American craft beer is spreading into a number of exciting directions—sours are booming, barrel-aging programs are flourishing, brewers are blending wine with their beers—but the scene is still dominated by hops. If I were to sum up the American beer palate in a single phrase, I’d have to quote Jerry McGuire: “Show me the hops.”
Sierra Nevada’s new Harvest Single Hop IPA zeros in on that hop obsession by brewing with just a single, whole cone hop strain, the Yakima #291. Yeah, that’s a new hop strain. The brewery has been working directly with farmers to develop new hop strains, and Yakiima #291 is a shining example of what that research and development can produce. This Harvest Single Hop is the first of the limited release Harvest Series IPAs to hit the shelves. The five-beer series showcases hop experimentation by using different hopping methods—single hop, fresh hop, wet hop, and wild hop.
If the Harvest Single Hop IPA is any indication, the Harvest Series should be a fun ride. The beer pours golden orange with a thick head and has a subtle, slightly sweet nose. The first sip is bright and effervescent, but also has a surprisingly creamy mouthfeel that slips away into a peppery, almost sour tingle on the tongue. The beer has a fruity sweetness to it, which actually comes from this new Yakima #291 hop strain, which contribute hints of blueberry to the beer.
The key word here is “hints.” There’s nothing overtly fruity, or sweet about the beer, nor is there anything overtly bitter about this IPA. There’s a slight bitterness on the backend (like unripe fruit), but it’s nothing compared to some of the IPA “bitter-fests” that are available today. In a scene that’s leaning toward intense double IPAs, Sierra Nevada has created a mellow, understated gem with the Single Hop. Get it quick—Sierra Nevada released the Single Hop in February and wants you to drink it within 100 days.
Brewery: Sierra Nevada
City: Chico, Calif.
Availability: Limited, 24 ounce bottles