Me & Julio, Part 5: Wet Hops

Sierra Nevada Harvest Wet Hop AleTonight’s another night with just a single sampling (albeit a 24oz sampling), this time of a “wet hop” ale that came highly recommended by a pal at the office, Sierra Nevada Harvest (the “12th release” or 2008 edition).

What’s a “wet hop” ale, you might ask? (Well, I did…)

These hops are harvested and shipped as “wet” un-dried hops—the same day they are picked—to 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.

There’s a video at the Sierra Nevada site that they did for last year’s Harvest release that goes into much more detail, including an explanation of why they can only do this once a year, and they only have a couple of days to do the whole thing.

How they make it is interesting and cool, but perhaps not quite as important as how it turns out at the end.

The short version is that I liked it, but I’m not crazy about it.

It pours nicely, with a slightly cloudy red-brown colour–lighter than a lot of what I’ve been drinking this week, but a good rich ale colour–with a nicely foamy head. As with most heavily hopped beers, you can tell the hops are there just in the soapiness of the head.

The aroma is not overpowering, but also isn’t hiding the fact that there’s a lot of hops in here–it’s not “fragrant” but all the aroma is telling me is that this is going to be a hoppy beer.

It feels heavy in the mouth, in a way that I like. When first poured, the immediate bitterness of the hops, especially in the rear part of the center of my tongue is unpleasantly strong, but as I work my way through the bottle this calms down–I’m not sure if that’s the beer warming up, mixing with the air after opening, or just the alcohol numbing my tongue. It’s not ridiculously strong on the alcohol scale, by the way, less than 7%. Once that bitterness is gone, the lingering finish is hops and something I want to call “grapefruit”–their label says “citrus and pine”, so maybe that’s what I’m reading as grapefruit.

If there’s a uniqueness from using the wet hops, I can’t detect it. That’s probably just my palate, and the fact that I’m not doing a side-by-side comparison, but it reminds me a lot of some other heavily hopped ales I’ve had, and I’m not detecting anything that’s radically different from them.

I’ve enjoyed sipping the beer over a couple of hours, the 24oz bottle lasting me quite a long time, and I appreciate it more as I keep going. I doubt I’d want to drink two of these bottles in a row, though. Definitely worth the money, but not something I’ll be struggling to import into Canada.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada
This work by Chris McLaren is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada.