Fresh hop beer season is often a celebrated time of year, but draft beer sales are still 30% below pre-pandemic levels.

PORTLAND, Ore. — This week, many of Oregon’s craft brewers release their first round of fresh hop beer. In previous years, brewers rarely canned fresh hop beer because it’s intended to be consumed as close to the time of brewing as possible. But with draft sales lagging, brewers must meet consumers where they are, and that’s less frequently at the brewpub.

“At Migration Brewing, we’re canning one of the four or five fresh hop beers we’re brewing this year and we’re excited it hits stores this week,” said Colin Patrick Rath, co-founder of Migration Brewing. “Fresh hop season is about celebrating our local ingredients. Sadly, fewer customers are raising a glass in brewpubs. We’re down 15-20% in our pubs this year.” 

According to the U.S. Brewers Association, nationwide draft beer sales are still nearly 30% down from before the pandemic. That’s 2 million fewer barrels of beer being sold, which disproportionately impacts craft brewers that rely more heavily on draft sales to survive.

“Threshold Brewing will be canning all four of our fresh hop beer releases this year,” said Sara Szymanski, owner of SE Portland’s Threshold Brewing & Blending. “That’s a first for us. We’ll also release draft and kegs on Sept. 8, and encourage people to come into the pub to taste and then take some cans home. As a small brewer, margins are even thinner with cans versus draft, but it’s always important to meet the customer where they’re at, whether that’s at home or at our brewery.”

Crux Fermentation is releasing four fresh hop beers, including one from its non-alcohol (NA) line, NØ MØ Fresh Hop IPA, which is one of the fastest growing beer categories.

Fresh hop season usually lasts for one month. To celebrate all these fresh hop beers and raise money to help small brewers, the Oregon Brewers Guild is hosting the Portland Fresh Hops Festival at Southeast Portland’s Oaks Amusement Park on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 29-30.

Oregon’s 400 breweries generate more than $8.7 billion in economic output, $2.8 billion in wages and help create 50,000 jobs in the state. But craft beer sales are down for the first time in decades. According to the U.S. Brewers Association, total beer volume is down at least 3%.


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