Is it July again? Well, lately the warm weather has provided some semblance of Oregon craft beer lovers’ favorite month. And, the beer… Fresh hop season is an ongoing party for those of us who appreciate the unique bounty of this region. Over the past weekend Portland celebrated its Fresh Hop Tastivals at Oak Park in Sellwood, also we journeyed out to Stevenson, Washington, to attend the 2nd Annual Celebration of Beer Weekend at Skamania Lodge.
The weekend kicked off on Friday afternoon at Hair of the Dog‘s lovely new digs in close-in Southeast Portland. Here, we met Ginger Johnson of Women Enjoying Beer, and a group of beer lovin’ ladies over some delicious samples of brewer Alan Sprints’ Fred, Adam, Doggie Claws, Greg, and Blue Dot. We even got to try more of Sprints’ small beer made from the second runnings of Doggie Claws, known as Little Dog. The sunshiny day and open garage door at the brewpub and restaurant was the perfect way to kick things off for the weekend before getting into some fresh hops.
On Friday evening we were fortunate to attend an early preview of Portland’s Fresh Hop Tastival located under a tent in Oaks Park close to the Sellwood Bridge. With more than 40 fresh and wet hopped brews to select from, there was a special autumn vibe that seems to never get old. The unquestionable favorite of ours was Pelican’s Elemental Ale, a strong pale brewed with piny and resinous Sterling hops. Also among the upper echelon of the event’s offerings was Double Mountain’s Killer Green, a truly killer IPA produced using luscious First Gold cones from Sodbuster Farms near Salem. These two beers are consistently among our favorites each year during the fresh hops season. After sampling many of the beers offered, we thought it best to commence the evening with a half-and-half blend of Elemental and Killer Green. The result = Killemental!
After closing down the first evening of Portland’s fresh hops congregation, we made a much needed stop over at The BeerMongers to get a taste of Barley Brown’s Turmoil. You know, the Cascadian Dark Ale (for non-growing hops regions, you might refer to the style as an American Style Black India Ale or Black IPA) that won a gold medal at this year’s Great American Beer Fest. Brewer Shawn Kelso made the trip out from Baker City, Oregon to deliver this rare treat and a Victorian pint of the stuff was just perfect. Seeing Shawn and drinking his dankalicious and roasty brew was a great close to a fun evening.
If you haven’t been to Skamania Lodge or experienced the beauty of Stevenson, Washington, you really owe it to yourself. Not just because the natural beauty of this Columbia Gorge town is unparalleled, but there’s a little brewpub in town known as Walking Man that is perhaps the best on the planet (in fact RateBeer users voted WM the 15th best brewpub on earth in 2010).
For this particular journey to Stevenson, we were graced by Skamania Lodge and the kind folks at Richmond PR to a night stay and two days of craft beer-related fun at one of the most pristine resorts in the Pacific Northwest. Offering some of the finest golfing links anywhere in the region and scenic forested hikes, at the heart of this stay was a tent erected on the front lawn housing more than a dozen brewery’s and nearly three dozen beers. Despite steadily falling rain throughout Saturday’s gathering, the temperature remained warm for mid-fall, and the beers were, across the board, decidedly refreshing. It was pleasing to see not just Portland favorites like Amnesia and New Old Lompoc offering up some barleypops, but also this celebration brought in some Washington brewers that, due to distribution laws, don’t find their way into Oregon. One such brewery is Yakima Craft Brewing Co., who brought three beers from their city namesake for the event. Also, it was very gratifying to see Snipes Mountain in attendance. Brewer Chris Miller’s application of hops is legendary around the Pacific Northwest, and on this day, his fresh hopped pale ale and IPA were some of the best we’ve ever had. Double Mountain’s Charlie Devereux brought some more of their Killer Green, which was another buzz beer of the event. It was great to see the Prodigal Son team from Pendleton, including brewmaster Brian Harder, who brought kegs of their Wheatstock Hefeweizen, Bruce/Lee Porter, and a delicious Ella IPA.
After a wonderful Saturday night and a impressive breakfast spread on Sunday morning, we explored the grounds of Skamania on a scenic Lake Loop hike around the golf course and through a moist and green wilderness. Following this relaxing stroll, we ventured down into town as Walking Man opened for business. Here, we enjoyed a smorgasbord of quenching hoppy brews like their Runaway IPA, brewed with Sarachi Ace and Centennial hops and the sensational seasonal fresh hopped Hop-Along IPA made with Cascades. One of the best brews at Walking Man was the Hoptoberfest Vienna, recommended by brewer Jacob Leonard. It was a good decision. After thoroughly enjoying our stay in Stevenson, and with a growler filled with Walking Man’s Hop-Along Fresh Hop IPA in tow, we ventured home to Portland feeling fully quenched.