Harvest season’s best hoppy Ales

Late fall’s hop harvest here in the US brings with it a bounty of fresh hoppy ales. It should come as no surprise that often these are some of the best bitter beers released each year. The style labelling often varies, with most opting for the broad category of Amber, ESB or the unofficial Harvest and Fresh Hop Ales. Some are easy to find in six packs for months at a time, while others come only in 22 oz bottles that vanish in weeks, and still more are hidden in various mix-packs. In most cases these beers have pleasantly enlarged hop aroma and flavor profiles with only moderate bitterness and ABV. Many often favor a rich amber color and a slight sweetness to the malt backbone as they showcase a grain bounty as well as freshly dried hops. I’ve recently tried a couple dozen of these fresh from bottling and I’ve decided on three favorites and also one word of warning.

2Sierra.Celebration.2012.001  My first and all-time favorite is Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale. I can’t remember how long ago it was that I first tried this beer, but I do know I’ve been eagerly awaiting its annual release ever since. Freshly bottled, this beer is balanced, but quite bitter with pronounced aromas and flavors derived from the copious use of various whole leaf hops. As this ages into the late months of the winter, it takes on varied and enjoyable flavor nuances as the bitterness mellows. Generally released in late October, this enjoys a wide and plentiful distribution in both six and twelve packs of 12 oz bottles and can typically be found in stores until very early Spring.

2port.brewing.high.tide.fresh.hop.ipa.575  Number two is High Tide IPA by Lost Abbey. The aroma of this beer is packed with citrus and floral notes, while the flavor is nicely balanced, profoundly bitter and pleasantly grainy and sweet from the malts. At only 6.5% ABV this is almost too easy to drink. Available as a limited release 22 oz bottle, these often disappear too soon after their late October release. Oddly enough, this beer, like most Lost Abbey big IPAs, cellars better than your typical hop-monster. The flavors soften and change, but even after a year or two of aging remain enjoyable and distinguished. That being said, this style is not at all meant to be aged and is best when enjoyed fresh.

Goose.Island.Harvest.Ale  Sigh, it pains me a bit to name my third favorite. I feel like I’m losing a bit of my soul typing out the name of an AB InBev product, but integrity demands I admit I like what I like. Goose Island’s Harvest Ale is a sublime beer. Although the aroma is just above average, the hop flavors and bitterness are perfectly balanced against a very slight sweetness from the malt. I tried this very fresh at a tasting featuring a bevy of other IPAs and DIPAs, among other styles. This really impressed me despite my hesitation and subsequent shame! LOL, so it goes. As far as I can tell, this is a very limited release that’s only available in their fall mix pack. I almost liked it enough to weather the burden of being forced to buy 8 beers I didn’t want… almost.

Founders.Harvest.Ale.label  The last beer of note for this post is Harvest Ale by Founders Brewing. Having never tried this prior to this year, I was expecting a lot more from such a highly rated brew. Sadly, it failed on two major points for me. First, having virtually no aroma. What little there was seemed strictly floral and underwhelming. The flavor followed suit, seemingly muted. This beer may have fallen victim to the unpredictability of fresh crop hops, but I’m guessing that’s only part of it. In many of their beers, Founders is far too focussed on the floral hop aroma and flavors typical of the Centennial strain. To be frank, Devil Dancer, their TIPA is their only offering I regularly enjoy. If you are already a fan of Founders you may, like many others have, love this beer with a passion. If you prefer a broader hop character and bigger aroma and flavor, this may not impress. At the premium prices these four packs are demanding, that can be a big risk to take.

With the coming holidays I’ll be sharing out numerous bottles of these favorites as well as many others from local breweries here in Massachusetts and around New England. For the first time in the history of craft beer, the farming of hops and grains is de-centralizing making regional fresh harvest ales and farm to bottle ales a possibility outside of such idyllic locales as Southern California. The bar has been set very high indeed, but this year many local breweries were able to bottle their own harvest offerings. As the market continues to grow and the global shortage of hops eases, beer lovers will find more and more of these locally produced showcases of fresh flavor. Beer lovers, count yourselves lucky, and enjoy the bounty of hops!


About mrhopsbeertalk
Avid homebrewer and craft beer taster. I love all the hops I can get. #hops #ipa #iipa #ipl #porter #dipa #specialtyale #saison #craftbeer western mass · mrhopsbeertalk.wordpress.com

One Response to Harvest season’s best hoppy Ales

  1. These look interesting. I do wonder if I might fight some locally…

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