Beer Review 0180: Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest

Several months ago, I reviewed Chico, California’s Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Harvest, a “wet hop” ale that brews with hops in the same form they are picked — whole and never dried. Wet hopping is the freshest way you can brew with hops, and I was highly impressed with this beer, scoring it 95 points.

Sierra Nevada also makes a Southern Hemisphere Harvest, taking advantage of the hop harvest (which occurs every fall, regardless of location) in New Zealand. The big difference (besides location of hops) between these two beers is that the Southern Hemisphere version is not a “wet hop” ale, it’s a “fresh hop” ale, meaning that the hops are dried and quickly shipped to California, and then put in this brew. So they are still fresh, but not as fresh as the wet hop process.

Sierra flies these hops from New Zealand to Chico, and brews with them only one week after harvest. They say this process is very similar to their Celebration Ale, which I rated 88 points.

The hops used in this beer are Pacific Halertau for bittering, and New Zealand Motueka and Southern Cross for finishing. Southern Hemisphere is 6.7% ABV (alcohol by volume) and is brewed to 66 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).

This beer poured a large, rocky head that was lasting. The color of the liquid was light amber-orange, and the body was clear, free of particles and sediment. As with most Sierra Nevada beers, this one left excellent lacing, leaving behind thick sheets that clung to the glass and took on the appearance of bread crumbs.

On the nose, this is much more malty than I expected for a “fresh hop ale.” There’s scents of caramel and biscuit up front, with an underlying citrus (orange) hop and a few grassy notes. There were hints of grain. Otherwise, this one is disappointingly subdued, and there’s not really much here to take in. If you’re looking for a hop bomb aroma-wise, look somewhere else.

And continuing that trend on the palate — Southern Hemisphere Harvest again delivers more malt, mixing a sharp caramel with a faded citrus to start, making the beer seem really sweet and roasted. The mouthfeel was creamy and foamy, and the middle of the taste did feature just a hint of bitterness with some grapefruit. But right back on the finish is the sweet malt, with a hint of grain and grass.

This beer was not at all what I expected, nor was it what my taste buds had geared up for. While this is a decent, quality beer, this is just not what is advertised on the bottle. This is far from hop-forward, and big, bold, fresh flavors just do not exist in this drink.

Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest, 81 points. Price: $5.49 US for one 24 oz. bottle.

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