If you like hop-driven beer (or even if you think you don't), this is the time of year for celebration. For the most part, the hops used in brewing come dried or in pellets, but at harvest time, a number of breweries go straight to the field to score unprocessed, wet hops. The resulting brew has a unique bitterness that is bold but surprisingly balanced, and that balance can win over even the faint of heart. The only downside is limited availability: When they're gone, they're gone.
Deschutes Brewery's Hop Trip
This Bend, Ore., brewery sources its hops from Salem, Ore., boasting they go from vine to vat in just four hours. The blast of herb- and pine-laced hop aromas is definitely fresh and lively in this bright amber pour. On the palate, you get creamy citrus that melds beautifully with the bold hop character, providing a pleasant bitterness from start to finish. Smooth malt adds color to this delicious quaff. Enjoy it while you can.
Hale's O'Brien's Harvest Ale
Based in Seattle, Hale's uses Yakima, Wash., hops to produce a brew that's a hazy, nut brown in color, with aromas that are a bit more subdued than the Deschutes brew. On the nose, this beer has light pine and citrus notes, while on the palate, there's an ample, resin-laced hop bitterness that's backed by soft caramel malt. This one should please those who like a more aggressive hop profile.
Sierra Nevada's Northern Hemisphere Harvest
Yakima, Wash., hops are picked, shipped and dumped into the brew kettle in Chico, Calif., in the space of a day. The result is a bright copper ale with a fluffy tan head, and heady hop aromas colored by citrus, pine and bread dough. On the hop bite scale, it's closer to the Hale's, with a persistent bitterness that is balanced by creamy fruit and subtle malt. This beer is only available in a 22-ounce bomber.