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Jun 28, 2008 07:29 AM

Sierra Nevada Harvest Ales

Tried the Southern Hemisphere and enjoyed it......the price point was $5.99 for 24oz bottles.
Beer was purchased at a Total Wine store and one of the clerks , in passing, said you could "age", albeit limited, understanding is that the point of this ale is to drink it now to have the freshest hop experience.
I rather enjoy the notion/premise of traveling to the other side of the globe to obtain the hops,but
does anyone feel this Harvest Ale in particular is a little gimmicky? What about the price point... keeping in mind the logistics of air freighting the hops ASAP to it high?
What are your thoughts on the quality/taste......

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  1. You are right. The point of a harvest ale is to drink it fresh, while the hops still have their floral, fruity quality.

    Generally, harvest ales are available after the fall harvest, so the idea of producing a harvest ale using the reverse seasons in the southern hemisphere is not a gimmick, but an opportunity to produce a harvest style ale in a different season.

    It's a great beer and I thought that it had an unusual character that I had not previously encountered so I was pleased that Sierra Nevada decided to run with this concept.

    2 Replies
    1. re: brentk

      what about J.W.Lees Harvest ale? Being a vintage ale, it actually seems to improve with age (up to a point). Or would that be considered in a different category?

      1. re: barleywino

        J.W. Lees is a totally different thing. You are not drinking those beers for the fresh hop flavors.

    2. Note that the New Zealand version is called "Fresh Hop Ale"
      unlike the other two which are labeled "Wet Hop Ale" (which, up til now, was what a "harvest" hop ale was, wasn't it?).

      The NZ hops *are* dried before shipping for safety reasons (IIRC)- the very real possibility of spontaneous combustion. "...the fresh hops in this beer are dried right after being picked then shipped immediately to Chico for brewing..."

      Don't know if that counts as a "gimmick" (cold cans turning blue, etc) but it does somewhat redefine what a "hop harvest ale" is.

      2 Replies
      1. re: JessKidden

        >The NZ hops *are* dried before shipping for safety reasons (IIRC)- the very real possibility of spontaneous combustion.

        I heard someone say that was the reason why as well, but not sure if I completely buy that reason or if that is the whole story since dried hops can spontaneously combust as well and wet hops definitely have a much higher water content than dried. I can see them wanting to dry these since wet hops need to be used within 24 hours of being picked before the quality starts to degrade. If they got held up in customs for even a day or two, they would most likely not be in good enough shape to brew with. This all conjecture on my part though.

        1. re: LStaff

          Yeah, I should have double checked the "spontaneous combustion" remark- I *thought* it was mentioned in the PR pieces from S-N. Certainly, the "freshness" factor is even more important. Non-dried hops would "go bad" pretty quick in quantity.

          (re: wet hops- OTOH, as a composter, I can tell you that fresh, wet grass clipping on a warm day will decompose so quickly in a coupla hours that [if one doesn't "turn" them into the pile first] the compost pile will literally be smoking and will be too hot to touch without gloves.

          Pretty sure that wet hay is known to spontaneous combust much quickly that dry hay, as well- as a Google search for "wet hay" will no doubt show.)

      2. I enjoyed it. More so than the fall release wet hop Harvest Ale.

        $3.79-$4.19 here in central Caliornia.

        1. The only gimmick about this beer is that they decided to market it as a "fresh hop" beer - a term (up until now) has been reserved for beers made with fresh wet hops before they are dried. They use freshly dried hops in their Celebration beer each year, and never market that one as a "fresh hop" beer. That being said, I prefer the Southern Hemisphere version more than their fall Harvest that uses wet hops. Wet hopped beers are just a novelty in my book - interesting to see how wet hops give a different character (mostly grassy bitterness and low hop aroma imo) than dried hops, but the SH version seems to have more hop flavor that isn't one dimensionally grassy. Draft of the SH seemed a bit boozy to me, while the bottled version seemed to have more hop flavor and aroma than the draft.

          I wouldn't age it at all, drink while fresh and before the hop flavor/aroma starts to oxidize.

          The price you paid seems to be a bit high. I believe I saw it at my retailer yesterday for $3.99 (maybe $4.99) - and this isn't the cheapest place in town if you know what I mean since a six pack of Victory Prima Pils and a six pack of Smuttynose IPA (a local to me) cost me $19.

          1 Reply
          1. re: LStaff

            Not a big fan of SN but after enjoying the Southern Hemisphere Ale last year bought the 2009 (2nd release) today at my local and paid $3.99... not too shabby. Very good and fresh, not too hoppy, but still recognizable as a SN brew. Well done.