It’s funny how the craft beer hype cycle is ultimately something akin to an endless circle. Five years ago, if you had asked us our thoughts on “fresh hopped” or “wet hopped” beers at Paste, we probably would have said it was an IPA trend that had been taken about as far as it could go, even if these styles of beers typically only appear for a short autumn window each year. And yet now, in a landscape that is so dominated by hazy IPA, everything “juice” and everything adjunct, the idea of a simple fresh-hop IPA seems curiously novel once again. The concept has gone full circle, emerging from over the horizon as something to get excited about—a niche within the IPA world that isn’t explicitly being marketed with promises of its over-the-top intensity. Suffice to say, we are on board with this concept.
Today’s fresh-hop brew, Pert Near IPA, comes to us from the folks at Bend, OR’s Crux Fermentation Project, a perennially solid brewery with a well-balanced lineup that favors hops, non-adjunct dark beers and the occasional foray into barrel-aged and wild-fermented endeavors. This one features “Tettnang and Centennial hops, both grown by Goschie Farms in the Willamette Valley. The unique melon flavors from these early season hops are once again the main attraction in this dank IPA, which clocks in at a respectable 6.9% ABV.”
I will say, it’s always interesting to me to see fresh-hop beers described as having specific varietal tasting notes, because my experience with the sub-style is that the exact type of hop varietals seem to matter far less in fresh-hop beers than they do otherwise. Contrary to what one might expect, most uses of fresh hops seem to impart a more generic “green” profile to beers rather than the more specific varietal characteristics you’re familiar with from dried hop pellets or dried, whole-cone hops. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—these beers are supposed to taste “fresh” and “just off the bine,” after all—but it does sometimes mean there’s a bit less variety within fresh hop IPAs.
With that said, let’s get to tasting this one.
On the nose, Pert Near is fairly laid back in comparison with most modern IPA, featuring pleasant notes of mixed flowers and orange marmalade, with a vague suggestion of pithy bitterness and hints of biscuity malt.
These impressions follow through to the palate, which is anchored by a nice background of biscuit and slight black tea maltiness. It is indeed “fresh” in tone, although I don’t usually like that descriptor, but here it seems to fit—the beer projects a light “green” character without reminding one of the unpleasant, overly grassy and harsh character of badly made NE-IPAs that overshoot “juicy” and end up in a territory that is more reminiscent of wet leaves. As it starts to warm, I’m getting more fruit, with tangerine juice and cantaloupe joining the florals and pine needles. Bitterness is light to moderate—certainly not trying to be an intensely bitter throwback here—with some moderate honey sweetness that is in good overall balance.
All in all, this is solid, fairly easy drinking and a nice combination of both older and newer influences. It’s the kind of beer that is desperately needed to provide a little bit of variety within the world of IPA right now.
Brewery: Crux Fermentation Project
City: Bend, OR
Style: Fresh-hop IPA
Availability: Seasonal, 16 oz cans
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer guru. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.