If I had to describe Sierra Nevada's Northern Hemisphere Harvest Wet Hop IPA in one word, then that word would be harvest because the labels have “harvest” in several places and typically that word is printed in larger letters than those that are around it.
What this means to me, and to you, is that it is officially hop harvest season. Actually, I suppose if I am drinking bottled wet hopped beers from California, that harvest season is probably over or close to it. So really, it is wet hopped beer season. Brewers all over the country are having freshly picked, un-dried hops brought into their breweries at amazing speeds, some having them overnighted from the other side of the country, and then thrown almost immediately into their kettles upon arrival.
Boulevard just bottled a wet hopped ale the other day called Last Splash, using wet Nugget hops, that is currently set for a early to mid November release. Victory Brewing has a Harvest Ale that should be available as we speak that used wet Mosiac and Citra hops (what?!). Sixpoint released their wet hop ale, Sensi Harvest, which uses Simcoe and Centennial hops and comes in at an absolutely delicious and sessionable 4.7%ABV, about a month or so ago. The Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere currently in my glass uses wet Cascade and Centennial hops.
And there are others, plenty of others (I invite you to ramble on about your favorites in the comments below)– Hoppin' Frog's Fresh Frog Raw Hop and Founder's Harvest Ale come to mind only because I'm planning/hoping to have them face off in the Beersport of an upcoming podcast episode.
To be clear, the general, albeit loose, consensus is that wet hopped beers use hops that have not been dried or processed and are picked and shipped from the fields within 24 hours. The freshness of the hops allows for a different experience – often less biting in terms of bitterness and more true to the aromatics of the fresh, whole cone hop. Depending on the hops, this can lead to flavors of tropical fruit juices to wet grass and even wet cardboard.
Thus far, I see all of the above things, even wet cardboard (I once ate an entire notebook), as positives.
So now for the negatives, or negative really, because I see only one drawback: you must drink these suckers fresh. And keep them cold when your not drinking them (okay, so maybe that's two). Basically, if your not going to drink these fresh then you might as well leave them on the shelf for someone more responsible. These beers are essentially ticking time bombs in your refrigerator.
Today, I spent more time combing my beard than my hair and you're damn right I wanted nothing more than a Founder's Breakfast Stout. But how can I do it when I have this wet hopped beer in my fridge just wasting away. Never mind the Stone Enjoy By that will apparently turn into a gremlin on October 31st. Never mind that Wife is getting pissed that there is nowhere in the fridge for her to put her pumpkin flavored creamer. Never mind the Mint Chocolate Stout by Ska Brewing that I bought over the summer and keep 'losing' in the fridge. When do I find it over and over again? When I'm desperately making room for for cans and bombers of wet hopped beers over the past few weeks.
The Breakfast Stout is my friends going out for some wings after work and the wet hopped beers are my grandmother, alone and with not a lot of quality time left in this world.
“Sorry guys, I can't. I'm supposed to have dinner with my grandmother.”
And like your buddies, Breakfast Stout is totally cool with it. And you'll have a great fucking time with Grandma. You always do. Because your Grandma is the shit.
Your grandma is a wet hopped beer and her time on this world is short. So enjoy it.
Go call your Grandma.
And if the Grandmother analogy doesn't hit home, or maybe hits too hard, then think of the wet hopped beers in your fridge as a ghost in your house. One that is constantly calling your name.
The persistent voice is of a young man or woman from a different time, the victim of a horrible crime committed on the very site that your home now stands. Or perhaps even in the very house you live in now, assuming your home is of an advanced age and/or has some sort of bygone era significance.
And well, this ghostly victim, frankly, needs your help. Mostly because they are a ghost and cannot use their astral appendages to access the internet to research the unsolved crime that led to their demise. Also, you will not share your wi-fi password. So it is up to you and your fingers of this world and your cable modem to get to the bottom of this caper so that you and your spirit roommate can rest easy.
In the above analogy, the wet hopped beers in your fridge could either be the mystery that you need to get to the bottom of, or the actual ghost that is calling your name and asking you to solve crimes. It's like a choose your own adventure book except you're drunk and when you turn to page 54 you're getting kicked out of the library for falling asleep on the microfiche machine.
“Hello, Grandma? Can you come pick me up? I'm at the library. Yes, it happened again.”
Northern Hemisphere Harvest Ale, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Appearance = 3.5/5
Amber colored, off white head - about a finger off the pour, nice retention, not much lacing.
Smell = 3.5/5
Wet grass, caramel, just a hint of cardboard and vegetables.
Taste = 3.75/5
The taste has more of juicy citrus bite than the smell would lead you to believe, with just a hint of spice mixed in with the wet grass flavors. Decent amount of malt sweetness - caramel notes, maybe toffee.
Feel = 4/5
I love the feel of these wet hopped beers. Medium feel and medium carb but something about the flavors seem to add an extra pull to the feel - the bitterness just plays in a different way on the tongue than a typical hoppier ale, more in the way a bitter vegetable feels on the tongue.
Overall = 3.75/5
This is good, not great compared to some of the other's that I mentioned above, but good. The price is also good - around 6 bucks for a big bottle.
J.R. Shirt hosts a beer podcast where the beers become people and fight it out until only one beer is left standing. Thus far, his Beersport is 2 for 2 in predicting baseball postseason outcomes. He will be spending the rest of his free time this week looking for Victory's Harvest Ale. Follow him on Twitter and Untappd @beeronmyshirt.