Like kids on Christmas: Brewers giddy about 'fresh hop' beer

PORTLAND, Ore. - "I'm already sad that it's almost over and looking forward to next year," brewer Graham Brogan said on Wednesday, reminiscing about the "fresh hop" brew he was wrapping up.

He sounded a bit like a little kid on Christmas. But this was a grown man, who just happens to be a beer lover, brew manager, and today, kind of like Santa Claus on his favorite day of the year: hop harvest day.

Brogan manages beer production at the more than 24 McMenamin's breweries in Oregon and Washington. He and other brewers look forward to hop harvest day because it's the one chance they get every year to brew fresh hop beer.

Typically hops used to make beer is dried. But today, the hops was picked fresh from the vine and delivered to the brewhouse.

Ideally, that trip from Sodbuster Farms in Salem to the brew tank should take less than one hour.

"To coordinate having empty fermentation tanks at every one of our stations on the same exact day to put the same exact beer it's kind of a big deal for us," Brogan said.

But all the work is worth it when flavor is the payoff.

"You've got the same flavor components (as dried hops) but you can't get the same freshness out of that dried product," Brogan explained.

This was pretty cool to see. Each brewer opened the 30-pound bag of bright green, buttery soft hops like a present.

I got to tag along for a few deliveries. At the Hillsdale brewpub, Dan McMenamin opened his bag of hops with a big smile. As he took a big sniff, he could only muster the words, "that's amazing."

McMenamin's calls this day the Running of the Brewers. Here are a few facts about the big day:

  • 7 drivers piled up vehicles to transport the hops
  • Fresh hops was delivered to 24 breweries
  • The fresh hops will be used in their Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale

Click "play" on the video above to watch the madness as photographer Gino Corridori and I followed the brewers during "fresh hop day."