It’s September. Harvest time. And the Fall approaches (now, not in August).
The temptation at this time of year is to write exclusively about Oktoberfest beers (as I did last year). But, really, just buy yourself Ayinger, or any of the classic Germans, and enjoy. This year, I’m looking towards something different: Harvest Ale.
Because, it’s not just barley that gets harvested now; it’s hops too. And the floral flavors of aromatic hops lend themselves to the shortening days, cooling evenings, and richer flavors of the fall. There are many wonderfully aromatic brews to focus on (Sierra Nevada Harvest Wet Hop IPA comes to mind), but I must choose one. The local beer shop had one I had not personally seen, and which my favorite beer partner, my wife, thought looked good: Tröegs Hop Knife Harvest Ale.
Tröegs, out of Hershey, PA, makes several top notch beverages, not the least of which is Hopback. As I’m enjoying the Harvest Ale, I have discovered that Tröegs is also a technological innovator in brewing. The “hopback” is actually a device that allows for extra hopping, which is why its namesake beer has such an intense, yet floral hop character. For this Harvest Ale, they invented something called a HopCyclone (pronounced HOP-sick-lone)
Dry hopping (for those who prefer to just drink the stuff and not study it) is a process where extra aromatic hops are added at the end of the brewing process to keep the oils they contain from evaporating away, keeping all that lovely flavor in. But, usually, the hops are just tossed in dry, and the normal circulation of the boiling liquid pulls the flavor around. Tröegs new contraption creates a vortex that pulls the fluid through the aromatics, enhancing the hop flavor tremendously.
However, all of that “fun with chemistry” would be pointless if the beer sucked. This beer does not suck. The Hop Knife has, as you would expect, a strong aroma of flower and pine. It pours a gorgeous amber, reminiscent of the mosquito fossil the old dude from Jurassic Park had on his walking stick. It has viscosity, too, which I always respect. And it tastes…like liquid potpourri. But in a really good way. It is unabashedly hoppy, but also intensely floral, and there is such a nice malt character that the bitterness is balanced and, therefore, palatable.
This is not a refreshing, summer beer. This is a beer for cool evenings, fire pits, falling leaves, and warm soups.
Look, I am a proud Oktoberfest fan. Give me that bready flavor all day every day. But, man cannot live on festbier alone. Do yourself a favor, and enjoy a glass of autumn. A glass of falling leaves. A glass of harvest-time.