What: Sisters Fresh Hop Festival

When: Noon to 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Three Creeks Brewing Production Facility, 265 E. Barclay Drive, Sisters

Cost: $15 for tasting package (includes pint glass and 5 tokens)

Contact: sistersfresh hopfest.com

The ninth annual Sisters Fresh Hop Festival returns this Saturday, and for the first time since its inception in 2010, the event will not take place at Village Green Park. Instead, Three Creeks Brewing Co. is hosting the festival at its production facility at 265 E. Barclay Drive.

Three Creeks launched the event in 2010 and continues to be the main organizer. Each year, the festival donates a portion of the proceeds to a nonprofit; in 2017, it raised over $10,000 for the American Cancer Society. It hopes to raise a similar amount for Ronald McDonald House Charities this year serving up “the world’s freshest beer” from at least 25 breweries.

“Fresh hop” beers are those crafted with freshly picked hops that are added to the brew without being dried first. Sometimes referred to as “wet,” the hop flowers in this state retain a number of volatiles and delicate characteristics otherwise lost when kilned. Once picked, the hops must be used within 24 hours to avoid spoiling. It has become something of a hop harvest tradition for brewers to drive to the Willamette or Yakima valleys to pick up a load of fresh hops on the day the beer is being brewed.

“I love fresh hop season because I love all of the floral aromatics that come with fresh hop beer,” said Ashley Woody, Three Creeks’ marketing manager. “The beer coincides with perfect fall weather, and the beer is reminiscent of the changing of seasons.”

Head brewer Jeff Cornett echoes the sentiment. “Fresh hop time is my absolute favorite time of year as a brewer. It’s just a fun day,” he wrote via email. “The aroma that fills the brew house from the fresh hops is incredible, and it’s just cool to use hops in their natural form — straight off the vine. From farm to brew — just as it should be. The beers are unique and delicious and a once-a-year treat for us to enjoy.”

Three Creeks’ signature fresh hop brew is Cone Lick’r Fresh Hop Ale, an easy-drinking pale ale that incorporates Centennial hops from B.C. Hop Farms in Woodburn. The Centennial varietal typically matures earlier than others, and the brewery harvested them in August and released the beer at the beginning of September.

Some 900 pounds of Centennial hops made their way into the beer, at a rate of 15 pounds per barrel (a total of 60 barrels were brewed). The brewery’s description notes, “The abundance of hop resins from the fresh Centennials create an additional spiciness along with the classic orange rind notes characteristic of Centennial hops.”

I picked up a bottle of Cone Lick’r — it was quite fresh, bottled only two weeks prior — and found it enjoyable and a great example of what a fresh hop beer can be. Those Centennial hops do indeed offer up a spicy presence. In the aroma, I found notes of zesty, spicy fresh greens (nettles and dandelion come to mind) along with green peppercorn.

It’s similarly spicy in flavor with an herbal, peppery impression, and a savory bite offering up some piney resin notes. A pleasant bitterness of fresh wild greens lingers into the aftertaste, shoring up a crisp, dry malt body.

In addition to Cone Lick’r, Three Creeks introduced a new fresh hop beer on draft only this year. “We came up with a fresh hop, single hop IPA featuring Comet hops. We also decided to infuse it with chamomile tea from Suttle Tea in Sisters,” Cornett said.

This 10 barrel batch boasts 200 pounds of Comet hops from Crosby Hop Farm in Woodburn (20 pounds per barrel) and 4 pounds of chamomile. Comet hops are described as having something of a “wild American” character (which can mean grassy, herbal, and resinous), emphasizing grapefruit and tangerine.

Combined with the chamomile, which can impart a Juicy Fruit chewing gum aroma, I expect this to be an interesting beer, which is named Comet Down Fresh Hop IPA.

Look for both of these beers and more on tap at the Sisters Fresh Hop Festival, which features two dozen other breweries. It’s one of my favorite beer events of the year, as the nature of fresh hop beers is distinctive and ephemeral — once they’re gone, you have to wait until next year.

— Jon Abernathy is a Bend beer blogger and brew aficionado.

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