1st Annual Gluten Free Fresh Hop Festival
September 2017 in Portland, Oregon
Ground Breaker Brewing is a brewery of firsts. They were the first dedicated gluten free brewery in the United States (founded in 2011), the first brewery to use chestnuts and lentils in their beers and on September 30th, Ground Breaker Brewing hosted the first-ever Gluten Free Fresh Hop Festival in Portland, OR. This event was a collaboration between Ground Breaker, Moonshrimp, Bierly, and Cider Riot.
Moonshrimp Brewing brought the Zeus Punch, a continuously hopped Dark IPA that received a new hop addition every 2 minutes (or less!) during the boil. This beer is millet based, and over 85% of the hops used were of the homegrown Zeus variety. This IPA was also dry hopped at the end of fermentation using Cascade hops.
This beer was kegged and went straight to Ground Breaker for the festival…but lucky for us, Dan (head brewer at Moonshrimp) filled and capped two bottles, one of which made it into my hands.
The second beer reviewed is the 2017 round of Ground Breaker’s Gayle Fresh Hop IPA, a beer that seriously won me over last year. This year they brewed 2 fresh hop IPAs, the second of which is called the Epoch (pronounced “Epic”).
The Epoch Fresh Hop was brewed with Strata hops, which were developed collaboratively by Oregon State University and Indie Hops. I published a review on it recently, which you can read here. Read on to see what I thought of this year’s Gayle…
Bierly Brewing was also there with 2 fresh hop offerings, one a pale and the other an IPA. Bierly is a small gluten free brewery in Portland that you can often find on tap at Ground Breaker’s taproom.
Please Note: Fresh Hop beers are intended to be consumed as fresh as possible and since I was unable to attend the festival myself, these reviews are for their bottled equivalents–not their fresh draft pours. These bottles were consumed within a couple weeks of the festival date.
The Tap List
Besides the Zeus Punch from Moonshrimp Brewing, the festival saw many other creative fresh hop brews from Bierly Brewing, Cider Riot, Hi Five Cider, Fringe Meadery, and of course, Ground Breaker Brewing. Here was the tap list for the 2017 GF Fresh Hop Festival…
From Ground Breaker…
- Epoch IPA — brewed with fresh Strata hops from Goschie Farms.
- Gayle IPA — brewed with fresh Crystal hops from Goschie Farms.
- Estate Blonde Ale — brewed with unknown hops that have been growing on the side of their pub!
From Bierly Brewing…
- Hop Springs Eternal IPA — brewed with homegrown Nugget hops.
- 1lb. Pale — brewed with homegrown Nugget hops.
From Cider Riot…
- Blitzkrieg Hop brewed with fresh Hallertauer and Cascade hops from Abram’s own garden.
From Hi Five Cider…
- Fresh hop version of Strawbasaurus Hop brewed with fresh Amarillo hops from Crosby Hop Farm
From Fringe Meadery…
- 12% orange blossom mead that was aged for over a year on oak, and a few weeks on fresh Crystal hops from Goschie Farms.
“I love participating at Ground Breaker events like the Fresh Hop festival. James and the entire staff at Ground Breaker have been tremendously supportive of Bierly Brewing and the beers that we produce. We have something pretty special in Oregon with four dedicated gluten free breweries all focused on making superb beer.” – JP Bierly, Brewmaster of Bierly Brewing
The Taste Test
Zeus Punch by Moonshrimp Brewing
This continuously hopped dark IPA utilizes the Zeus hop…which I had to look up because I wasn’t very familiar with it.
The Zeus Punch pours a cloudy milk chocolate brown. For a moment I was surprised, then I remembered it was a dark IPA! There wasn’t any head, but to be fair, I believe this bottle sipped in a little oxygen before I got around to reviewing it. The carbonation level seems lower than it should be…it’s a bit flat.
The first sip is quite sweet…zeus punch! Afterwards the sweetness fades and the brew takes you for a complex ride through different layers of hop flavor. The hop kick and flavor I taste upon first sip is very different from the earthy bitterness that lingers in the throat long after swallowing.
“In response to the most common question I have gotten, YES I will be making Zeus Punch again next year and YES I will make more than the one keg for the beer fest. I loved the fresh hop festival, it was a lot of fun to attend and a lot of fun to brew with hops that I grew in my own yard. I really liked how each brewery had at least one beer with hops we grew ourselves. Big thank you to Ground Breaker for doing this and I hope it happens again next year.” – Dan, Brewmaster of Moonshrimp Brewing
Adding hops every 2 minutes throughout the boil really brought out a lot of complexity behind the Zeus hop. As mentioned earlier, Dan also dry-hopped with a healthy dose of Cascade at the end of fermentation.
I taste a lot of carmel notes in this medium-bodied beer, perhaps imparted from the brown candy sugar used to brew. This Dark IPA clocks in at 6.5% ABV, and I’m not quite sure where the IBU’s sit. This brew’s a bit on the sweet side for me…but I bet that sweetness was better balanced when the full carbonation was present.
Update: (from Brewmaster Dan regarding the carbonation level)
I just realized why! It will be a great message for home brewers…I realized what went wrong. The bottle got put into a refrigerator to preserve the fresh hop flavor before it had the time to do the bottle fermentation. It never got the chance to carbonate properly before it was put in the box of goodies for you from the Portland breweries and the yeast went to sleep before carbonating it up. 4 days in the bottle before being chilled isn’t close to enough time. Oops. Sorry about that. Probably a little sweet note on it too that wouldn’t be there if the beer had a chance to grow properly.
Well there ya go! That explains it.
By the way, stand by for another really fun review of Moonshrimp Brewing! I have with me the Fairy Food collaboration beer that was brewed by Moonshrimp and Brewed by Gnomes, all of which was recorded for the Best Gluten Free Beers beer tour! It’s time to crack open the fruits of their labor soon…a session saison made with nasturtium and homegrown honeysuckle.
Taste Test #2
Gayle Fresh Hop IPA by Ground Breaker
As I mentioned earlier, the Gayle Fresh Hop IPA shared the fresh hop spotlight with the Epoch IPA this year. The Gayle has more of a classic Pacific Northwest style, as opposed to the heavy tropical notes of the Epoch. The Crystal hop used in this brew was also Oregon-born…it was developed back in 1983 in Corvallis, OR.
The Gayle has a gorgeous amber color, and it foams beautifully. (see the beer pour!) I must say, the head on this year’s round of Gayle is much thicker than last year’s. As I sit here writing, the beer sits next to me, and I swear it looks exactly like a gluten-FULL beer. Head lingers, little bubbles climb the edges of the abandoned glass. When I drink it, it gives me a beer mustache. Yes, they definitely got the carbonation and texture right with this one.
Just like last year, this Gayle is hoppy but not very bitter. The hop character is woodsy and has an herby spice to it. This IPA is very crisp and clean, but it seems less pungent than last year’s Gayle. It still tastes balanced and has a nice body though. This IPA goes down smooooth…the Crystal characteristics just seem much more mild this round. Does anyone else agree? Perhaps the hop harvest itself was a bit different this season. (We did have an exceptionally harsh summer in Oregon.)
Just to be sure that it wasn’t just me, I asked my partner Buddy to give it a whiff (yes, that’s his legal name). He has an excellent nose, and he was with me when I tasted this brew last year. He agreed that this year’s round of Gayle was less fragrant, but he did notice light floral notes in the aroma.
I sip this Fresh Hop IPA slowly, observing the subtle changes in flavor as the ambient temperature warms the beer. More complex hop characteristic come out as it moves away from fridge temperature. And damn…everytime I take a sip, a fresh head reforms on the top of the brew. Seriously classy.
Last But Not Least…
Don’t forget to read up on the Epoch IPA, brewed with Strata hops 7 years in the making! Mmm…yep…you’ll want to read that here.
Did any of you in the Pacific Northwest get the chance to attend the Gluten Free Fresh Hop Festival? If so, what did YOU think of the beers? Did you have a favorite?
I hope that this event continues to grow and gives the fresh hop lovers from around the country even more reason to visit the Pacific Northwest.