Thursday, January 6, 2011
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company - Northern Hemisphere Harvest Wet Hop Ale
I'm fortunate enough to live in a state where good beer is in abundance. With so many great breweries in California, the liquor stores and markets are flooded with great beer. In San Diego alone, I'm within a 30 minute drive of Stone, Alesmith, Lost Abbey, Pizza Port, Ballast Point, Green Flash and a few others as well as within an hour of The Bruery and Alpine. Not bad. In addition, the stores down here get a lot of beers that most people can't find. One of the best breweries in California (even though it's way more than an hour's drive away) has to be Sierra Nevada. It's rare that they make a beer that I'm not fond of, so I was quick to try one of their beers I had never seen before- their Northern Hemisphere Harvest Wet Hop Ale.
First of all, what the heck is wet hopping? Here's the best description I could find (from beerutopia.com):
"Hops is harvested in early September. It is usually dried in kilns and often pressed into pellets to prevent it from spoiling soon after harvest. But for some lucky brewers who are close enough to the hops fields, fresh, or wet, hops can be used to brew a very special beer."
So by using these fresh hops instead of the pellets you can find in a brewing supply store, you can craft a beer that is going to have more hop aroma and flavor. If nothing else, a wet hopped beer is a test of how much hops you can handle.
Northern Hemisphere pours a deep bronze color with a massive foamy white head and ridiculous lacing as the level in the glass drops. I couldn't remember the last time I'd seen a beer leave this much lacing. When I smelled the beer, I was blown away by the smell. The hops were enormous and had that nice, characteristic Sierra Nevada floral characteristic that you can find in a lot of their beer.
As far as taste goes, this beer didn't disappoint. The hops were obviously the star of the show, but there was a nice malt backbone that held up to the hops. The taste starts with some huge grapefruit-like hop flavors and then fades in the middle to give way to some of the malt flavor. Not to be outdone though, the hops return in the finish and the last taste the beer leaves is pure hop resin. If don't love hops, I can't say I'd recommend this beer. But if you do, Northern Hemisphere is a must try.
Final Grade: A