Mike White, brewmaster at Old St. Francis School, McMenamins, knows taste buds.
"Once people hear the words 'fresh hop,' they tend to go for it," explained White (aka "Curly").
Astute readers may notice that this is our second fresh hop preview in as many weeks. We won't apologize for redundancy. Fresh hop season is upon us—that glorious but breif window of time when brewers have access to freshly harvested hop cones. It is that ingredient that adds a particularly sharp earthy taste, the one that leaves us wishing the hop harvest came around more than a once a year.
White already has one fresh hop beer on tap at McMenamins, the fourth iteration of Thundercone (6% ABV, 56 IBUs), which is somewhere between a mild IPA and a strong pale. It's made annually by McMenamins brewers across the state.
Come this weekend, though, White hopes to tap a creation all his own—the Golden Sparrow Fresh Hop Ale (5.5% ABV, 45 IBUs). White even went so far as to pick the hops himself (it must be a thing this season—see last week's story, "Crux Gets Fresh," about the Crux Brewers who picked their own hops from a vine growing onsite). To do so, he ventured just a few miles north to D&D Ranch in Terrebonne. He explained that he and a buddy picked hops for nearly three hours and collected 15 pounds of sticky, sweet cones—a relatively light load considering a batch of IPAs normally take as much as 60 pounds of fresh hops to produce.
"It's a little more hands on," added White. "I get to go out and pick the hops myself."
This is the second year he's made the easy-drinking Golden Sparrow and it's the fourth year McMenamins has brewed the popular Thundercone. White made a full batch of each, 12 kegs, but he reports there are only four kegs of Thundercone left.
For an additional treat, White transferred a portion of Golden Sparrow to a firkin keg for an additional week, which allows the brew to naturally ferment. (Firkins are cask-condition ales that use no external CO2 for carbonation or serving and, when tapped, are poured via a gravity-fed spout.) It's a traditional old-world style fitting for this special brew.
While the Golden Sparrow Fresh Hop Ale should be ready this weekend, a select few can enjoy the limited edition firkin release on Wednesday, Sept. 25. Get there early, because, as White said, "Everybody loves fresh hops."
Golden Sparrow Fresh Hop Ale, firkin special release
5 pm-beer is gone, Wednesday, Sept. 25
McMenamins, 700 NW Bond St.
happy hour pricing