Hood River Hops Fest – USA Festivals

Hood River

Columbia Lot, 5th and Columbia Late September www.hoodriver.org/hops-fest/

A low-key street-party atmosphere with live music from some of the hottest bands from Portland and the Columbia Gorge; food vendors serving up a great mix of eats; and best of all, more than fifty breweries pouring more than sixty flavor-packed fresh-hop beers in one of Oregon’s hippest most happening small towns: no wonder the Hood River Hops Fest garnered a silver medal for best beer festival from the Willamette Week Oregon Beer Awards amid brutally stiff competition in a state burgeoning with beer fests.

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Since 2003, this energetic brew festival has gathered world-class fresh-hopped brews by the dozens, not only from the myriad breweries in and near the Gorge but from throughout Oregon and even a few from Washington and California, and ranging from the best-known giants in the industry to small-batch nano breweries. Even the most ardent hophead is likely to find a brewery or two he or she has never before encountered, and the flavor profiles within the fresh-hops genre are surprisingly broad, assuring every beer lover will find something awesome.

While the vast majority of beers are made with dried hops, fresh-hop beers take advantage of the more floral taste and aromas of green, freshly picked hop cones to brew special seasonal ales. It’s a run-and-gun style of brewing, reputedly pioneered here in the Pacific Northwest where most American hops are grown—the hops need to go from vine to brewery very quickly and into the beer speedily as well. These autumn specialties don’t age well, so the season for them is fleeting, but their flavor profiles are so expressive that Northwest beer aficionados flock to breweries producing fresh-hop beers and to the handful of festivals dedicated to these brews.

The Hood River Hops Fest occurs downtown at the Columbia Lot at 5th and Columbia—right across the street from Full Sale Brewing and a short block away from Double Mountain Brewery—and runs from noon until 8 pm, with live music ongoing throughout the event. Tickets are available for purchase in advance via the event website and also at the gate, with the beer garden ticket package including entry, a commemorative glass, and five tasting tokens; additional tokens are available for purchase at the festival. Only those 21 and over can drink beer, but until 5 pm attendees under age 21 are welcome and get in for free (and a special kids area has games and activities for children); after 5 pm, the festival is 21-and-over only. Entry lines can get rather lengthy but move rapidly, so arriving early is a wise tactic. The Hood River Chamber of Commerce, www.hoodriver.org, creates special Hops Fest accommodation packages and can provide ample information on lodging and activities in the area.

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