This past Thanksgiving weekend saw me in Victoria for the Holiday, and wouldn’t you know it, it was also the a fresh hop festival! I wanted to visit this fest for a couple of reasons. One, I missed the Vancouver version out in Abbotsford, and two- I’m not a super-fan of the Hop. Or at least I didn’t use to be…Let me explain. Me and IPA’s? We’re not that close. I don’t go bonkers at the site of Fat Tug on a beer list and don’t rush out to check out all the new massive IBU beers coming out to market. Of course I like the hop…but in a more subtle, background player type position.
Enter the fresh hop and everything I thought I knew, was shattered. For a month or so every year I get to revel in the beauty and understated wonder that is the fresh hop beer. Fresh to Death saw 20 Lower Mainland and Island breweries bring their best fresh brews to the table and it was fantastic. The heavens opened up and it poured, thundered, knocked over tents and displays but it didn’t make a dent in the attitude of the festival attendees.
Joe Wiebe, who we all know as the Thirsty Writer was ever present at the Fest, weaving between tables chatting and sampling the wares. Of course the Victoria Craft Beer week volunteers, sporting green hop t-shirts were all over place too, so help was at the ready. Tons of water, plentiful restrooms with minimal lines, great music and ample tents gave this fest the all-round winning feel.
Two food trucks stood at the ready (Ginger Bros Burritos & Coast Lunch Box) and the fashion of the day as gortex, rubber boots and the odd kilt. I was fortunate to meet two guys Todd & Paul who had been looking forward to this day for some time. While Todd had the palette of a trained cicerone, Paul brought unbridled enthusiasm to the table that made me remember why I love tasting (and talking) beers with new people. Together we sampled them all, made our notes, compared our faves and gently dissed our not-so faves. I hope to reciprocate one day and show them around some of Vancouver’s best breweries!
Among the people I talked to, the undeclared winner was both the Alpha Dog Fresh Hop Pale Ale and Play Dead IPA Fresh Hop from Yellow Dog Brewing. This one was at a trailer that had about 10 taps on it representing other breweries so the line up was always long…and interesting! Many appreciative murmurs about Dageraad’s Wet Hopped Blonde as well. This beer on it’s own is one of my favourite blondes and this version brought a fuller/creamier mouth-feel and a decadence to it.
I heard a ton of buzz about Bridge Brewings Fresh Hop Red IPA. It brought the delicious mellow hop to the centre but the fact it was a red ale, was a welcome surprise for those craving something just a little different. Lighthouse Brewing had their Road Trip which pours a beautiful dark brown and bursts with malty, sweet hops. This one went very fast and I personally missed a 3rd taste…Darrin, one of the brewers at Lighthouse mentioned they wanted to do something a little different; different AND delicious!
Moon Under Water brought a sour that was a great introduction for those who aren’t that familiar with this style of beer. I was surprised by how mellow the tartness was, finished with a nice sweetness that Todd said would be perfect on a hot day.
Probably the coolest thing of the day was learning about Townsites Time Warp Wet Hopped Pale Ale from Damien (who was more than happy to share the story!). The hops used were gathered from all over the Powell River area, some wild, some backyard grown and some farmed. A mish-mash of hops went into this beauty to make it what I referred to as a truly wild ale.
I had a blast at this event. As usual I chatted and flitted about instead of taking pics of the going-ons that were taking place. I love beer festivals. I love the variety. The people. The chance to talk beer ALL DAY.
I’ll be back next year Victoria!