fresh hops

Fun with Hops

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Monday marked my second trip to the hop fields for the harvest this year. This one is by far the best, as it’s led by none other than John Harris and the Full Sail Brewing crew and is an invite only industry event at Sodbuster Farms. Two whole tour buses of folks loaded up outside of Full Sail’s Pilsner Room at 10am on the southwest waterfront in Portland to head off to Sodbuster Farms.

After getting on the bus to our destination we were greeted with bottles of Full Sail IPA and the first tastes of the next entry into the Session beer lineup that has been incredibly successful for the Hood River-based brewery. Session Fest is billed as a “premium red lager” which, given the “fest” in its name, had me thinking it was modeled more after an Oktoberfest style lager. Brewmaster Mr. John Harris, however, let me know it was really more of a Vienna style lager with more caramel malts and more hops than the other super popular iterations in the lineup, Session and Session Black. Session Fest will also be unique in that it will be a winter seasonal, the 3rd winter beer from Full Sail along with Wassail and Wreck The Halls. Look for bottles of Session Fest in October and through the holidays.
Sodbuster Farms in Keizer, OR, is one of the nicer hop farms I have been to. Very clean and tidy with a fountain and nice grass yard where they erected tables and canopies for us to escape the sun and enjoy some great BBQ they cooked up for us on site. Before touring the facilities, though, we bussed out to the fields and walked through the vines, getting a first hand look at the trellis system and beautiful hop cones. I have toured my share of hop fields and these hops, mostly of the Crystal variety, were looking ripe, bright, and fresher than most.
Sarah Pederson her daughter Roxie and John Harris
After the tour of the harvest we moved on to lunch and more drinking, with the first two fresh hop beers from Full Sail brewing–Lupulin, the annual rotating single hop release, and Hopfenfresch, a fresh hopped pilsner. Both were tasting good, but the fresh hops really shined in the pils. We were treated to a massive brunch which what looked to be an entire chicken on everyone’s plate for the main entree, combined with homemade potato salad, beans, and garlic bread.
Full Sail crew representing

Jesse McCann of APEX, Jamie Floyd of Ninkasi making a stop in for fresh hops and John Harris

Massive pile of bbq

A food and alcohol coma began to set in after the brunch and all those beers, but we roused ourselves to go on a tour of the processing facilities, where the highlight of the trip takes place: hop diving. I have been to a few farms, but Sodbuster has been the only one that lets you jump right into the huge piles of freshly dried hops. People took running jumps and did backflips off of railings into the piles, and its pretty incredible to see someone literally dive and disappear completely into the mound, some kicking in and swimming through the pile like water.
This capped off one of my favorite days of the years. If you ever get a chance to tour the hop fields and processing facilities, take it!
The East Burn’s Kat Finn

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact:


  1. Jeffrey

    September 13, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    You had me a hops.

  2. Porter Pete

    September 14, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    So? Is Session Fest a RED Lager, Oktoberfest (Martzen) or a Vienna Lager?

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