Sierra Nevada, the pioneer of fresh hop ales in America, has expanded its Harvest Ale Series with the release of another ground-breaking product introduction, Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale. This marks the first time in known history that a fresh hop ale has been available in America in the spring since hops are harvested in the fall in the northern hemisphere. The inaugural ale will debut in early May.
To make this project happen, Sierra Nevada traveled to New Zealand to harvest fresh hops, and then transported them from the southern hemisphere to Chico where they were immediately used in brewing. Like their award-winning Celebration Ale, the fresh hops in this beer are dried right after being picked then shipped immediately to Chico for brewing, so that they retain their peak aromatics and flavors. Freshly harvested hops are richer in hop oils so they impart more hop aroma and hop spiciness into beer.
“We love fresh hop ales, but until now fresh hops were only available here once a year – during the fall hop harvest,” said brewery owner and founder Ken Grossman. “So we journeyed to the southern hemisphere to catch their hop harvest, which occurs during our spring.” The result is the North-by South fusion of fresh-picked New Zealand Pacific hops with the finest North American malts. Southern Hemisphere Harvest will feature fresh Pacific Hallertau, New Zealand Motueka and New Zealand Southern Cross hops, all from New Zealand.
The introduction of Southern Hemisphere Harvest gives Sierra Nevada three fresh-hop ales in their Harvest Series. In addition to Southern Hemisphere Harvest, Sierra Nevada produces Chico Estate Harvest in late summer and its original Harvest Ale in early fall.
Chico Estate Harvest is one of the very few estate harvest ales produced anywhere in the world today. All the hops in the beer are grown organically on the premises at the Chico brewery. The brewers pick the hops themselves and then take them directly to the brew kettle, without being dried, just after picking so they retain nearly all of their natural oils and resins. It is made with Cascade, Centennial and Chinook hops. Until now, this beer has only been available in draft. Starting this year, Sierra Nevada will bottle it on a very limited basis (Chico only this year) with plans to expand its availability as they expand their Chico hop field in the coming years.
The cornerstone of their Harvest Series is the beer that started the modern-day fresh hop ale phenomenon in America, the original Harvest Ale. Created in 1996, Harvest Ale features Cascade and Centennial hops from the Yakima Valley in Eastern Washington. These hops are harvested and shipped as “wet,” i.e., un-dried hops—the same day they are picked—to their brewery in Chico where the brewers eagerly wait to get them into the brew kettle while their oils and resins are still at their peak.
Representing the journey following the hop harvest around the globe, the Harvest Series includes hops sourced from new regions and brewed using new methods in an effort to maximize the oily, resinous qualities of the hops from each harvest as they transported them to the brewery in Chico, California.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. was founded in 1980 and is one of America’s first microbreweries. It is regarded as the standard of quality for American craft brewers and has won numerous awards for its beers and ales. Its flagship product, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, has been the number one selling craft beer brand in America for the past five years according to IRI scan data. The brewery is still 100% owned by Ken Grossman.
In addition to Pale Ale, Sierra Nevada makes a Wheat, Porter, and Stout year-round, a host of draft-only specialty beers, and offers five seasonal beers. Harvest Ale will be available in limited supply nationwide in 24-ounce bottles and draft. The cost is slightly above Sierra Nevada’s year-round products.