Sierra Nevada is one damn fine brewery. How do I know that? Well, there can’t be many brewers out there who produce a ‘fresh hop ale’ – where the hops are harvested and chucked in the brew kettle as quickly as humanly possible – that still tastes absolutely cracking after nearly four months in the bottle.
Yes, Ireland has just received 2013’s Southern Hemisphere Harvest. It’s tasting good…probably not what the brewer intended it to be tasting like, but good nonetheless.
Southern Hemisphere Harvest is brewed in a pretty manic way: hops are picked in New Zealand (Southern Cross, Motueka, and Pacifica if you’re wondering), dried, and then zoomed onto a flight to the USA within seven days. They’re then rushed to the brewhouse and chucked into the brew of this 6.7% IPA. It’s like some elongated episode of Casualty, except that there’s hops being rushed about rather than knackers who’ve necked three pints of brandy.
The pour is a nice deep shade of orange – looks similar to its stablemate and all-round good-guy Sierra Nevada Torpedo. On the nose there’s that instantly recognisable whack of tropical fruit that comes from those delectable NZ hops – lots of nice mango, tangerine, passionfruit, and peach. A nice thick dollop of caramel appears in there too. On top of this comes a characteristic of ‘fresh hop’ ales (also known as ‘wet hop’ ales by some) that some folks don’t like: there’s a peppery, woody, almost-ryebread-like character to it – this overshadows some of the tropical fruit stuff, so don’t be expecting a full-on NZ hop extravaganza. The taste is nicely balanced between these three components: the juicy tropical stuff, the peppery character, and the caramel maltiness – it fits together pretty damn well. Towards the finish, there’s a bit more sprucey pine stuff happening that ramps up the bitterness factor. It’s not overly bitter, but there’s a tasty little bite to keep things interesting. Lingering spice, caramel, and some pithier grapefruit in the aftertaste. This is quality gear, people.
So, it’s a fresh hop ale that isn’t really fresh. I’m going to take a break from whingeing about this for a while, because beers like this show you that it’s not the bloody worst thing in the world if you don’t get your IPAs fresh from the brewery tap-house. We’ll deal with it, we’ll put on a brave face, and drink our four month old fresh hop ales and damn well enjoy ’em.
Southern Hemisphere Harvest is out in the Irish market at the moment, comes in a big 66cl bottle, and should retail around the eight euro mark. Seek it out now (not in three months time, it’ll most probably be shite by then).