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Beer Reviews

Harvest Fresh Hop Ale

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Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Chico, CA

Style: India Pale Ale (IPA)

Rings’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (World class.)

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Sierra Nevada is truly a national gem. One of the craft industry “veteran” breweries, they were founded in 1979. They’ve not only become one of the nation’s largest breweries—albeit still a fraction of the size of AB InBev—they basically define the American pale ale style. They’ve also managed to grow right: they treat customers and employees with respect and they continue to innovate with their products … not by “marketing” new brands, but by constantly pushing the envelope on quality and flavor. What’s IN the package continues to remain more important than the package itself.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Sierra Nevada story, there’s a nice profile of founder Ken Grossman, who is notoriously publicity-shy, in this past summer’s Beer Connoisseur magazine.

This week, I grabbed one of their limited releases, the 2012 Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale. They snag whole flower hops from New Zealand, dry them and fly them direct to California where they hit the brew kettle within a week of harvest. This happens in the spring, of course, because that coincides with fall harvest in the Southern Hemisphere. Get it?

I cracked my 24-ounce bomber and was immediately greeted by the fresh hop smell of the finishing hops, New Zealand Motueka and New Zealand Southern Cross. It smelled as if it was freshly drawn from a brewery keg.

It pours a clean copper color, with pungent floral dry hop aromas. The head is beautiful—soft and fluffy—and clings to the glass throughout. The nose is full, malty and sweet and balanced immediately by a sharp, spicy, full-spectrum hop bite. There are notes of pine, citrus, and a bitter nuttiness. The balance is outstanding, with a lingering malty sweetness and herbal hoppiness.

As regular readers know, I’m not exactly a hophead, but this is absolutely outstanding and an example of how high-IBU beers should be. It also reinforces my image of Sierra Nevada as one of the world’s finest, regardless of size.

Reviewed by Rings on January 21, 2013.
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