Sierra Nevada Harvest Wild Hop IPA – Neomexicanus (2014), 6.5% ABV
Editor’s Note: Both Fischer and Kraft tried Sierra Nevada’s fifth and final installment of the 2014 Harvest series and are sharing their thoughts in this conversational post. This brew is getting a good amount of buzz because it is the first nationally-available beer using the newest hop variety on the scene: neomexicanus.
Fischer: Upon pouring this beer I noticed a pronounced fruity nose. My initial take on the tasting is a bitter front which lingers and slowly fades. It mellows up a bit with a bite coming into play with my second sip. Finally with my third sip, I start picking up on some fruit notes that I was expecting from the start. What are your thoughts on the beer a few sips in?
Kraft: It surprises me. I didn’t pick up on the fruit the label promised so far. On the initial taste, it is a much “earthier” hop taste than the other hop varieties I’ve tried. I’m open to giving credit to either Sierra Nevada or the hops themselves on how smooth the hop flavor is with this beer. A gentle bitterness.
The beer is interesting I will give it that. I was expecting something different and better though, personally. Maybe the hype on Untappd raised my expectations too high. I get what you mean by “smooth hop flavor”, I got a mild bite, if that makes sense. A much lighter bite than most IPAs have. All in all I’d give the beer a “Meh” rating through my first pour.
Meh? At worst, I would think of this as a good beer that isn’t someone’s cup of tea, in my opinion. Much lighter is a good way of putting it. One of the first things I thought of was Adrienne So’s Slate article from last year about how the overhoppification of beers is ruining the craft and this beer could be used as a response on what a hoppy beer could be.
I actually had someone send me the link to that article just yesterday. Really good piece on how we beer bloggers can be snobs who forget about everyday beer drinkers taste preferences. Yeah, Meh. Not upset that I bought the beer, but not getting the enjoyment, challenge or excitement out of the beer that I was hoping for.
Okay, hold the phone. I just poured my second glass, and I’m picking up on the subtle melon and apricot flavor. This is starting to become a much more fun beer drinking experience.
I took a few hours away from the beer for my second pour. Perhaps it is my palate adjusting to the different taste, but there is much more to this than at first. Drinking this on the second round, this is quickly becoming a favorite IPA. The gentler bite is, for me, simply more pleasant to drink than the average kick-you-in-the-face IPAs.
Not sure I’d go as far as to say this is my favorite IPA, but we seem to be on the same page about the gentler bite. It is a really nice brew, “pleasant” I think is a great descriptor.
This beer has become more of an adventure. A trip that I got really excited for, built up a ton of anticipation for, thinking “Boy I can’t wait to go, this will be the best trip I’ve had in a long time.” Then the trip begins. There is an initial disappointment, “This isn’t what I thought it would be.” I groan and whine, thinking all that anticipation was for nothing. Then I settle in and just accept the trip. All of a sudden it surprises me, new memories are made and I realize a third the way in, “Wow this is a good trip, not in the ways I presumed it would be but I’m liking the course that it’s now taking.” This is why I took the trip in the first place, for a new experience, a new take on life. In the case of this beer, a whole new take for my taste buds.
That’s a good way of putting it. If you’re drinking this solely because of the hype, it could be disappointing off the line. Part of the hype is what the future holds as this variety becomes more mature. Derek Springer has written a great primer on his Five Blades Brewing site on where this variety fits into the hop world. In one way, this is the next generation of the Anchor Steam’s Liberty Ale, which was, by some standards, the first modern IPA post-prohibition using Cascade hops or Bridgeport’s IPA. Those beers were groundbreaking at the time and influenced a great deal of beers in the last 30-40 years.
Since Neomexicanus can grow with relatively little water, unlike the Cascade variety, we could see new areas of the country have their own IPA renaissance, much as the the Pacific Northwest hop fields fueled the West Coast IPAs. The one source for these hops for homebrewers is a Benedictine monastery in New Mexico—you’d never New Mexico being prime hop ground for the other varieties.
That is great news to hear that they can grow with less water, especially for California and the Southwest as their water shortage issues get worse and worse.
All that said, Sierra Nevada did a great job with this one and I’m looking forward to seeing if they do more with it, perhaps as part of their 2015 Harvest series. In either case, I need to see if I can grab another bottle before they’re gone.