Colorado Brewed: Great Divide Fresh Hop Pale Ale

Each Wednesday in this column I post my insights about one of the thousands of beers brewed in the great state of Colorado. Feel free to shoot me an email with your suggestions of Colorado beers you’d like me to feature – Lee Williams at – or leave your ideas in the comments.

Like Pumpkin beers, Chili beers, and Rye beers, Fresh Hop beers have, it could be argued, become that rarity in the world of brewing; they are a true American beer style. Fresh hop beers did not and do not exist in any other country with anything like the consistency, frequency or breadth that we now take for granted every hop harvest season in America.

In many ways, fresh hop beers have a fascinating parallel to wine production, being only viable during a small window in late summer when hop flowers reach peak maturation on the bine. Once harvested, it is then a race to rush the sticky flowers to a predestined brew kettle somewhere.

Fresh hop beers are most abundant in the prime hop growing country of the Pacific Northwest. Breweries further afield must make a serious investment to fly or drive fresh hops immediately to their breweries if they plan on brewing a fresh hop beer in any sort of larger volume.

Some local breweries outside of the Pacific Northwest have begun to brew fresh hop beers with only locally grown hops; although only in very small batches, and with less consist results, it has to be said.

Alongside the stratospheric rise in popularity of heavily hopped American pale ales and IPAs, fresh hop beers have seen an explosion in demand, buzz and appreciation. It’s a demand driven partly by natural scarcity and partly by a want to try the beers as fresh as possible. The apparent evolution in beer drinkers’ palates of want of more bitterness also seems to be a factor.

Most fresh hop beers are derived from a preexisting pale ale or IPA recipe. Regardless of what hop variety is used, fresh hop beers tend to have a darker green botanical bitterness than beers brewed with hop pellets, hop plugs or dried whole cone hops. A flavor and aroma profile often used to describe the characteristics of fresh hop beers is “dank”. And it’s actually quite a useful descriptor if you think of it in terms of moist, sappy, dark, bitter, vegetale plant matter.

Like every other style of beer, Colorado has no shortage of breweries tackling this newer and intriguing “next step” in American brewing. The release of Great Divide’s Fresh Hop Pale Ale is eagerly awaited in the Denver area and indeed throughout the brewery’s distribution footprint.

Great Divide Fresh Hop has a nose of honey, caramel, sticky pine needle, spruce and orange peel. In the drink, the beer is intensely bittersweet and darkly botanical throughout. The bitterness has a lingering extracted pine quality about it. The consistency is almost syrup like.

Great Divide’s Fresh Hop has more than a passing resemblance to the brewery’s Titan IPA. It has a rounded flavor profile that never broaches the extreme. Because of this, Fresh Hop is an appropriate companion to a plethora of savory pub, bar, and American restaurant food. It’s as at home being enjoyed alongside a bowl of chili and a plate of buffalo wings as it is with a veggie burger or loaded pizza. Think of Fresh Hop as an all-American beer for all-American food.

About Lee Williams

Beer writer. Founder of Hoptopia. I write for various beer related publications, websites and festivals. Email -

  • Lukas Bloomquist

    Great Divide makes my favorite beers and it looks like they have done it again. What is the alcohol content of this delicious looking new specimen?

    • Lee Williams

      Lukas. It’s 6.1% abv.

    • Lukas Bloomquist

      Another great beer from Great Divide (my favorite) is called Hades. It is a Belgian Style Ale that has a sweet and smooth taste. Hades is perfect for the beer lover that doesn’t like an extremely hoppy beer but wants amazing taste that will go down easily. It’s also a wopping 7.8 % alcohol, so just one or two beers will do the job! Enjoy everyone! And again, the name is HADES, wear it out!

      • Josh Rapp

        Lukas, you should try mixing that Hades with an oz of leopold apple whiskey and an oz of leopold three pins liquour. Tastes like apple pie!!

  • Matt Crowell

    By far one of my favorite beers that I had while in Denver for GABF this year!