Beer Profile: Hop Harvest; Wet Hop Ale Sierra Nevada


Nice foamy head with just a bit of “pillow” to it. Long lasting. Big Cascade nose. A slightly hazy deep gold. Chill haze? Mouth filled with carbonation and hop cling. Once I opened it up to the taste buds, hops dominante.

Profile by Ken Carman

This ale is supposed to be fresh hop harvest and, last year, and the previous, I was blown away. This year not as aggressive or “fresh” as last year’s wet hop. Still pleasant. Hops up front, just less “fresh.” This is the 13th release, and it may have to do with specific hop selection. Yes, Cascade, but there’s a spicy under current that seems less prone to being better because “fresh.” I do find the more citrusy hops are accentuated via fresh, wet, hop additions. Spicy hops… less so.

“Grassy?” Yes, but “grassy” has never bothered me that much; a common complaint amongst those who prefer more traditional hopping methods and BJCP-oriented reviews. The question is whether “grassy” adds to the experience, or detracts. I think most fresh hop detractors miss the kick that fresh; more green, yes: a bit more “grassy,” hops add. It’s a form of hop fundamentalism that I support as much as I support German purity laws: not much. If it simply prevents us from mass producing a product in favor of cheap and bland, then I have no problem: purity is a grand notion. If some brewer wishes to push the envelope, then purity laws need to stand to one side. If purity laws prevent us from adding crap… hurray!

Fresh hop ale clings to the mouth and begs for more. It takes away the “more hops” dynamic that eventually will burn out taste buds, and says, “There’s really is more to hops than bitter, super spicy, or super citrus: that canned hop taste affecting most Imperial IPAs.”

Wet hops deserve their own seat at the brew table, and I applaud Sierra Nevada for making a damn near perfect example of it.

From Sierra Nevada’s site…

Alcohol content 6.7% by volume: yeast Top-fermenting Ale Yeast.

Beginning gravity 16.5 Plato: bittering hops Centennial
ending gravity 4.0 Plato

Finishing hops Cascade & Centennial

Bitterness units 60 – 65: malts Two-row Pale & Caramel.

The cornerstone of our Harvest series is the beer that started the modern-day fresh hop ale phenomenon in America, our original Harvest Ale.

Created in 1996, Harvest Ale features Cascade and Centennial hops from the Yakima Valley in Eastern Washington. These hops are harvested and shipped as wet un-dried hopsthe same day they are pickedto our brewery in Chico where our brewers eagerly wait to get them into the brew kettle while their oils and resins are still at their peak.

Too much Centennial this year? And is there another, unmentioned, hop? Excellent, just not as good as 12 or 11. Could just be subtle variations in hop crops. The thing that’s interesting is how much they do vary every year. I support that, as long as the pursuit of variation doesn’t over rule taste.