Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cowiche Canyon Fresh Hop Ale from Fremont Brewing Co.

I love fresh hop beers. It’s the one style in particular that makes me happy I live in the Pacific Northwest. I know other parts of the country are growing hops, but our Yakima Valley is the hop growing heartland, and local brewers are taking full advantage of this bounty. Fresh hop beers are made by taking freshly picked hops (thus the name), and adding them to a beer within hours of harvest. The result is a bright herbaceous bitterness that tends to showcase the true flavors of the hop varieties. Hardcore hop heads were a little late getting on the bandwagon, as fresh hop beers don’t always pack the big hop punch and long resinous finish of India Pale Ales brewed with the conventional concentrated pelletized hops. For me, a well made fresh hop beer has supplanted the Oktoberfest as the harbinger of the fall season. The one drawback of our local dearth of hoppy goodness, it is that is tough to try them all, and keep them all straight. That being said, Fremont Brewing’s Fresh Hop Cowiche Canyon left a lasting impression on me that has not faded.
Normally when I try a beer for the first time, I smell it first to get a sense of what I’m in for, then I sit down with pen and paper in hand, and jot down my first, then lasting impressions. With this beer, after I poured it in the glass, I was clearing the last of our dinner dishes, listening to my kids rustle around upstairs when they should have been going to bed, and just took a sip while I was turning the TV on. I was totally caught off guard by Fremont’s huge ruby red grapefruit and tamarind bitterness-from organic Simcoe and Citra hops-right up front. Like a good fresh hop beer should, the hops gave way to a nice barley malt breadiness (don’t care if that’s not a word), balancing the flavors nicely. I taste a lot of beers and it’s rare that I am blown away by one sip, but my first thought after tasting this beer was that I should run out to the store to get another. I decided to sit down, relax, and drink it in slowly. When I finally got around to smelling it, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what the aroma was. All I could think of was orange Fruit Stripe gum, but I think my wife got a little closer with creamsicle. I could go on and on about this beer, but I think the best thing to do would be to implore you to find this gem and drink it ASAP!