Thursday, July 30, 2009

Challenge: Southern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Hop Ale, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA

This review is a challenge response to a previous review, which resulted in a scathing critique, comparisons to arugula, and a rating of 1.5.


Think about your spice rack. Parsley, basil, garlic salt, etc. Unless you are a semi-pro chef or watch a lot of Rachael Ray, you probably have a bunch of spices that are several years old. Maybe you actually have the original spices that came with the spice rack from Crate and Barrel. Nothing wrong with that. But think about how different that dried, 5-year-old parsley tastes compared to fresh parsley from Whole Foods. The older one has a hint of taste, while the fresh stuff blows your taste buds away.

When you first taste this beer, there is quite a shock. It seems like it is incredibly hoppy, which is not easy to do in this age of super-hop beers. But most of the hop flavor in this beer comes from the use of freshly harvested hops. Naturally, this imparts a very different flavor profile than a typical beer using indeterminately-aged hops. Just like the parsley.

I believe that the brewers at Sierra Nevada have created something very unique and delicious. And it is worth recognizing the tremendous effort that they went through to make it happen. Making a harvest ale with fresh hops is nothing new. There is an entire beer festival in Washington for beers that use fresh hops as an ingredient. But, when is the harvest in the US? When you go apple picking, in the fall. So, in order to get around the lack of fresh hops, Sierra Nevada put a bunch of freshly picked hops on a plane from New Zealand and brought them to Chico, California. Picture that! A 747 full of hops, flying 7000 miles just to make this beer!

In terms of taste, the beer is terrific. The fresh hops give a more complex flavor to the ale. Most highly hopped ales tend to have a strong astringent sensation and flavor, almost in the aftertaste. This beer has that aftertaste, but also a notably flavorful taste of hops in the body of the beer. The color is mostly copper, and the beer has a hint of recently cut grass in its aroma.

Rating = 4.0

Definitely give this one a try, and let us know what you think in the comments. Note: I gave Beer Crusade a bottle of this beer, as I believe that the dramatic difference in our ratings might be due to a draft vs. bottle issue.

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