By Jan Jackson
Hood River, Oregon is the perfect place to be on September 24, 2016, because for the 13th year, the one-day Hood River will again become the epicenter for fresh-hop beers. The festival, featuring one of the largest fresh-hop beer selections in the nation, will be showcasing more than 60 varieties from three-dozen Pacific Northwest breweries.
What’s special about hops and the Pacific Northwest? Hops are picky about where they’ll grow and they like it here (the sweet spot is between the 35th and 55th parallels of both hemispheres where they get long day length, hot summers and just as importantly, cold winters). Proudly, the Pacific Northwest states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho’s panhandle grow 97.8 percent of the hops in the United States.
ABOUT THE HOP FESTIVAL
Pacific Northwest breweries.
Freshly harvested hops from the Pacific Northwest infuse the wide range of seasonal brews showcased annually at Hood River Hops Fest. The resulting varieties are both unpredictable and limited in quantity, luring festival goers back year after year. Numerous local breweries – including Double Mountain Brewery, Full Sail Brewing and pFriem Family Brewers – will showcase their 2016 fresh-hop ales, alongside regional and national heavyweights. A small selection of local hop ciders will also be on tap, along with select wines from Naked Winery. A full list of participating breweries will be announced in early September.
New for 2016 is the Hood River Hops Fest Awards, which include a People’s Choice and Top of the Hops awards. The Oregon Beer Awards’ new Fresh Hop category will also be judged during the event, with festival and non-festival beers alike vying for Gold, Silver and Bronze medals, to be presented at the Oregon Beer Award ceremony in Portland on February 28, 2017.
“Hood River Hops Fest is a celebration of our region’s numerous craft breweries, which love creating unique, seasonal beers with fresh, local hops,” said Mike Glover, CEO of the Hood River County Chamber of Commerce, host of the event. “We’re excited to take the festival excitement and competitive spirit up a notch this year with the new Hood River Hops Fest awards, which will let festival-goers call out their favorites. We’re also thrilled to partner with Oregon Beer Awards as they launch their new Fresh Hop category. They recognize that the Hood River Hops Fest is the place to be to taste the best fresh hop beers Oregon has to offer!”
Hood River Hops Fest features local cuisine, arts and crafts vendors, live music, and a children’s play area, which is open until 5 PM. Children are welcome throughout the afternoon. The venue is open to adults only from 5 PM until 8 PM.
MAKE A WEEKEND OF IT IN HOOD RIVER
Hood River Hops Fest takes place during autumn, one of Hood River’s showcase seasons. The summer crowds have dissipated, fall harvest is in full swing, and the trees in the Gorge and Hood River Valley are turning beautiful fall colors. Visitors can easily turn Hops Fest into a long vacation weekend by going apple picking along the Hood River County Fruit Loop, biking the scenic Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail from Hood River to Mosier, and feasting on farm-to-table dinners at local restaurants.
Beer lovers who want to go to the source can visit more than 10 independent breweries on both sides of the Columbia River. Breweries in the Gorge (BIG) offers a map and passport on its website, breweriesinthegorge.com. For more top Hood River autumn activities, go to hoodriver.org/hood-rivers-top-fall-activities/.
Many Hood River hotels will be offering Hops Fest packages. Visit hoodriver.org/hops-fest for a list of participating lodges.
Said Glover, “We look forward to welcoming people to Hood River, where they can get both a taste of our brews and everything else our wildly gorge-ous area has to offer, including beautiful alpine hikes, awesome mountain bike rides, a downtown art walk, and the Hood River County Fruit Loop when the fall foliage is in its prime.”
Hops photo by Jan Jackson