Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Hop Harvest

Central Waters Brewing Company
Amherst, WI

Style: American Pale Ale

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

An ode to fall:

Dearest autumn, what hath thou done? Wheres’t did thou go? Foreth September was warm and bountiful, buteth October hath brought a desolate chill. Whereth did thy autumn go? Dids’t thou not care to grace us with thy presence? Does’t thou hateth Nigel? Whyeth do you bringeth snow in October? Whereth is our Indian summer? Did thoust killeth the Indians? Does’t the collage of colors make thou angry? Does’t thou loveth the chill of the north winds? Pity o Nigel, for he is sad.

I’m not exactly sure what I just said, but my point was, as if anyone in the Midwest needed a reminder, that we sort of skipped fall this year. Summer came (finally) in September, and at the end of that month it went from sunny, 70-80° days to cloudy, rainy, windy, 40° days. Thus, Nigel feels as though he missed the harvest, which is one of his favorite times of the year. Woe is me.

This weather report of course has nothing to do with anything, so let’s get to the review. Amherst, Wisconsin-based Central Waters Brewing has released Hop Harvest, a wet hop ale that uses home-grown ingredients to create one of the few fresh hop ales produced in the Midwest. Many West Coast brewers, particularly in northern California, Oregon, and Washington produce wet hop ales (for those of you new to this, that means freshly picked hops that haven’t been dehydrated). But for a state and region not known for large scale hop production, this isn’t easy to find. Founders Harvest Ale is my favorite regional example, but they use hops that are shipped to the brewery in Michigan from the West Coast. Central Waters uses locally grown ingredients, from the hops to the barley, to create a fresh, exclusively Wisconsin brew, and I can’t wait to dig in.

I’ve seen this categorized as both an American pale ale and a golden ale, so there’s a bit of confusion right off the bat, though the two styles have only slight differences. I’m figuring it’s an APA, with the fresh hops being the star of the show. Again, only Wisconsin-grown barley and hand-picked hops are utilized, making this a truly local product.

Hop Harvest pours well, with a boisterous creamy white head about a finger deep that slowly dissipates, leaving a decent pillowy lace at the top throughout with some stickiness on the sides. A wonderful translucent golden brown color with hints of sedimentation and a constant carbonated dance, it’s a beautiful brew in the glass.

The aroma isn’t overwhelmingly hoppy, but it is exactly what I was hoping for. In other words, it’s balanced, pleasant, and reminds me of, well … Wisconsin (clever marketing brainwashes me every time). A mild tinge of hoppy goodness hits the nostrils right away, but it isn’t the powerful zing found in Northwest gold. Rather, this is a more subtle, piney, earthy hop aroma. In perfect synchronization with the hops is the malt, which adds another earthy element. A nice, toasted graininess lingers throughout, with only a slight hint of citrus and no noticeable alcohol. While far from the most powerful aroma I’ve ever experienced, it’s enjoyable nonetheless.

The taste is very good, but not great; I’d simply call it a solid, tasty American pale ale that will please hopheads as well as lovers of balanced brews. An initial bite of hops (mostly piney, with a touch of citrus zest) wanes quickly into the session, giving way to an underlying earthiness that lingers throughout. While the locally grown wet hops may be the headliner in this brew, it’s the locally grown barley that quickly steals the show. An earthy, almost dirty (I don’t mean that in a negative way) flavor pounds the tongue from virtually the beginning to the very end. Typically you expect some fruity notes in a brew utilizing American hops, but that really isn’t the case here. Also scant is any abundance of sugary malt. Sure, some touches of caramel and molasses are present, but they can be difficult to detect. Grainy and earthy are the buzz words with Hop Harvest. Medium bodied and smooth on the palate, there isn’t a listed ABV, but I’m guessing its not too high, making Hop Harvest a nice, drinkable session brew if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s only available in bomber form for a limited time, priced at around $5.

All in all, I really enjoyed Hop Harvest, and I absolutely love the concept. However … as a beer in general, it’s only slightly above average. While I want to give extra props for the local concept, I can’t say much more than it’s a good example of an American pale/golden ale, and a solid three mugger. Check it out for sure as the idea is a textbook example of what craft beer is all about, but don’t expect to be blown away. While extremely balanced and pleasing, it falls short of elite.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on October 27, 2009.
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