The end of summer means many things: The sun is setting earlier, the kids are back in school and the temperatures are starting to drop.
But for Colorado craft brewers, this special time of year equates to one thing: Fresh hops.
For most of the year, they must use dried hops when brewing beer. But toward the end of August and beginning of September, as farmers harvest their hop crops, brewers can make beers with the fresh stuff.
These vibrant green, pinecone-shaped flowers arrive at the brewery very soon after being picked—often within 24 hours. They add brightness and subtle vegetal notes to hoppy beers, like IPAs.
And while many Colorado craft breweries produce fresh hop beers at this time of year, the important thing to note is that they’re only available for a limited time. When they’re gone, they’re gone, so it pays to act quickly if you’re a hop fiend.
Below, a few Front Range breweries that are making fresh hop beers this year—and when you can get them. (If you’re looking for even more fresh hop beers, be sure to bookmark the Colorado Brewers Guild website, which is being updated regularly as they learn about more releases.)
If you’d rather sip fresh hop beers from a bunch of different breweries all at once, then mark your calendars for these festivals.
- Telluride Blues & Brews Festival: Head to Telluride on Sept. 15-17 to sip some of the tastiest fresh hop beers from a variety of Colorado breweries, including Base Camp Beer Works, 6 and 40 Brewery, Strange Craft Beer and Primitive Beer.
- Southwest Fresh Fest & Hop Picking Party: On Sept. 23, make the trek to Montrose and visit Billy Goat Hop Farm, which is hosting a fresh hop throwdown. Expect shuttles from Montrose, live music and lots and lots of fresh hop beers from local brewers.
- Fresh Hop Fest: Joyride Brewing is once again hosting its annual Fresh Hop Fest, this time on Sept. 30. The festival is free—it’s basically just an excuse to get together and celebrate fresh hop beers by ordering a pint or a sampler flight. They plan to shut down the street in front of the brewery to make room for food trucks and live music. Participating breweries include Joyride, Broken Compass, Burns Family Artisan Ales, Cohesion, Green Mountain, New Terrain, Call to Arms, Comrade, FlyteCo, Jagged Mountain, Ratio, Station 26, Vail Brewing and Weldwerks. Best of all, Joyride is donating 10 percent of the proceeds to the Colorado Brewers Guild.
Primitive Beer — Longmont
On Sept. 16, Primitive Beer in Longmont will release its méthode traditionnelle spontaneous fresh hop beer. To make this one, they’re using Multihead hops grown at Billy Goat Hop Farm in Montrose, on the Western Slope.
“Multihead is an indigenous variety of hops to New Mexico and Colorado,” says Lisa Boldt, who co-owns the brewery with her husband, Brandon. “We’re cold steeping these hops in two-year mature spontaneous beer (also all Colorado grown ingredients). We love the way our blends highlight a beautiful juxtaposition of musty, funky mature beer (with gracefully oxidized flavors) and the fruity, vibrant counterbalance of fresh hops.”
FlyteCo Brewing — Denver
Every year, the team at aviation-themed brewery FlyteCo flies a small passenger plane from Denver to Montrose, where they race to harvest the absolute freshest hops at Billy Goat Hop Farm. Once they’ve got their fill, they jump back in the plane and return to Denver, where they add the just-picked hops to the kettle. The whole thing takes about five hours from start to finish.The result is Hop Is My Co-Pilot, a fresh hop beer they’ll be releasing on Sept. 8.
WeldWerks Brewing — Greeley
WeldWerks does their fresh hop beer a little differently. They get their fresh hops flash-frozen immediately after harvest, which helps lock in the freshness. Then, they put them through a cryogenic hop process that separates the whole cone from the lupulin. In the end, they transform their flash-frozen hops into Cryo Fresh Hop Juicy Bit, a 6.7 percent beer that will be available in the Greeley taproom starting Sept. 8. WeldWerks also plans to distribute it in Colorado after that.
Mountain Toad Brewing — Golden
Venture down Highway 93 to Golden on Sept. 14 to sip the Two Headed Toad American Pale Ale at Mountain Toad, which is made with Multihead hops from Billy Goat Hop Farm in Montrose.
Call to Arms Brewing — Denver
You have a few opportunities to sip fresh hop beers at Call to Arms in Denver. First, the brewery is releasing More Like Bore-O-Phyll Fresh Hop IPA on Sept. 16. Made from Amarillo hops grown in Oregon, this beer won the gold medal for the fresh hop category at the 2019 World Beer Cup.
Then, toward the end of September, they’ll be releasing Janet Reno’s Dance Party Hazy Fresh Hop IPA (date TBD). This hazy IPA features Strata hops, which give the beer fruit-forward notes of pineapple and peach.