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DRINK LOCAL: The Hops and Chile Harvest – Caldera’s Seasonal Creations

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The fall harvest has inspired the brewers at Ashland’s Caldera Brewing. They have created two seasonal beers—Fresh Hops and Roasted Hatch Chile—to complement the existing cornucopia on tap at the Brew House restaurant and the downtown Tap House. The beer drinking public is fortunate.

The Fresh Hops brew is intriguing. As Adam Benson, Caldera’s lead brewer, explained, farmers typically harvest and dry hops before distribution. To use them fresh, as Caldera does for Fresh Hops (specifically for this beer, Centennial Hops grown in the Willamette Valley), requires overnight delivery to the brewery where Benson already has the brewing process underway. Imagine him pacing, attention shifting from the boiling wort to the loading dock where Fedex is due.

Unlike the customary dry hops, fresh ones impart an herbal quality to the ale. It is analogous, Benson says, “to using fresh herbs versus dried in cooking.” It is also unpredictable; each year’s new crop varying from the last. “They’re an agricultural product. You’re not sure what the flavor will be.” The result is a hops flavor which is not shy, but not bitter either. Pair it with a cheeseburger, or maybe a homemade mac ‘n’ cheese if you possess a growler.

A less traditional agricultural product stars in Caldera’s other fall beer, the Roasted Hatch Chile. Imagine Benson on the loading dock again, this time welcoming 400 pounds of fresh, New Mexico Hatch Chiles. Benson roasts them himself before adding the whole, roasted chiles to the beer toward the end of its boiling stage for a pleasing, spicy zip.

Tacos? Yes. Enchiladas? Yes. Chips and guacamole? Si! Si!

Both seasonal beers are on tap at Caldera’s two locations until they run out. The brewery’s Ashland Amber and Pilot Rock Porter also fit well with fall, whether accompanying a spontaneous gathering to share your harvest stew, an afternoon on the couch in front of the game, or waiting for Caldera’s Oatmeal Stout and winter to arrive.

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