Friday, November 7, 2014

Fresh Hops in a Bottle: Lagunitas Born Yesterday & Deschutes Chasin' Freshies

We are at the end of harvest ale time. Fall is fading into winter. But the harvest brings lots of amazing beer styles, including beers with hops fresh from the farm. By November, all of the fresh hop beers that were going to be made in 2014 have already been brewed. I've generally stuck to drinking harvest ales on draft--how this type of beer normally arrives--so I thought I would give a few bottles a shot. My two selections are pretty random. The first, I chalk up to dumb luck. The second, I figured if I was going to get a bottle of a harvest IPA, I might as well find someone with the chops not to mess it up.

I was perusing my local bottle shop this morning when the owner let me know that he had just received a shipment of Born Yesterday. Intrigued, I grabbed a six-pack and read up on this wonder of a Pale Ale. On the labeling, it states that hops from the Yakima Valley were added to the beer, which was then bottled and shipped within twenty-four hours to provide customers with the freshest of fresh-hopped beers. So I had to do a little research to figure out exactly what this means in terms of brewing and logistics. Essentially, Lagunitas pulled off quite a feat. They got Equinox, Amarillo, and Mosaic hops from the Yakima Valley to Petaluma, California, and then dry wet-hopped this pale ale with about ten pounds of these fresh hops per barrel. Then the beer was bottled, kegged, and shipped. All this happened, mind you, on October 27th. If you lived on the west coast, you could purchase Born Yesterday on October 28th. I'm not sure when my six-pack arrived in Chicago, but it smelled like it was indeed born yesterday.

Born Yesterday is a big and rare pale ale (7.5% ABV). It's clear and golden, with a nice, tight head that holds well and leaves nice lacing. The hop aroma is immense; more like a big IPA. The smells are pine with some citrus notes--dare I mention marijuana, a close relative of the hop? The flavor is initially big hops (pine, citrus, with some peppery sensations) and then a nice, crisp and dry finish. The mouth feel is, in addition to being crisp, a little oily. Born Yesterday is super easy drinking and quite an achievement. Lagunitas really pushed the limits on supplying consumers with a super-fresh, wet-hopped beer. I'm impressed.

Deschutes, in Bend, Oregon, is much closer to the fresh mosaic hops that are showcased than Lagunitas. I randomly pulled this bottle off the shelf knowing that Deschutes would create a very solid harvest ale. And Deschutes proved my assumption right.

Chasin' Freshies (7.4% ABV) pours straw yellow and has super clarity. It has a nice head that didn't last, but left plenty of lacing behind. Chasin' Freshies did not provide the same intense hop aroma as Born Yesterday, but that's neither here nor there. The aroma is more dank, grassy, and even a bit fruity sweet. Kilned Bravo and fresh Mosaic hops created the beer's aromatic and taste profile. Chasin' Freshies has a clean, medium body without much trace of malts. This is all about the fresh Mosaic hops and is an easy drinker for those preferring a sharp bitterness in their IPA. 

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