Thursday, October 21, 2010

Oshkosh Beer of the Week: Central Waters Hop Harvest

Next to homebrew, this may be the freshest beer you’ll ever taste. Hop Harvest is a limited release brew from Central Waters made with barley and hops grown here in Wisconsin. This is a wet hop ale, where the hops go directly from the vine and into the brew kettle without being dried or processed. When it comes to brewing, that’s about as elemental as it gets.

This year the crew from Central Waters spent some 20 hours picking hops before returning to the brewery to make the beer. That was on September 5th. Just over a month later, we’ve got it here in Oshkosh ready to be made into a memory.

The beer falls somewhere between an American Pale Ale and an IPA so if you’re expecting a huge wallop of hops you’re going to be disappointed. The hop aroma is fairly slight. Instead malt dominates the nose of this beer giving off a honey and crackers sort of vapor with a side-order of grassiness. And malt commands the flavor profile, as well. The beer is sweetish and somewhat thick with a grassy, lemon-like hop presence playing in the background. At first the beer comes across as a little too chewy, but as it finishes the bitterness grows assertive and cleans away the residual sweetness of the malt. It turns out to be a very drinkable beer. Overall, there’s really a unique quality to this brew. It tastes like a living thing, like young homebrew, and I mean that in the best way. I wouldn’t call this a great beer, but it’s certainly an interesting one and something you ought to try if you get the chance.

Your window of opportunity with this beer is going to be brief, though. Central Waters produced just 300 cases of this year's Hop Harvest. The stash of 22 oz bombers that’s on hand at Festival Foods won’t last long and when it’s gone that’ll be the end of it for us here in Oshkosh.