Beer Review 0259: Founders Harvest Ale

It’s wet hop season — time for beer brewed with hops that are picked and shipped in the same form, never dried. For this beer, Founders Brewing Company (Grand Rapids, Michigan) uses hops that have been very recently picked, then brew the beer, and then release it as quick as possible. That makes this drink a limited offering that has a changing release date, all depending on when the hops are harvested.

Founders have produced many of the top rated beers on this website — in fact, I have rated two of their beers a perfect 100 points. But it wasn’t always this way. When the company first started, they made merely average brews, like a typical Pale Ale or Brown Ale. But when the company nearly went bankrupt because of status quo, things had to change.

The scare with closing brought about a new attitude for Founders. They started making beer THEY wanted to drink, not so much the masses. But, by doing so, they found a new audience that adored high-quality beer, and a group of folks who would not accept a compromise when it came to low quality ingredients or flavor.

Harvest Ale, which was released this year in October, comes in at 6.5% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 70 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).

Pouring produced a small, soapy head that quickly faded, and barely reappeared with some agitation of the glass. The beer was a vibrant, almost reflective golden color, brilliantly clear and free of particles and sediment. Lacing was non-existent.

The aromatic featured a ton of stiff, bright, and fresh hops. There were haymakers of grapefruit and pine, supported by a steady stream of orange, lemon, lime, a very subtle floral note, with some sharp herbs. This scent was very fruity and savory at the same time, if that makes sense. The malt backbone was light, but it is there; there was a definite sweetness, some caramel, and some bread-like and biscuit malts. The aromas on Harvest Ale were awesome. Perfect score!

Harvest Ale brings a slow start to the palate, with a light fruity hop that has a dominant touch of grapefruit rind. Then, a sweet middle comes awash, bringing on caramel malt and some breadiness; and then, suddenly, THWACK! On came the hops, with a mighty resinous hemp-like wave. At the same time, notes of sweet fruit and bitterness fired, with the bitter ultimately winning out, in a huge way. The mouthfeel was gritty and drying, and the beer was medium-bodied.

Ultimately, this is a very nice beer that is quite drinkable, but I found myself wanting the hops, which were mind-blowingly complex in the aromatic, to be as complex in flavor. This is an IPA where the bitterness completely takes over the intricate flavors, and that’s a shame. Still, it’s mighty nice to get to sniff those wonderfully fresh hops, and taste them for at least three-quarters of the sip.

Founders Harvest Ale, 91 points. Price: $2.99 US for one twelve ounce bottle.

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