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Fresh Hops

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Every year, I look forward to the release of Hale's O'Brien's Harvest Ale. This Seattle-based brewery first made the fresh hop ale more than 20 years ago, and its arrival in Boise is much anticipated. When it first hit the Valley in 1996, it was the only game in town--a seasonal brew made with just-picked hops. Well, the good news is that it has arrived; the bad news is that by the time you read this, it may have sold out. But don't despair if you can't find the Hale's. Here are three other fresh hop delights from a trio of top-notch Oregon breweries:

Beer Valley Leafer Madness Imperial Ale Fresh Hop Edition

A big, bold brew with resiny hop and grapefruit aromas that only hint at the flavors crowding the palate. There's lots of lightly sweet and chewy malt up front with a hefty hit of leafy hops. Those hops turn beautifully bitter on a finish that's well balanced by creamy citrus. A great take on the style from this Ontario, Ore.-based brewery.

Deschutes Hop Trip

Light tropical fruit aromas are backed by biscuit and sweet grapefruit in this beer. This is an elegantly structured quaffer, with a much more subtle hop profile than the Leafer Madness. On the palate, it's fairly dry with soft malt, apricot and toffee playing against the fresh and floral, citrus-laced hops. It's about as smooth as you will find and a great choice for a session brew.

Bridgeport Hop Harvest Ale

This brew opens with nicely floral, resiny hop aromas that play against bright citrus and a pleasant nuttiness. It offers impeccable balance with a hop profile a bit richer than the Hop Trail but without the more aggressive bite of the Leafer Madness. Creamy malt flavors blend seamlessly with fresh, fragrant hops and it goes down oh so easily with a refreshing hit of clean citrus on the finish.