It’s harvest time. You can almost smell it. Actually, you can smell it, wafting across the fields and down local streets, if you’re lucky enough to live in one of those hop-growing corners of the world.
If you don’t live in one of those regions, consider a pilgrimage. But when to go? That’s easy. You go when they’re throwing a party. What better way to celebrate your favorite ingredient? What better excuse to go somewhere and drink fresh-hopped beers?
Here are some of the world’s biggest hop-harvest hoolies, when they take place, and what you might expect to find there.
Hood River Hops Fest
When: September 22, 2019
Where: Hood River, Oregon
On the border between the Oregon and Washington hops-growing areas, and across the street from the Full Sail and Double Mountain breweries, this family-friendly event brings more than forty brewers with more than sixty fresh-hopped ales, plus food and live music.
Portland Fresh Hops Festival
When: September 27–28, 2019
Where: Portland, Oregon
Featuring “The Cone Wars,” when each Oregon hops farm teams up with a different brewer on a fresh-hopped collaboration beer. The crowd picks the winners. Kids are allowed on Saturday, though they might be more interested in Oaks Amusement Park next door. Proceeds go to the Oregon Brewers Guild.
Kent Green Hop Beer Fortnight
When: September 27–October 13, 2019
Where: Kent, England
One weekend is not enough for fresh Kentish hops, so they get fourteen days. Things kick off at the Canterbury Food & Drink Fair, with forty-plus fresh-hopped beers from more than thirty of the county’s breweries. Festivities continue at various breweries and pubs in the region, including another food fest in Broadstairs and a beer-festival-on-rails, starting in a Victorian train shed and continuing on the trains themselves.
Empire Hops & Harvest Festival
When: October 4–5
Where: Empire, Michigan
When it comes to American hops harvests, the Pacific Northwest doesn’t get to have all the fun. This village affair near the lakeshore, organized by the local Chamber of Commerce, begins with a pig roast and includes live music with plenty of locally hopped local beer.
Fresh Hop Ale Festival
When: October 5, 2019
Where: Yakima, Washington
If you want to celebrate American hops, the valley that produces about 75 percent of them might be the place to go. There are sixty-five participating breweries this year, plus a homebrewing competition for fresh-hopped ales; the rule is, the beer must be hopped with the 2019 crop and nothing else. If you go a day early, check out the Fresh Hops Party thrown by hops dealer Yakima Valley Hops. Beer, live music, and free smells abound.
When: October 12, 2019
Where: Boise, Idaho
Boise Brewing hosts Idaho’s biggest fresh-hops fest, featuring sixty-plus beers from more than thirty local and regional breweries. Play games, meet farmers, eat fried octopus balls, drink beer, repeat.
Single, Fresh, Wet & Wild Hop Harvest Festival
When: October 19, 2019
Where: Chico, California
Hosted by Sierra Nevada in their own hops field, more than fifty breweries from across the country bring their fresh-hopped creations. The festival also features talks by brewers, lots of food, and live party music by Amo Amo.
More to Consider for Next Year
These events have already happened this year, but it’s not too early to start planning for 2020—especially since the European harvest fests tend to happen a few weeks earlier.
Where: Tettnang, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Visit beautiful Lake Constance, see the coronation of a hops queen, drink lots of beer, and have friendly strangers come and ask you how in the hell you found out about their local festival.
When: Late August
Where: Wolnzach, Bavaria, Germany
Visit the beautiful Hallertau, see the coronation of a hops queen, drink lots of beer, and visit the German Hops Museum.
Žatecká Dočesná (Saaz Hop Harvest Festival)
When: Early September
Where: Žatec, Bohemia, Czechia
Enjoy live music, folklore, dancing, arts and crafts, games for kids, medieval follies, a streetball tournament, and loads and loads of beautiful Czech lager.
When: September 18–20, 2020
Where: Poperinge, West Flanders, Belgium
In the heart of Belgium’s hops-growing area, this is a triennial event—that’s right, once every three years—that includes a parade, plenty of folklore, tours through the Poperinge Hop Museum, and, of course, loads and loads of beautiful Belgian ales.