Fresh hopped beer. Wet-hopped beer. Call it anything you like, it’s one of my true passions and this time of year, when craft breweries everywhere – but especially here, in the Northwest, where most of the world’s hops live – gush resiny miracles like a fire hose.
For years, now, the clear Top Dawg of all Northwest Fresh-Hoppers is Deschutes monumental “Hop Trip“, that headlong rush into a brewing process so crazy-short and intense that those hops – hand picked from Doug Winters’ farm in the Willamette Valley, near Salem, Oregon – make it from field to tank in less than four hours! It’s an annual feat of tightrope-walking that has little equal in American brewing, short of a brewery like Bale Breaker, which is actually sitting in the middle of a hops field. Recently, Deschutes, which has always called “Hop Trip” what it is – a Fresh Hopped Pale Ale – decided that all those demands for a fresh-hopped IPA should be honored and came up with “Chasin’ Freshies“, a big, happy, user-friendly IPA which delivers the resins with a sunny floral/citrus overlay that makes it almost compulsively drinkable.
While, for me, the vibrant fresh resins are the star of the show in ALL wet-hopped ales, their character is not any sort of generic thing. For any craft beer geek, it goes without saying that different hops produce very different flavor notes and these two beers could hardly be more distinctive. Hop Trip is made from Nugget, Centennial, Fresh Crystals from Winters, while Chasin’ focuses on Nuggets and Mosaics from John I. Haas growers. Hop Trip is, as always, more herbal and overtly bitter, showing beautiful, edgy pine/spruce resins atop a stratum of dill and thyme and fresh rosemary. Citrus intimations surface as you sip and all of this hoppy grooviness is balanced beautifully with a malty backbone that warms and flatters but never intrudes.
The bright, citrusy Haas Mosaics give Chasin’ an almost festive quality; a vivid crispness and clarity that could easily work as a summer brew, if only we could get the seasons and growing cycles to cooperate. It’s almost a cruel joke that Mother Nature just will not deliver a hop that will give us the flamboyant lemon, lime, tangerine, guava, and wildflowers that explode with each sip of Chasin’ Freshies until the chill of fall sets in but that’s the fact, Jack, and it behooves us all to enjoy a great beer when the opportunity presents itself. The malts in Chasin’ are a bit laid-back in the flavor profile but show up as a creaminess that balances perfectly with the tangy appeal of this lovely IPA.
Short of bringing in Albus Dumbledore as a consultant, I can’t think of how one brewery could pack more magic and plain ol’ enjoyment into two beers that are basically built according to the same principle, and have each one come out an absolute “Must Have” selection. And Deschutes does this every year and makes it look easy. My favorite Mozart quote always comes to mind when I think of the effortless grace Deschutes shows in their beers: “I make music as a sow piddles.” Casual brilliance is always a little more satisfying than watching something that appears like an ordeal and I want to think that Deschutes is the Happy Valley for those who make these stunning beers. Stuff this flavorful, this seamless, and this satisfying should be fun…and Deschutes includes that crucial ingredient in every beer.
Hop Trip: 98 Points
Chasin’ Freshies: 96 Points