Our brewery’s blog begins as 2012 ends and the recent hop harvest goes toward brewers’ 2013 beers. To most craft brewers, hop selection is a special time of year. For brewers like us, who only brew with whole-cone hops, selecting only the finest hops is of the utmost importance. And since we use more whole-cone hops than any brewer in the world—about 3,000 pounds each day—hop growers are often eager to work with us.
In September, Ken Grossman and a team of our brewers walked the Yakima, Washington, hop fields and inspected hundreds of individual sample lots to stock up for the next year. Ken characterized the 2012 Northern Hemisphere harvest as a pretty good year. In October we released our first beer of the season with these hops, Northern Hemisphere Harvest<sup>®</sup> — a 100-percent wet-hopped ale that uses a whopping eight pounds of hops per barrel—and it’s the best we’ve tasted in some time. This beer features Cascade and Centennial hops, and the aromas from it are unlike anything else we make.
We’ve always believed whole-cone hops are the way to go. Many people ask us why we’ve only brewed with whole-cone hops in every beer since our 1980 inception. Certainly there are other directions brewers can take to achieve excellent flavor and aroma goals. Pelletized hops and processed extracts, for example, have benefits such as storage life and efficiency. But we’ve always preferred the untouched hop flower. For us, there are unique layers of character derived by keeping the hop cone intact; the hop oils and resins really shine through.
Also aligning with hop harvest was the brewing of Celebration<sup>®</sup> Ale. In its third decade of production, Celebration uses whole-cone, fresh hops — those dried and shipped to us within seven days of harvest. We’re humbled by the excitement this beer seems to create each year; may it be a highlight of your winter.
Sierra Nevada has long been about the purest ingredients and the finest quality, and this new online resource allows us to better share that with you. But whole cones aren’t even half the story. Stay tuned for much more.