Great Northern Brewing Company, Whitefish

STORY & PHOTO BY LIDO VIZZUTTI

As the season shifts in spirit to colder nights and shorter days our palate instinctually yearns for those heartier beers – more substantial and flavorful – whose color reflects the turning of the leaves and flavors that echo the harvest.

Frog Hop, a fresh-hopped seasonal from at Great Northern Brewing Company in Whitefish, uses the September harvest of local hops to produce a fun and unique pale ale. The majority of the hops are picked from Purple Frog Gardens in Whitefish, but growers throughout the valley raid their personal bines to donate to the mixture during the annual “hop swap” held at the brewery. The ratio of assorted hops and the quality of the varieties create a singular tasting brew that varies with each year’s harvest.

“The reason we use the pale ale is that we’re trying to showcase the hops,” said Andy McQuary, assistant brewer. “It’s user friendly, so a wide variety of people can enjoy the beer. And it showcases the hops really well.”

Forty barrels are produced in two brews and the hops are added after the boil. The brewery, in lieu of a hopback, has developed a unique technique of pumping the hot wort from downstairs, up into the lauter tun containing the hops. The hops steep in a wort like a fresh hop tea before being drained back downstairs. The hot wort extracts the flavor and aroma from the hops but doesn’t cook it.

Although fresh-hopped (or wet-hopped) pale ales are nothing new to regional craft breweries, Frog Hop has become a beer the community rallies around. From participating in the hop swap, to watching through the glass windows in the Black Star Draught House tasting room as pounds of the green leafy buds are poured into the lauter tun, to drinking the beer and being able to experience a singular taste produced by the earth of the valley.

And in an industry where replication of taste is a necessity, it’s simply fun to see how this year’s beer turned out.

“It’s a really good beer. It’s different every year. It’s kind of exciting because you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen,” said McQuary. “People tell me every year that it’s better than years before. It’s a fun beer for everybody. To drink it or make it – it’s just a fun beer.”

Frog Hop is expected to be released on Sept. 30.

Style: Fresh-Hopped American Pale Ale
IBU’s: Varies with each year’s harvest
ABV: 5%
Malts: Pale & Caramel
Hops: Freshly picked Cascade, Mount Hood, Noble and Chinook
Yeast: American Ale
Appearance: Pale golden
Description: Fresh hopped with local Flathead Valley hops, hand picked within 24 hours of the brew. Intense citrusy hops and green grassy notes dominate the flavor and aroma.

WHERE TO GET IT:

You can find Frog Hop for a limited time on tap at Great Northern Brewing Company, 2 Central Avenue Suite 1, in Whitefish. Twenty-two ounce bottles will also be available. Additionally, check local Flathead Valley restaurant and bar taps as well as bottles at grocery and convenience stores.