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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sierra Nevada Chico Estate Harvest Wet Hop Ale

I don't usually put the whole name of a windily-named beer in the post name: let's just identify the beer and move on, eh? But in this case, every word actually means something.

Sierra Nevada: still the biggest brick-and-mortar microbrewery out there, did it pure: all about the beer, not the advertising. Pioneered American Pale Ale and American-style barleywine, do great lagers as well. Street cred about as solid as you can get in this business.

Chico Estate Harvest: They grew hops right on their brewery grounds. That's their one brewery, which they have so far insisted is the only way to insure consistency, despite how much easier it would be to sell fresh beer in the East with an eastern brewery. They grew them, they harvested them.

Wet Hop: You can't hardly get "wetter" than this, picking them right on the brewery grounds and dumping them directly in the kettle, without even a truck-ride from the fields. Sierra Nevada has been way out in front on fresh hop beers, and now have three of them. Hats off, even though that Southern Hemisphere one is just frippin' nuts. And delicious.

Ale: "Chico." "Ale." This is the yeast that has built the craft brewing industry, a clean workhorse. It is not always my first choice, but when you want a beer that showcases fresh hops like this, it's one of the best. Sierra Nevada has based their reputation on this yeast, and it's proven to be a solid foundation.

Every word is important. That came to me as I drank this big 24 oz. bottle (okay, I split it with Cathy and a friend of ours, Jim Hanyok). The hops leap right out, citrus, pine, and a green freshness. The ale is bigger than SNPA at 6.7%, but it only uses it for firmness, not hugeness. This is a beer that establishes a presence in your mouth, a "whole-palate" beer. It's malty-sweet, it's thumb-solid bitter. Ten years ago, this would have been an IPA. Now it's just "hoppy" and delicious.

I'll definitely be looking for this one next year, and so should you.


Bill Night said...

I'm glad to hear you describe Chico Estate's flavor as "green" -- that's what was missing from the Southern Hemisphere version (no surprise, the hops were dried). I can't wait to check it out.

By the way, I think Oregon breweries are the ones that are "way out in front on fresh hop beers": here's a list of 41 of them brewed this year.

Lew Bryson said...

Well, what I actually said was that SN has been way out in front on fresh hop beers. This is their 12th year making a fresh hop beer. Bert Grant was making one about the same time, maybe a year earlier, but SN was right there at the beginning. That's what I was getting at.

Point well-taken, though. That's an awesome list.