What Are Harvest Ales?

Freshly Picked Hops Go Into a Harvest Ale
Freshly Picked Hops Go Into a Harvest Ale

Sierra Nevada just released their Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale 2010, but what are harvest ales?

Simply put, when the hop cones are ready to be picked, normal procedure is to dry the hop so it has less than 10% moisture, and then the hops are stored in vacuum sealed or nitrogen-packed bags to prevent oxygen from getting to them.  With a harvest ale, the fresh hops are picked off the vine, and then added to the boiling wort right away without drying them, so instead of ounces there are pounds because of the extra water weight.  With a harvest ale, you still get the standard flavor you would expect from the hops, but you also get an overwhelming “grassy” hop flavor, because the hops were newly picked live plants.  Talk about fresh!

Most times, the harvest ales are done in the fall, when it is harvest time in the northern hemisphere, but Sierra Nevada has agreements with hop farmers in New Zealand that allows them to have the freshly picked hops delivered to them within 12 hours, and they are placed right into the brew pot.

If you like pale ales, be sure to try one of the harvest ales because I’m sure you’d like it.  If you’ve had a harvest ale, how did you think it compared to your normal pale ale or IPA?

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