“ It’s the most wonderful time of the year”, for PNW hopheads, that old chestnut doesn’t apply to the Christmas/Kwanzaa/Hanukkah matrix in December, it refers to now. The hop harvest season is slowing down, and the fresh hop beers are coming in fast and heavy. I’ll be trying to let you all know what’s on the radar, FH-wise. Stones Throw should have their first attempt ready around October 8th. The Boundary Bay Whatcom Women in Beer FH is still on tap at the brewery. Boundary Bays Amarillo FH has been sold through, it was only available at the brewery during their 21st Birthday Party, but you might see it on tap around town, or along the I-5 corridor. Kulshan has a Citra/Amarillo FH IPA, brewed at the James St location, ready to drop alongside today’s pint, Fresh Hop Pale Cascade/Centennial Pale.
Cascade has been in use for over 40 years, and is widely known for its citrus, grapefruit-like, flavor, along with some floral tones. Cascade is one of the most popular hops used in craft brewing, as it’s status as the hop that has topped the annual hop production list the last several years in a row. You have most likely had a lot of beers that use it because such popular beers as Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale, Anchor Brewing’s Liberty IPA, and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
Centennial is sometimes referred to as “Super Cascade”, due to the fact that it has a lot of similar features, and double the Alpha Acid content. While these two hops share a family tree, including Brewers Gold and Fuggles, Centennials lemon-like notes separate it from its older brother. If you have tried Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine, Bells Two-Hearted IPA, or Big Time Brewery’s Rainfest ESB, you have encountered Centennial.
I slid up to the bar at K2’s spacious tap room during a recent lunch time visit, and soon had acquired a shaker pint of this seasonal offering from a strong candidate for Bellinghams Best Beertender 2016, Rachel. Served in a shaker pint glass, the beer was a dark gold color, which might indicate that the malt bill contained more than just base 2-row Pale malt, and had a bout ¼ inch of slightly off-white head. The head had low-moderate retention, and just light traces of lacing.
The robust hop aroma that wafted from the glass was like a welcoming hug from an old friend. A light grain scent was well hidden underneath a swarm of citrusy hop scents. A little pine, a bit of floral notes, and a big hit from the grapefruit and lemon. While the bouquet wasn’t anything you wouldn’t expect, it was very well formed, hit all the aspects you wanted it to, and had no off aspects. The first sip was just what the olfactory sensor lead me to think what it would be. There was a very slight sweetness at the very front tip of the tongue, then those big, bright, bold grapefruit, lemon, and pine aspects hit all across the rest of the palate. All those components linger pleasantly at the top of the throat for a few moments, giving you a chance to savor the flavors before approaching your next quaff.
The body was somewhat on the full side of medium for its proclaimed style of Pale Ale, I thought it was more akin to an IPA. I may guilty of splitting hairs unnecessarily here on this topic. The beer was mostly smooth, with just a hint of a bitey spot across the middle of the palate, and had that nice tangy hop finish. Drinkability was very good, especially if one favors the lupulin, and you probably won’t be sipping this brew, you’ll want as much hoppy goodness at a time as you can handle. Overall, a quite enjoyable brew, one that shows an educated hand at the choosing of the hop varieties, and skilled hand on the brew deck, to not get the beer overly bitter.
While not a game-changing brew, it’s a nicely crafted one, an enjoyable beer that you will likely have several this time of the Hoppy Holidaze. Kulshan Brewings Fresh Hop Pale with Cascade and Centennial hops earns its 6.1 on my 1-10 scale.