News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Brew festival gets Sisters hoppin' with fresh beverages

The 12th annual Sisters Fresh Hop Festival opened its doors at noon Saturday, by which time more than 100 were waiting in line. By the time the last beer was poured and the music came to a close at 6 p.m., as many as 1,000 had taken part in the merriment.

While most were serious beer aficionados, it was a family affair. Kids were treated to a giant inflatable slide and kid-friendly food and beverages. Spun cotton candy was a favorite. Kids in fact were the beneficiaries of the event, a charity fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House Charities. Circle of Friends, a Sisters-based child mentoring program was one of the co-hosts.

Attendees were there primarily for the fresh hop beer. In order for a beer to be considered "fresh hopped," the hops must be picked and then brewed within 24 hours. The only time fresh hop beer can be created is during harvest season in late summer/early fall. Think of it as an herb: dried vs. fresh. You will still get the herbal notes from the dried herb, but when it's fresh, you can taste the difference.

Most hop production in the U.S. occurs in the Pacific Northwest, given its rich soil, rainfall, and mild air.

What drove most of the attendees was the vast number of options – more than 20 Oregon breweries. They all gathered at Three Creeks Brewing's production facility on Barclay Drive. Three Creeks was a cosponsor and entrant.

Drinkers got to vote for their favorite brew, and the competition was intense at times as voting was cumulative throughout the afternoon.

As with all such events in Sisters, volunteers were critical to the success. Around 100 performed every possible task and did so cheerfully.

The event played live on The Peak (104.1) FM. Consumption took place under a cavernous tent, where brewers lined two sides. Live music by Tony Lompa & Huck Finn Yacht Club played to the festive mood.

Outside, families gathered, standing at tables or laying on blankets. Festival-goers recalled last year when temperatures were hot. This day they donned flannel shirts or light jackets as the sun hid mostly behind a thin layer of clouds. Only a hint of smoke was in the background.

There were at times as many as 50 dogs, who remained outside with their owners, not being allowed in the tent. An assortment of vendors and food trucks had a steady stream of customers.

As The Nugget made the rounds of happy beer drinkers, it seemed the majority were from Bend, where they know something about craft beer. Generally they came in groups of four to eight and took the judging seriously, with frequent good-natured debate.

"This is one of our favorite events. Really wouldn't miss it," Marla Langley of Bend said on behalf of her group all nodding in agreement.

"It's always a hoot coming to Sisters. It never ceases to surprise us," commented Neil Richey from Madras.

Felix and Dee Everling from Prineville led a group of seven.

"We wish we had something like this closer to home," Dee said. "But then we wouldn't get to Sisters as often."

Parking required some effort, with numerous patrons having to walk a quarter mile or more.

"It's well worth the walk," said Vic Whelan from Redmond who with his wife, Nina, and their three kids hoofed it from Sun Ranch Business Park to join six others, four of whom had just come from the Glory Daze Car Show downtown.

Large numbers could be found later in town waiting patiently - up to an hour - for a table at one of the packed eateries in Sisters who benefited from the event.


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