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Happy Smarch 136th.
I’m told this used to be called mid-August, which means from Yakima Valley to the patios of local breweries to maybe even your friends’ backyards, hops are nearly ready to be picked for the 2020 crop.
Bines have been creeping and climbing all summer. And the other day I came across a photo that just… hit me.
Just a single, not-quite-mature hop cone from Kent Falls Brewing Company in Connecticut. I have no connection to them at all… but man did it touch on something.
Because believe it or not, we are less than 40 days from the end of Summer. So despite everything that’s happened this year — harvest season is coming.
It’s something to keep in mind for sure when we sit down around the dinner table. Human hands still bring more food to our table than we generally ever think about, and hop harvesting is intensely manual. Something to be grateful for — and also as the time of year is upon us, maybe even hopeful?
Every year the jokes are the same, “Oktoberfest? It’s September! (Or August! Or July!?)”
“Pumpkin beer? Already? Again?”
But what if we took a different tack? We can look back on last year and roll our eyes at ever more seasonal creep, but I look forward to featuring a few good pumpkin beers, and more than a few good and great Oktoberfest beers. And as the leaves eventually change — toward wet hop beers, even more ambers and brown ales — sipping on a nice stout by a fire.
So, what if instead, we looked forward? What if we hope for something coming over the horizon?
The word “hope” almost catches in my throat. But there has got to be something to look forward to. Maybe you look forward to wet hopped, fresh from the harvest IPAs and Pale Ales. Maybe it’s Oktoberfest and the clean but slightly sweet finish of a Bavarian Helles, or the perfect balance of noble hop, and munich malt of a Marzen.
It’s almost like the serotonin boost you get from just planning a vacation. I know the thought of a great Marzen has gotten me through this summer and boy, dropping a few barspoons full of my wife’s homemade eggnog in a snifter of Kentucky Christmas morning might pull me through the rest of the year.
Because, whether it’s early or not for pumpkin ale — the beers appearing on the scene right now start my favorite three or four months of beer — Oktoberfest, Pumpkin beers and wet hop beers all around.
I find brown ales, amber ales and oatmeal stouts really hit just right as the leaves change and it’s all capped off by fresh Sierra Nevada Celebration and the countdown to Hardywood Gingerbread Stout and variants
So with that in mind, let me know in the comments what you most look forward to this time of year and beyond — you may find they’re some of the beers and styles I’ve mentioned throughout the column — if so, go ahead and take 10% off on me with promo code FORWARD.
Cuz we could all use something to look forward to right?