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Your Beermonger: Fresh Hop Beer Season

by ARLnow.com — October 26, 2012 at 2:30 pm 2,069 20 Comments

Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway)

Autumn is the season of the harvest and with hearty, earthy dishes hitting tables all over the country it stands to reason that breweries would take advantage of the harvest as well. With hop farmers around the U.S. harvesting their crops as summer ends and autumn begins, we’re once again seeing the short but tasty wave of Fresh Hop or Wet Hop Ales. These beers offer a short window for the enthusiast to experience a vibrant, complex hop experience that can be less aggressive than you might assume.

Sierra Nevada is largely credited with bringing the Wet Hop Ale to the public’s attention. Starting in 1996, Sierra has released a so-called Harvest Ale every year, using hops sourced from Washington’s Yakima Valley that are harvested and shipped same-day to their Chico, California brewery. Sierra Harvest Ale was such a hit that a few years back they started making one using fresh hops from New Zealand’s spring harvest. The original was renamed Northern Hemisphere Harvest Ale, and is currently on shelves. Keep an eye out for Sierra’s Estate Harvest Ale as well; arriving soon using fresh hops and barley from Sierra’s own crops at Chico.

Other popular Wet Hop Ales include New Holland Hopivore; Terrapin So Fresh and So Green, Green; and Sixpoint Autumnation, of which the latter two for 2012 will feature the ever-growing in popularity Citra hop. Terrapin’s Fresh Hop Ale is a punchy bass line built to allow the melody of the featured hop to sing out; Sixpoint takes a different and very interesting tack. Autumnation is not only Sixpoint’s Wet Hop Ale; it’s also their Pumpkin Ale. Using fresh pumpkin and ginger every year, Sixpoint leaves the fresh hop varietal to be used up to their fans via a poll. The result is a beer with subtle gourd and spice notes with a lot of hop flavor, but not a ton of aggressive bite.

Here lies the inherent dichotomy of Wet Hop beers; while one might expect fresh hops straight off the vine to be more intense and more biting than the dried hops and pellets commonly used by brewers, but in actuality wet hops aren’t as intense in mouthfeel. Rather, fresh hops tend to impart a greater spectrum of hoppy flavors into a beer with those flavors coming through with greater clarity and subtlety. Even for those who normally aren’t fans of ‘hoppy’ beer, Wet Hop Ales can be a delightful and enjoyable surprise.

That’s not to say there aren’t a couple of hop bombs in the Fresh Hop bunch. Particularly favored by hopheads is Founder’s Harvest Ale, a limited treat that flies off shelves almost as soon as it arrives. Founder’s Harvest has a rich, sweet citrus character to go along with its earthy, piney fresh hop notes. Also worth looking for this season is Warrior IPA from Colorado’s Left Hand Brewing Company. Despite its name, Warrior isn’t the only variety of hop used; there’s a fair amount of Cascade as well along with varieties from Left Hand’s property along with those from local fans of the brewery. Built to be well-balanced and drinkable, Warrior’s 69 IBU (International Bitterness Units) pack quite a punch.

If any of these beers aren’t on shelves in the area as of press time, they will be soon. Ask your local shop or bar for them if you’re curious and get in on the fresh hop phenomenon. Until next time.

Cheers!

Nick Anderson maintains a blog at www.beermonger.net, and can be found on Twitter at @The_Beermonger. Sign up for Arrowine’s money saving email offers and free wine and beer tastings at www.arrowine.com/mailing-list-signup.aspx. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Community discussion guidelines: Our sponsored columns are written by members of the local business community. While we encourage a robust and open discussion, we ask that all reviews of the businesses — good or bad — be directed to another venue, like Yelp. The comments section is intended for a conversation about the topic of the article.

  • drax

    Look! More IPAs!

    • Glebe Roader

      I like IPAs and I like other beers. The more the better!

      • drax

        They’re getting a little out of hand though.

        • malaka

          These are a lot different than regular IPA’s though and a lot less assertive. They are not “Hop Bombs” by any stretch.

        • 7-11-bum

          I agree. I hate IPAs and hops and except for places like World of Beer, the only non-hoopy beer I ever see is Fat Tire or Stella Artois, and that gets old. I would like to see more Belgian beers like dubbels or tripels, hefeweizens/wheat beers, Kolsch.

          • Quoth the Raven

            Really? Just about everywhere I’ve been has plenty of options – stouts, porters, pale ales, etc.

          • 7-11-bum

            I prefer beer on tap, not bottles. I just rarely come across non-hoppy beer.

          • SHLady

            where are you looking? I see pale ales, wheat beers, porters, stouts, belgians, and more at any grocery store in the area.

  • SHLady

    Northern Hemisphere Harvest is a beer I look forward to every year. Thanks for the heads up. I will check out the others as well.

  • Quoth the Raven

    Haven’t tried that IPA from Left Hand, but if it’s half as good as their Milk Stout, it’s going to be just fine.

    • TheBeermonger

      I’ve had it in years past and enjoyed it. They’ve apparently done some tweaking to it though; we’ll see how it turns out.

  • YTK

    Mmmmm Pumpkin Ale!! WOOOONDERFUL!!

    I have come a looong way from my poor-college-student days when all I could afford was a 39 cent bottle of A&P Tudor Ale. Sis and I used to call it Four-Door Ale because it tasted like it had been aged in a junkyard.

    • Glebe Roader

      Or, a generic 6-pack that only had BEER printed on the can. $1.99 for a 6-pack.

      • college boy

        Ah, Kroger Costcutter Beer.

        I can beat that though – Pride of the South Beer. Rebel flag on the can. $1 a six-pack. College was good.

        • Glebe Roader

          At the time, I thought $1.99 was a lot. $1 — you got me beat!

    • TheBeermonger

      For me it was 30-pack ‘suitcases’ of Natty at the Farmer Jack’s in Harrisonburg. How I made it through a full year at JMU before getting kicked out is beyond me.

  • Chris

    Fresh hop beer makes me so much more excited than gourd beer.

  • SteamboatWillie

    The Harvest Ale from Founders is outstanding.

    • TheBeermonger

      It is. I only wish they’d send more out this way.

  • sam the cat

    now i can go get plowed and have a half taxi, half ACPD car pick me up :)

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