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Friday open thread: Beer (or not)

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Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke Launches Beer Bearing His Name Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

If you know me, or even just internet-know me, you’ll know that I like beer. There are very few types of beer I don’t enjoy - smoked beers, beers that taste a lot like coffee, and the occasional weird gose are pretty much the only beers I don’t have time for.

I live in Portland, where IPA’s flow like tap water, but...I don’t love IPA’s. The problem with them is that they’re everybody’s easy-win beer; they’re super common, they provide most of the operating income for a lot of Portland brewers, and most of them are uninteresting hop bombs that have forsaken the nuance and flavor that can exist in that style of beer for a race to see who can rasp their way down your throat faster.

Consequently, by and large, I really don’t drink IPA’s all that much. But. This time of year is one of my favorites, because we’re getting to fresh hop season. What is fresh hop beer, you ask? Well, most IPA’s, and most beers, are brewed with hop pellets - hops are harvested, processed, and turned into little pellets that look like rabbit poops. This is not a bad thing, generally - it makes the hop last longer, and provides a consistency that most beer makers look for, particularly in their regular releases.

But fresh hop season is different. This time of year, hops are harvested and sent to brewers within 24 hours (generally) of picking, and used directly in the brewing process, rather than being dried and pelletized and stored before incorporating into the brewing process. What this means for the beer is that the garden-variety IPA, which is usually just an astringent nightmare sandpapering its way down your throat, gains a lot of nuance and texture and subtlety that it doesn’t normally have.

The best thing about fresh hop IPA’s is that they aren’t really all that good bottled, and they don’t store well - you need to drink them from the tap, and you need to drink them when they arrive. So, instead of listing my favorite fresh hop IPA’s from past seasons, what I will do is encourage you to find a brewer in your area making fresh hop beers and try them. In Portland, Deschutes, 10 Barrel, Breakside, and Lompoc all make great fresh hop beers, and I’m really looking forward to trying what Von Ebert does with fresh hops, as their beers are really good and this is their first fresh hop season.

There’s good fresh hop beers that aren’t IPA’s, too - there’s amber ales, lighter ales, and lagers, all made with fresh hops, and all a revelation.

It doesn’t quite feel like fall here yet, it was 90 degrees today, but fall is coming, and with it fall and winter beers, which is my favorite beer season.

So that’s my beer story. What’s yours? Do you have any fall beers that you love, of any style? What are some of your favorite brewers? If you’re not a beer drinker, what’s your beverage of choice - either alcoholic or not?