Sierra Nevada is one of the United States’ most prolific craft breweries. Since 1979 they have produced a range of beers which constantly demand the highest regards of beer drinkers and beer professionals alike. Lucky for us, because of their commitment to quality delicious beers, they are readily available throughout the United States.
In their Harvest Series of beers exists the Wet Hop, a unique American Pale Ale which uses fresh, not dried hops in the brewing process, the very first of its kind in America. Sierra Nevada harvests Centennial hops fresh from their estate in the Yakima Valley WA, and ship them that same night to the brewery in Chico CA – that’s an 11 hour drive. The very next morning those still fresh hops are rushed directly into the brew kettle creating an extraordinary and unique pale ale – a dream for true hop aficionados.
The Wet Hop comes in a 24 ounce wide bottle (approximately 700ml) with the vintage year labeled on the neck, and is 6.7% abv. It pours vigorously immediately showing lots of carbonation, life and excitement. It lifts a generous pale white, slightly creamy and fluffy head almost two inches high showing lots of bubbles; slowly but surely it faded down to a medium film over the beer.
The beer itself is a pure American Pale Ale; copper to orange with lots of golden amber hues, superbly opaque with bubbles roaring within it, and a deep yellow shimmer ringing around any light that touches it. It leaves a thick lacing along the edges of the glass as the head fades suggesting a thick and rich body and mouthfeel.
Its smells excellent, really just as I would have expected. Because the hops were not dried, the aromatic flavors within had not concentrated in power and bitterness leaving the fresh, creamy and lively character of the hops themselves. It comes at you with light caramel malts, bready and biscuity pale malts, mellow tropical fruits, sweet citrus and floral hay fields. A couple people I was with while enjoying this were shocked at the lack of hop power, but I am certain that the fruits, citrus and floral aromas are exactly what the hops are bringing. You have to consider what happens when you dry herbs out, the flavors become extremely concentrated and potent, which is what we are used to – but the fresh version will always be more delicate and natural. Compare the flavor of fresh rosemary to dried – the dried is very robust, aggressive and one dimensional. The fresh rosemary though will be soft, round and soothing.
When you get into the beer the hops show themselves with more brashness than in the aroma. Right away round bitter hops crisply bite your palate allowing the smooth caramel and lightly tart tropical flavors to pour though. Touches of pineapple, mango and citrus float across your tongue and cheeks while the sparking carbonation helps pale and caramel malt sweetness glide across your entire mouth.
Now that the hops are apparent it is a bit easier to understand the aroma. The citrus light scent shows grapefruit and orange peel in the body, and fresh floral aromas bring grass and field freshness to the beer. Overall the beer is quenching and mildly complex, but more so perfectly balanced. The mouthfeel is very soothing and satisfying showing both creamy malts and hop bite; a very pleasing characteristic.
The finish is fresh, bright, distinct and herbal – it makes for the perfect finish to this wet hopped pale ale. I really enjoyed this beer and without hesitation would go for it again, however hop heads looking for that robust and aggressive hop explosion should look elsewhere – this beer has too much balance to play that game.