Part of what got me started with this blog is the desire to cut through the noise and let people know when a great beer shows up. Usually this is from local breweries, but occasionally something from out of town gets wider distribution and becomes available locally. That happened to be the case with Louisiana brewery Abita that I just noticed in the local shops with an interesting IPA.
What first stuck out to me was the fantastic little informational chart on the six pack itself spelling out the different types of hops, malts, yeast, and water used as well as how dark and bitter the beer is and even suggested food pairings. Based on the description I was intrigued because it seemed to be a lighter color hop-forward beer just how I like it.
When I poured my first glass of Wrought Iron IPA I was hooked and immediately went back to where I got the six-pack to buy another one in case they ran out before I got back. Grapefruit flavors balance nicely with the malts leading to a distinctive flavor that I haven’t had elsewhere. The light grapefruit closely resembles Alpine’s Nelson. Bright general citrus flavors give a solid bitterness as well.
Hopefully you have tasted at least one variety of fresh hop ale in the past few years. The trend has grown over time. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t though because I didn’t hear about this idea until I was in Denver in September. I happened to stop by Great Divide Brewing and saw that they had a fresh hop pale ale at around 6%. As usual I ordered a few tasters, one of the fresh hop pale, and one of the IPA. I was so impressed by the hop flavors I tasted that I didn’t order any IPAs that night but instead a few pints of the fresh hop pale. Thankfully Great Divide Brewing has some solid distribution so I found a bottle of the Fresh Hop Pale in San Diego recently. Today I decided to open it with Sierra Nevada’s Fresh Hop Harvest Ale to see how the two compared.
To put this into some perspective, consider that the average IPA is around 6.5-7.5%. The average pale ale is between 4.5 and 5.5%. So when you have a fresh hop pale ale at 6.1 (like the Great Divide) and 6.7 (like the Sierra Nevada) it is almost like having an IPA. Sadly, only the Great Divide had an enjoy by date on the bottle so I can’t know how fresh the Sierra Nevada was when I tried it. I think they were overly generous though with the Great Divide since I found it in late October and it says enjoy by mid December of 2013.
Taste wise, both beers have a nice fresh hop on the forefront although I would say the Sierra Nevada was a bit more heavy on the malts. Both would satisfy IPA fans and hop heads and are worth checking out.
Did you try any other fresh hop beers recently? I’m interested in your suggestions in the comments.