Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Happiest Hour: Great Northern's Frog Hop

Posted By on Wed, Nov 20, 2013 at 2:00 PM

What it is: A seasonal pale ale brewed with hops grown in northwest Montana. Great Northern calls it “fresh hopped.”

Describe this “fresh hopped” stuff: For the past six years, Great Northern has worked with local growers to see what hops can grow in our region. Every fall, they pluck these to make Frog Hop. This year’s batch—released in early October—includes the first cones from the Glacier Hops Ranch research project at the Britz Ranch just south of Whitefish. It also includes at least four varieties of hops from Whitefish’s Purple Frog Gardens and other local growers who attend the brewery’s annual Hop Swap.

Great, but let’s talk taste: Right. That’s what you care about. Great Northern explains that, within 24 hours of being plucked off the vine, these locally grown hops are added to a boiling kettle and eventually brewed into Frog Hop. “It’s a little more time-consuming and labor intensive to work with 200 pounds of local hops—it creates quite the mess here—but it does make for a good local beer,” says assistant brewer Andy McQuary, who notes the Frog Hop’s distinct citrus and grassy flavors.

And you know what? He’s right. All this talk of fresh and local ingredients translates into a noticeably crisp and vibrant ale. We found it remarkably easy to drink—and our 22-ounce bomber bottle quickly empty.

The future of local hops: Frog Hop is only part of a larger project. Great Northern has teamed with the Britz Ranch to plant Montana’s “first commercially scaled research plot” for hops. They’re testing dozens of different varieties to see what works and what doesn’t in northwest Montana’s micro-climate and soils. The goal is to create a consistent and sustainable hops supply, and McQuary says the early returns are positive. “It’s only year one (at the Britz Ranch), but from what I understand he’s already seeing results,” he says.

Where to find it: At the brewery’s Black Star Draught House in downtown Whitefish, as well as in 22-ounce bottles at your favorite local beer store. We scored ours at the Good Food Store.

Happiest Hour celebrates western Montana watering holes. To recommend a bar, bartender or beverage for Happiest Hour, email

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