Today’s beer is that second wet hop seasonal I promised (the first was Harpoon’s excellent Glacier Harvest wet hop). The drink is Sierra Nevada’s 13th Release Harvest Wet Hop Ale ($5.99, 6.7% ABV, 65 ibu), which is a real mouthful (the name, not the beer).
Sierra Nevada’s been doing the wet hop thing since 1996, quoth their website, and I assume it takes the small batch approach of other brewers, so the “13th Release” in the name likely refers to the brewing session. This is only my second wet hop, but I really liked the last one. There’s something appealing to me about what’s behind them: Harvest and ship the hops “wet” – as close to picking as possible – for a more floral, less bitter taste that you can only get at a certain time of year. As a documented non-hophead, this kind of beer is right up my alley.
The pour gave up a big foamy head. Sierra Nevada’s Harvest beer tasted godawful at first. This was not the fault of the beer, but rather of me for being an idiot – I had eaten a piece of Irish Cream candy bar about 20 minutes earlier, and that stuff sticks with you. So after a mouth cleansing by (sequentially) milk, cider, and water, things were a little more favorable for beer drinkin’.
Cleansing achieved, I took another stab. The Sierra Nevada is more bitter than the Harpoon (not surprising, considering its 60-65 ibu’s to Glacier Harvest’s 38), and it lingers around the edges of the tongue. The taste is a little spicy – not overly so – a fairly hearty, with a slightly oily texture.
It’s a fine beer, but not as much of a drinker as the smoother Harpoon wet hop. By this I don’t mean it isn’t good, just that you’d be likely to drink less of this and more slowly (not that either beer is meant to be chugged). Hop fans would likely prefer it.
Now that I’m an expert on wet hop beers, having drank all of 2 varieties, I’d have to say that, given the option, I’d go with the Harpoon over the Sierra Nevada. It’s mostly irrelevant now because we’re getting into winter seasonals, but these two beers give a lot to look forward to come next fall. So far, I’ve gone with two fairly well-known brands, but I’m sure there’s others out there (Pittsburgh brewers, help me out here). With a little research, I’ll have some different wet hop beers to add to my experience.