18 October 2010

Estate Homegrown Ale

I've been drinking beer from the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico for nearly thirty years. The stuff is damn close to mother's milk for me, and I'm always happy to try a new batch. The latest to cross my lips is the Estate Homegrown Ale that features "wet" hops grown at the brewery site. The hops used in beer are the unpollinated flower clusters--called cones--of the female plant. They are typically dried in kilns before packaging or further processing. "Wet-hopping" is using the freshly picked cones directly from the vines and substituting them for dried hops both in the kettle and after fermentation. The result is a rich and spicy "green" beer with a massive aroma and fresh, garden-like flavors. In the hands of skilled brewers the effect is marvelous, and the Estate Ale is no exception. Despite the high alcohol content (6.7%), the beer was very smooth and had a refreshing, light malt flavor. The huge hop profile was not at all overwhelming and the ale was dangerously quaffable. Go out and get some, I say, and drink it up while you can.

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