It’s easy to forget about Sierra Nevada sometimes. Even though they’re one of the great-granddaddys of American IPAs, their West Coast offspring seem to get all the attention nowadays, at least in the minds of many craft beer aficionados. While people new to the microbrewery phenomenon consider Sierra Nevada to be the doorway to a bigger world of great beer, for most whose palates have evolved to the insane hoppiness of a Stone or Bear Republic beer, it can be hard to look back. To me, Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale, Celebration Ale, and Bigfoot are all pretty spectacular beers, but the rest of their lineup leaves me a little cold.
So when I had a pint of the Southern Hemisphere Fresh Hop Ale at Bailey’s yesterday, I was shocked by how good it was. It absolutely reeks of hops, making the beer exceptionally hoppy without being overly bitter. The beer’s aroma and taste of hops are enough to fool you into thinking otherwise at first, but then the misdirection swoops in with a clean finish and just a subtle bitter end instead of that cloying aftertaste you can expect with so many other thin bodied, overly hopped IPAs.
The secret behind this beer’s magic is the “fresh hops” they add to every batch. According to Sierra Nevada, they have the hops picked, dried, and then immediately flown from New Zealand all the way to Chico, CA. While most hops are frozen before the brewers get a hold of them, these are practically straight from the field, resulting in way more aromatics and far richer flavors.
Having tasted the beer for myself, I can say that this is more than just another brewing gimmick, and evidence that Sierra Nevada isn’t content just resting on the enormous success of their Pale Ale. They’re pushing the beer envelope yet again with this and their other fresh hop ales. And one day they might be considered one of the pioneers of the style, just as they are today with the traditional American IPA.
Then again, the hop shortage might just nip that speculative future in the bud… so to speak.