Friday Froth: Love The Harvest

James Gribbon

Screw pumpkin beer and the sell sheet it rode in on. Screw it in September, and double-dog screw it in August, when I first start seeing it in stores. The fact I wasn't arrested for petty vandalism last month is a minor miracle. If you complain about summer being over to soon while ordering a late fall seasonal I hope you step in something wet while wearing socks. Such are the depths of my disdain. 

I say all this, even though I don't dislike pumpkin beers as such, because the end of summer and early fall are excellent times for beer. Hops and grain are both being harvested this time of year, and I encourage you to take full advantage of the brilliant little season between light, summer beers, and the heavy, spiced beers of winter, because that middleground is fertile, delicious,and short-lived. Let's do this.

"Drink NOW," says the label of Victory Harvest Ale. I agree. Victory adds Citra and Mosaic hops to the beer in their fresh or "wet" state, straight from the bine. (Yep: "bine," not "vine.") Whole-cone hops are usually dried before they're used in beer, and most beers are made with a pelletized version of hops (which is completely fine, btw), but this is a beer made with the original, sticky article. 

Harvest pours a dark, crystal clear amber, with wonderfully deep, sweet and piney aromas coming off those designer hops. It has a very light mouthfeel, and the malts are completely surrounded by that resinous flavor, but without much bitterness at all. It's such a surprising beer, because you may look at the deep color and the piles of frothy head and expect chewy malts, but what you get is an easy sipper with a mouthful of hops. My notes stop at "what a beer." Victory beers aren't hard to find, and they don't make much of Harvest, so drink it now, while you can. 

Up in Oxford, Conn., Black Hog Brewing is making a series of beers made specifically to showcase individual hops. They're calling it The Hop Collective (so, yes "THC") and each uses an identical American Pale Ale recipe and hop schedule, but just one single hop variety per release. I recently had The Hop Collective CTZ, made with a hop which is a Mendelian hybrid of Columbus, Tomahawk and Zeus strains. I've actually mentioned it once before here in February of last year for its use in Smuttynose's spring seasonal, Durty.   

THC CTZ's visible stats don't jump out, at first: 5.5%, less than perfectly transparent amber, blah, blah. But then there's that big, sticky head, and an earthy aroma which doesn't quite boom, but kind of crackles above the glass before sucker punching your tongue like Floyd Mayweather's home life.

The hops are immense. Hunter Thompson wasn't dosed this heavily on an average weekday. They are woodsy, earthy, shirefolk kind of hops, and I like them Vera Moosh. I'm also sometimes in a mood to gather some fresh springwater into a Vitamix pitcher and drink a pelletized hop smoothie, so that's where I was when I drank this one from Black Hog. Consider where your head's at before you order this one, but again - do it soon. The brewers suggest pairing it with BBQ, spicy food, or game meats, and I think it would hold up to anything you throw at it. 

GAH! Enough with the hops! OK, OK - I have something special for you, especially if you're being good and not drinking something with a jack-o-lantern on it in 90º heat. 

Wild Beer Co. is an English brewer making some remarkably interesting ales. I've written about them before in Froth, and their Sommerset Wild is another of my favorites. Not to be confused with their Sommerset Saison, "Wild" is fermented using yeast and bacteria gathered from the orchards which are ubiquitous in the area. The brewers say "Somerset Wild is a beer that shows how much we love working with our environment and the seasons to produce idiosyncratic beers that leave you questioning your perceptions."

It is incredibly light and clear for a wild beer, and looks more like a cider in the glass. Wild has an unmistakable sourness to the nose, but it is so summery and bright on first sip. There's an acidity and feel more like a dry white wine here, and the starches have been converted so fully the malt has almost vanished. Sommerset Wild is amazing as a summer sundown drink, and a glass of it could easily replace champagne or prosecco in most situations. Being English, the brewers have suggested it as a pairing with oily fish, like sardines or mackerel, but my favorite idea they have is drinking it with ceviche. I'm dying to try that match-up. 

It makes me wonder what kind of food and beer pairings you have loved or discovered - what are you doing out there? Let me know here in the comments, or at @GribWrites on twitter.

See you out there.