have never touched a kiln; instead they are picked and shipped to a brewery within 24 to 48 hours so they ensure freshness and impart all the hops’ potent oils to the fresh-hops ale. The result is unlike any other hoppy beer: green, earthy, and somewhat understated compared to the bitter brashness of an IPA.
Fresh Hop Ale Festival
October 4, 2014
The Fresh Hop Ale Fest (pictured at top) takes place in the heart of hops country: Yakima, Washington, where the abundant hops yards are bustling around the clock during the annual hops harvest, in late August to the end of September. The festival, which typically takes place the weekend after harvest is finished, is a celebration of sorts and a chance to see how more than thirty different breweries approach fresh-hops ales. From pale ales to double IPAs to fresh-hops lagers, the only rule is you have to use fresh hops in the beer.
Sierra Nevada Single, Fresh, Wet & Wild Festival
October 18, 2014
Their Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is the godfather of American pale ales and their Northern Hemisphere Harvest Ale was the first American wet-hops ale, so it’s only fitting that Sierra Nevada throws a celebration of all things hoppy, in their own hops field in Chico, California, of course. They invite more than fifty breweries from across the country to pour their hoppy offerings: single-hopped beers featuring one variety, fresh and wet hops ales celebrating the hops harvest, and ales brewed with “wild hops,” referring to uncultivated native or heirloom varieties.
DIY: Smaller breweries and brewpubs that make their own fresh-hops ale often put out a call for volunteers to help pick the hops from the bines. It’s a pretty simple, and social, activity, often followed by a round of beers or lunch. Small hops farmers will also sometimes sell fresh hops to homebrewers, if you want to try your own hand at it.
Because of a combination of factors--the volume breweries produce, the early release date, and the competitive seasonal beer market, using fresh pumpkin in a beer can be a rarity these days. But the style is still seen as a celebration of the harvest and changing seasons. And as breweries experiment more and more with the style, such as Almanac Beer Company’s incredible Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine brewed with more than 1,000 pounds of heirloom sugar pumpkins and aged in rye and brandy barrels for one year, even pumpkin-beer naysayers may find one they can enjoy.
Cambridge Brewing Company Great Pumpkin Festival
October 25, 2014
CBC’s Great Pumpkin Ale, brewed with local organic sugar pumpkins, is a nice, subtly spiced pumpkin ale that’s drawn a following over the years, as has their annual pumpkin ale celebration. Featuring a long list of CBC’s creative pumpkin beers (think barrel-aged and funky) and beers from breweries across the country, the late October celebration is a rollicking party complete with costumes, pumpkin snacks, and a ceremonial tapping of the great pumpkin.
Elysian Great Pumpkin Fest
October 3-4, 2014
Elysian’s legendary festival, now in its tenth year, is a pumpkin-beer lover’s paradise. There are more than eighty pumpkin beers on tap, including about twenty from Elysian alone, and an ale that’s conditioned in a giant pumpkin. There’s also live music, food trucks, pumpkin carving, and a costume contest, and the theme this year is orange, so dress accordingly.
DIY: Hold a pumpkin beer tasting with friends (make it a blind tasting if you want to see how they truly stack up) or brew your own pumpkin beer with fresh pumpkin. Here’s a pumpkin ale recipe with all-grain, partial-mash, and extract versions.