Friday, October 22, 2010

OMFG - Beer Review Series - Fall Fresh Hop Harvest Ales

Yeee-Hawww, It’s hop harvest time Beer Nerds! Getty- up, get out and snatch up some of the fresh hop ales that hit the Atlanta market last week. My sources say the following beers are available now: Terrapin – So Fresh So Green Green, Founders – Hop Harvest, Sierra Nevada – Southern Hemisphere Harvest, Estate Homegrown Ale, Southern Tier - Harvest, Great Divide - Fresh Hop Pale Ale and Weyerbacher - Harvest Ale. I was fortunate enough to come across 3 of the heavy hitters from the bunch. 
Wet Hopping beer simply stated means: the use of fresh hops that a have recently been picked. Generally, when brewers get hops they come in a few forms: pellet, plug or whole. Pellets look like rabbit food and are easy to use because of the small size. Brewers can add incremental amounts to get exact results. They are processed and tend to be less fragrant. Plugs look like pellets but are the size of bratwurst. For home brewers they are difficult to break up but act like whole leaf hops in flavor and fragrance.  Whole hops are the real deal. These hops are dried and have the best flavor and aroma.  Hops are harvested once a year in the Pacific Northwest between August and September. Since hops decompose quickly, these flowering cones are typically kiln-dried and consigned to storage. However, some of the just-plucked hops are rushed to breweries, where they become fall's fleeting pleasure: fresh-hopped beer.

 I sometimes forget that hops are an agricultural product and the freaking things grow in the dirt; much like a hamburger was once a cow. Fresh hop beers (American Pale Ales) have a more balanced, less acidic and overall smooth flavor. This is what a fresh beer should taste like; so, bust out your straw hat and overalls we are about to explore the wonderful world of fresh harvest (wet hopped) ales!
First up is the Founders Hop Harvest: Pours Golden clear with a thin white head that quickly dies to form a thin mist across the glass. The aroma is of juicy fresh grapefruit, tropical pineapple and pine needle. It reminds me of a balanced IPA but doesn’t have the harsh bitterness on the nose.
On first sip I get grapefruit, pineapple and cracker bread malts. Taste is very light and balanced but complex at the same time.  As this beer warms it begins to uncover some fresh herbs, candy hops and some pine. Very mellow. On swallow, the hops seem to linger with light bitterness. The mouthfeel is sticky and lightly carbonated. Pleasant. This is a must try due to its complexity. I challenge you to find a Pale Ale that can stand next to this beer.
Next up! So Fresh So Green Green from Terrapin. I was really impressed by this beer! Terrapin posted this picture of the hops on facebook a few months ago. Very exciting stuff! 
The beer pours with a billowy light white head and amber in color. Smell was muddy earthy hops with some floral and grapefruit. I venture to guess they use Amarillo hops which tend to have a pine and spicy flavor. First sip uncovers a light bread malt, caramel, honey, toffee and grapefruit. It has an uncharacteristic umami or savory earthy flavor. Nothing I have ever tasted before in a beer. I am really impressed by the fullness of the flavor matched with the hops. 

This beer seems one note and not very complex; however, the fresh hops are showcased and the simplicity of the beer makes it amazing to enjoy on these colder Georgia nights. It highlights the fresh harvest hops and everything else takes a backseat. I spoke with many Beer Advocates over the last week and they disagree with my terrapin review because they feel it lacks complexity. I think simplicity makes this beer outstanding. PB & J is uncomplicated, but it can taste great. It doesn't need to be gourmet to be first-rate. There is a pleasant bitterness on the swallow with creamy body and carbonation in the mouthfeel. Lacing all over the glass makes me think they used 2 row malts with some complex sugars.

These two beers are impressive. Both are very drinkable and exemplary examples of wet hopped American Pale Ales. I highly recommend them both.  I still have the third beer to review (Sierra Nevada – Estate: which will be up middle of next week.) Keep an eye out for the following reviews (in simplistic form) Duck Rabbit 2009 Barleywine, Left Hand Milk on nitro tap and Founders Porter. Follow me and OMFG on twitter @ SquirrelStash (my cellar’s name) for up to minute news about where to find these beers in the Atlanta market.  


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