Sierra Nevada 2009 Southern Hemisphere Fresh Hop Ale
6.7% ABV, 24-ounce bottle
Sierra Nevada has always been the safety date for craft brew lovers, when they're forced by circumstance to buy beer at grocery and liquor stores with limited selections. Partly, that's due to this brewery's amazing success at penetrating the market — it's ubiquitous at almost any retailer that branches out even a little from American mega-brews. Partly, that's because Sierra Nevada has been able to maintain craft-brew style throughout its 29 years of business, even as the brewery's production has risen over 800,000 barrels per year.
The Southern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Hop Ale represents both Sierra Nevada's small-batch quality and its ability to market a schtick. The brewery has been making fresh hop beers for over a decade, shipping in newly-picked flowers from Washington State every fall that haven't been dried or pelletized like much of the hops used for beer. Theoretically, that means more pronounced floral and drying notes from the fresh oils and resins, resulting in an annual ale that's bright and bitter and distinctly seasonal. Turns out, once a year isn't enough.
In 2008, Sierra Nevada expanded its fresh hop line to the spring, sourcing the powerful buds from South American growers (with their opposite growing season) to produce a brother for fall's fresh beer. With the brewery a few weeks away from releasing the latest domestic version, it seemed time to put a cap on the Southern Hemisphere variety. Or, well, pop a cap, I guess.