GABF Fresh Hop Beer Guide

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The 2017 Great American Beer Festival has started, and with a couple of days left, we wanted to give some pointers on how to best enjoy the fresh hop beers available at the festival.  Fresh hop beers are those flavored with hops which have not been kilned.  Some dried hops may be used for bittering, but the undried hops that are added impart a distinctive “green” flavor which many of us love.

When fresh hop season rolls around, I like to break the beers into three categories:  “Must try” fresh hop beers show off the characteristic green freshness; “Noble effort” beers are delicious and worth a try, but for one reason or another do not really show off the freshness of the undried hops; “Don’t bother” beers range from the ho-hum to the seriously flawed.

You can find preferences within those three categories.  On any other day, you might think the best beers in the “noble effort” group are better than the least of the “must try” bunch.  But since fresh hop season is so fleeting, a somewhat mediocre beer might win the day just because it is bursting with freshness.

This year I was able to find about 20 fresh hop beers on the floor of the GABF.   Here is my completely subjective opinion of the ones I was able to try (by order of preference within each group):

Must Try:

  • Mother Earth Fresh As It Gets
  • Ex Novo Fresh Hop Eliot IPA
  • Base Camp Fresh Hop IPA
  • Flix Brewhouse Wet Your Whistle
  • Carver Pine River Fresh Hop IPA
  • Westbound and Down Wet Hop Colorado Pale Ale
  • Bosque Acequia Wet Hop IPA
  • Berryessa Double Nap
  • Deschutes Fresh Hop Lager

Noble Effort:

  • Comrade Fresh Hop Superpower IPA
  • Wibby Fresh Hop Equal Hops
  • Wonderland Wethop 2017
  • Fish Fresh Hop Ale

Don’t bother:

  • Mountain Sun Fresh Hopped Vivant IIPA
  • Fiction Fresh Hop Sly Boots
  • Beryessa Freshie
  • Reuben’s Amarillo Fresh Hop IPA
  • Brew on Broadway Cinderella’s Evil Wet Twin Sister

Oregon fresh hop beers did well on my list — maybe that is my personal bias, or maybe Oregon brewers just have the experience and ready access required to make these beers shine.  Anyway, you might use this as a guide to your GABF fresh hop explorations, but you might well enjoy some of the ones I did not.  There is no wrong answer — fresh hop season is a joyous time of year, and the GABF gives you a rare chance to compare examples from around the country.


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