Colorado’s Best Cool Wet Hop Beers in Fall 2022
Does it smell like that? It’s the aroma of Colorado hop harvest season!
In recent weeks, farmers across the state and nation have taken down their hop bins so local brewers can buy them for seasonal specialties called cool or wet hop beers. Instead of using the standard dry hops, these drinks use the raw cones, which offer greener, more floral flavors.
When it comes to wet hops, the fresher the better. That’s why on August 29, the folks behind Denver’s FlyteCo Brewery took a special trip to the 32 acres Billy Goat Hop Farm to Montrose to pick up 80 pounds of Cascade and Nugget hops. The owners, who are pilots, and their crew flew private planes to Montrose at 9 a.m. and at around 10:30 a.m. returned to Front Range, where the brew kettle was boiling, and dumped their transport of hops.
FlyteCo Brewing’s West Coast IPA will debut on September 12th.
The flight has been a tradition since 2019, when FlyteCo and Bruz Beers embarked on a similar mission in Paonia and collaborated on a wet hop season. For FlyteCo co-owner Morgan O’Sullivan, it’s one of the most fun trips of the year.
“Seasonality, rarity. There’s just more of a delicacy to [fresh hop beers],” he said. “And the taste, I love it.”
Plus, the opportunity to connect and support local farmers reminds her of shopping at farmers’ markets while growing up in central California. Support from local brewers has become a crucial part of the survival of Colorado hop farms, as Billy Goat owners Chris DellaBianca and Audrey Gehlhausen told the Denver Post in 2021.
“That attachment to the land is so cool,” O’Sullivan said.
Still thirsty? Here are the best places and events to indulge in the season.
Fresh Hop Festival at Joyride Brewing Co. (September 24)
For a second year, hop-fresh beers will take to the taps at Joyride Brewing Co. for a day-long festival. The event takes place a few weeks earlier than last year, as the hops were also harvested a little earlier. This will ensure “every beer served is as fresh as possible so attendees can enjoy all the subtle and volatile hop compounds before they start to fade,” co-founder Dave Bergen said in a statement.
The beers will be available at more than 10 breweries, including Joyride, which is running two seasonal beers this year — an IPA and a pilsner — both made with Colorado ingredients. Other attractions include a t-shirt dyeing station.
Entry to the festival is free and attendees pay as you go. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Colorado Brewers Guild.
September 24 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. at Joyride Brewing Company (2501 Sheridan Blvd., Edgewater). facebook.com/events/766164181291080.
Southwest Fresh Fest and Pickin’ Party (Oct. 1)
Billy Goat Hop Farm is a 32-acre lot in Montrose that supplies locally grown hops to breweries across the state this time of year. And what better place to get a sample of how they’re used than at the hop farm itself? Billy Goat brings more than a dozen beer makers to the West Slope for the first Southwest Fresh Fest and Pickin’ Party, where drinkers can try — you guessed it — hop-fresh beers paired with bluegrass music. live.
Tickets are $30 and include free shuttle service from downtown Montrose to the farm. As a bonus, leaf season will peak around this time and Montrose is a short drive to the San Juan Mountains where you can see the colors change.
Oct. 1 from 2-6 p.m. at Billy Goat Hop Farm (67181 Trout Rd., Montrose). www.westfreshfest.com.
Freshtober Fest (October 15)
Head to The Empourium Brewing Co. in Denver for a fresh hop block party. The brewery will close 42nd Avenue at Tennyson Street, along with its adjacent parking lot for beer tents, food trucks and live music. Expect 10 breweries, including European-inspired outfits Hogshead Brewery and Barquentine Brewing Co., to offer seasonal recipes. Empourium’s is called Now and Forever, a wet hop IPA brewed with El Dorado hops imported from Michigan.
It’s free to enjoy the patio vibes and tunes, but beer sampling is $45 for 10 pours (5 ounces each). A portion of proceeds benefit the St. Francis Center, which supports Denver’s homeless population. Empourium will also collect gently used jeans to donate to the center.
October 15 from noon to 6 p.m. at The Empourium Brewing Co. (4385 W. 42nd Ave., Denver). theempourium.com.
Broken Compass Brewing
So you fancy something that has malt strong enough to handle wet hops? The annual Broken Compass Wet Hop Pale Ale should please you. The brewery used 75 pounds of the namesake harvest from Montrose’s Billy Goat Hop Farm – 25 pounds each of Cascade, Copper and Chinook – to make this beer.
Now available on tap at both Broken Compass Brewing Co. locations (68 Continental Ct Unit B-12, Breckenridge and 520 S. Main St., Breckenridge). BrokenCompassbrewing.com.
Appeal to Arms Brewing Co.
Hopheads will find two wet hop recipes on tap at Denver’s Call to Arms Brewing this season, including a 2018 Beer World Cup gold medalist. It’s More Like Bore Fresh Hop IPA -O-Phyll, a West Coast-style brew with Amarillo hops that imparts tropical citrus and grapefruit notes to the flavor. Second is Janet Reno’s hazy Dance Party fresh hop IPA, which also uses Amarillo hops, but leans into an East Coast brewing style.
Find Janet Reno’s Dance Party starting September 26 and More Like Bore-O-Phyll starting October 3. Both will be available on draft and in cans at Call to Arms Brewing (4526 Tennyson St, Denver). calltoarmsbrewing.com.
Comrade Brewing Co.
Comrade’s flagship Superpower IPA is getting a seasonal twist, thanks to “hundreds of pounds” of wet hop brewers purchased from Billy Goat. In case you needed another reason to seek it out, the fresh hops recipe won back-to-back silver medals at the Great American Beer Festival in 2014 and 2015.
Currently in the pipeline at Comrade Brewing Co. (7667 E Iliff Ave., Suite F, Denver), comradebrasserie.com.
Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery
Jagged Mountain, located in downtown Denver, will offer two fresh hop recipes this fall to satisfy drinkers. The first, a collaboration with Denver’s Laws Whiskey, is a double IPA brewed exclusively with fresh Cascade hops grown in Littleton and a touch of Laws honey bourbon. The second is called Sticky Icky and harnesses fresh Strata hops for notes of pineapple, strawberry, orange and pine. They are both heavy hitters at 8% and 7.5% alcohol by volume, respectively.
Find them on tap at Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery (1139 20th St, Denver) starting September 21. jaggedmountainbrewery.com.
WeldWorks Brewing Co.
Adding its own twist to the fresh hop tradition, WeldWerks Brewing Co. used frozen whole hop cones to create Cryo Fresh Hop Juicy Bits, adding seasonal flavor to one of its staple IPAs. The hops for this 6.7% ABV recipe come from the famous Yakima Chief Hops company in Washington.
Find it in drafts and cans at WeldWerks Brewing Co. (508 8th Ave, Greeley) starting September 23. It will be distributed along the Front Range shortly thereafter. welders.com.
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