Sierra Nevada Brewing is well known for their use of whole cone hops in their beers. They also were among the first breweries in the US to use wet hops in their Northern Hemisphere Harvest IPA. Here’s what Sierra Nevada says about this limited release beer:
Northern Hemisphere was the first wet hop ale and it inspired the wet hop craze here in America. Wet—undried—hops go straight from the fields into our kettles within 24 hours. Because hops are incredibly perishable, using hops wet preserves all of the precious oils and resins for a unique drinking experience as evidenced by the intense herbal green flavors and citrus-like and floral aromas. Northern Hemisphere is part of our five-bottle Harvest series which features single hop, fresh hop, wet hop, and wild hop beers.
Northern Hemisphere pours from the 24oz bottle a copperish-amber color. Uh-oh. For me, this is not a good sign if the beer is allegedly designed to feature wet hop characteristics. Why is that, you may ask? In order to get that amber color, they had to use crystal (caramel) malts, which for me, detracts from the hops. Sure enough, their website confirms that Caramel malts are used to brew this beer. Fortunately, the aroma is still hop forward, with pine being dominant, but citrus and grapefruit coming through as well, along with some bready malt. This is a nice IPA, as the taste is distinctly Sierra Nevada. The hops are certainly there, but there’s also a big malt backbone that doesn’t allow those wet hops to truly shine. There’s nothing wrong with this beer, and it’s certainly enjoyable, but I think it could let those wet hops be featured a lot more by cutting back on those crystal malts that bring the caramel and bready notes with them. I think their Hop Hunter IPA is actually better in terms of fresh hop aroma and flavor than this Northern Hemisphere Harvest IPA.
It also must be said that I’m disappointed that the bottles that hit shelves yesterday (November 5th) here in south Louisiana were bottled by Sierra Nevada on September 22nd. Why does it take a month and a half for an IPA that’s supposed to feature hops that are super fresh to get to our shelves? There’s a breakdown somewhere between when it was bottled in Chico, CA to our shelves here. I don’t know the answer for sure, but I have my suspicions. However, that is a post for another day.