Sometimes We Just Stay Home and Drink #15: Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Harvest Wet Hop IPA 2018
Date: June 14, 2019 —
The Story— Beer Geeks, at least beer geeks like us, collectively held our breaths as small “micro breweries” morphed into “small craft breweries” to “lets separate ‘craft’ from production capacity” regional and national breweries producing barrelage that some of the large regionals of the 1960s would envy. Sierra Nevada cut its teeth in re-purposed dairy equipment; scale up was hard for them in the early years. Who could predict whether they could keep the craft while ditching any pretense to small brewery status.
Some of the anxiety was founded. They’ve done some beers that they would have rejected 25 years ago, but their mistakes don’t seem to be a product of batch size. Some of the best beers they’ve done have come from kettles we used to think were too big to produce truly great beer.
From the start, this American iconic brewery thrived on experimentation with hops and was willing to make expensive choices in using fresh hops and wet hops to create their liquid gems. Their headline hopliners still leave the pack behind. This beer is last year’s version. We include it here to remind you to look sharply in the early fall next year to grab the 2019 version as quick as you can.
The term “fresh hop” refers to beers than use newly harvested and dried (processed) hops. “Wet hop” beers use hops that have not been processed — just harvested and rushed to the brewery within hours. The trick of brewing a wet hop beer is to try to calculate the amount of moisture in the hop cones. It’s not negligible and it adds to the brewing liquor. If the brewer doesn’t decrease the amount of water in the brew, the water in the cones will literally water the beer down and diminish the flavor of the hops.
Wet hop beers only occasionally manifest big in-your-face hop character. If you just want big hops, dried hops, hop extract, hop oils and, most recently, hop powder will get you there much more easily. Wet hop beers show a deeper and more complex hop flavor, often without excessive bitterness. They’ll back off from excessive fruits and allow more herbal and earthy notes to join the party.
IMPORTANT: Drink these beers as fresh as possible, short of violating open container laws on your way home from the beer store. Many of them actually hold up pretty well and months later offer a malty and softly hoppy taste that’s quite pleasant. But that months later pleasure isn’t the same as the nearly unique complexity your brewer went so far out of her way to make your beer so interesting you might have one or two more than you intended.
The Beer– Soft even caramel malt is a clean base for a range of gentle and subtle American hop flavors. Earthy, soft spice, hints of pesto and metal join some hints of the rose the brewers found in the beer. It finishes with a longer bitter than you might expect. Ellie found it so rich and complex, after a few sips she just looked over at me and said “these guys are pros”.
Value — Very good. Not so much because it’s a low price but because it’s one of the best beers we taste… year after year after year.
Values: “fair” is a good beer at an above market price, “good” is worth the money, “very good” is a bargain, and “excellent” is a steal.
Sometimes we just stay home and drink beer — hundreds of them over the course of the year as we hunt for a new favorite. The searching for the beer of the day never stops, so for a while, there will be fewer travel-oriented posts and just some to-the-point descriptions of beers we’ve enjoyed.
We’re often asked to share our tasting notes on over 33,000 beers; this blog is in answer to those requests. Not all our notes, though. The great beer writer Michael Jackson admirably followed the Thumper Rule, and we’ll try to do the same. (“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.”) All the beers we post are from the top half of our ratings and most are from the top quarter. Of greater value, we think, are the stories behind the beers, and we try to give you enough about the brewery, the style and the places to find great beer to help you on your own beer journeys. At CulturAle Press we try to write books and publish posts that will help you “Drink Well and Travel Safely.”