Review Date 11/12/2006 Last Updated 11/14/2007
Leave it to Sierra Nevada to take
something old and make it completely new again. What am I talking about?
Why, their Harvest Ale, of course, a tasty fall treat from one of
America’s most long-standing and respected craft breweries. But don’t look
for it in bottles on your local beer store’s shelves-this specialty ale is
sold only on draft at selected venues around the country.
Of course, the idea of a “harvest” ale is really nothing new-Oktoberfest beers have been around for a long time, after all, and their release in the fall (stretching the term of course since they begin to apper in late August) is often a much-heralded event among beer geeks.
Most of these beers, however, accent malt, not hops. Most are lagers, though a few are ales these days. They often feature an orange amber to brownish color that perfectly matches the changing color of the leaves. Most will have a slightly chewy caramel aroma and flavor, with a toasted nutty character being another notable aspect.
Sierra Nevada, again to bring a new twist to an old favorite, has accented the hop rather than malt for their Harvest Ale. And that makes sense. Hey, hops are harvested too, and in that spirit, this Chico, California brewer does something very special with them: they use fresh picked hops and add them directly to the brew kettle to make this special brew. That’s right, the same day the hops are picked they end up as part of a batch of beer. Now that’s special.
My glass of Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale poured to a reddish amber-orange color with a creamy medium-sized head formation and a light grassy hop nose. The beer had a good body and mouthfeel and light notes of caramel, toffee, and a hint of toasted malt. A fine layer of Brussels lace clung to the side of my glass, too, as the liquid descended.
The real star here, of course, was the hops, all 70 IBUs of them. Considering this is a moderately malty beer, that’s a lot of hop character. It starts out shortly after sipping as a gentle buzz on the tongue and increases dramatically into the finish. The hops are slightly aromatic with a grassy, minty-herbal type character. They very much make their presence known in the finish with a delightful fresh grassy flavor and a very long, dry, and lingering bitter presence on the tongue that sticks around awhile after you sip.
Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale is a beer you’lll have to look for-but when you find this one, you’ll be glad you did. Why not hop on out and try to find some today?
Last year, I sampled this wonderful hop blast of an ale on draft. For 2007, I managed to pick up a bottle of the stuff. Sold at $3.49 for a "stubbie" 24 ounce bomber, this is really a steal, and as with last year, a real hop blast. The beautiful amber orange liquid is capped off with a huge creamy head of foam, and a thick layer of Brussels lace follows the liquid down my glass. Bright citric hoppy flavors assault the tongue along with an herbal minty aroma and and an intensely bitter finish. This one just screams hops, my friends, and definitely should not be missed.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.