What you're drinking: Last week, Imagine Nation Brewing tapped its latest India Pale Ale, and it's a humdinger. Aromatic, zesty, satisfyingly hoppy without the aggression of those souped-up double-IPA affairs—you might as well call it a session IPA (but it's definitely not). There's a pleasantly fruity taste to this one that lingers just long enough to remind you how good the last sip was. They're calling it the Hopkinsman Fresh Hop Harvest Northeast IPA. It weighs in at 7.2 percent alcohol by volume, but the bitterness level is a mystery even to Imagine Nation.
Where it comes from: The Hopkinsman is made possible by an old college buddy of brewery co-owner Robert Rivers. In fact the IPA is a riff on his name: Ryan Hopkins. He's a regional hops salesman for Washington-based Yakima Chief, and he drove 10 hours overnight from Yakima to Missoula to deliver about 100 pounds of freshly harvested Chinook hops. Rivers and Imagine Nation brewer Derek Fassino began brewing Hopkinsman around 1:30 a.m. so they'd be ready to dump the hops in the moment Hopkins arrived. Fassino estimates the hops traveled roughly 16 hours from vine to kettle.
Why the rush? Breweries usually use hops pellets for their hopped concoctions. The hops harvest season typically lasts from mid-August through September, and the unprocessed hop cones don't keep for long. That's why fall taproom menus often feature fresh- or wet-hopped beers. Fassino explains that using fresh hops enhances the flavor and allows brewers to capture more of the dank, resiny hops oil. When they were brewing Hopkinsman, he says, "the whole brewery smelled like Christmas morning, like a pine tree." In Fassino's opinion, Hopkinsman is one of the better beers Imagine Nation has brewed, and it's already got him thinking about the possibilities next year's hops harvest might bring.
Where to get it: Hopkinsman should last roughly another week at Imagine Nation, 1151 W. Broadway. It's going for $6 per glass.