Tasting Notes: 2014 Harvest Ale

A month ago I brewed a wet-hop ale using cascade hops I grew in my ya balard and a mix of 2-row, crystal 40 and chocolate malt. A month later and this beer has peaked. So how did it turn out?

Aroma: The cascade notes were not as strong as I expected; in their place is a more generic hop aroma. The normal citrus and resin notes are there, but faint. There is a clear malt note running along side the hops.

Appearance: I forgot to take a picture, but this beer is brown-red; a little darker than I had planned, but the red hue is quite enjoyable. The beer pours with a creamy white head that lasts the whole pint (and well into the second).

Flavour: This beer has a fatal flaw – in my planning of the beer I forgot what I was trying to implement. I like crystal malt character, and so I built a malt base to emphasize that – forgetting the goal was to let the fresh hops be the lead actor. The malt character is fantastic; a creamy beer with sweet crystal notes. But the crystal note is strong enough to hide some of the hop character – in another beer this would be a fantastic malty beer, but its not quite what I wanted. I also overshot the hops; as with the aroma the hop character doesn’t scream “cascade”, but instead is a mix of more generic hop tones, underlayed by a bit of an astringent vegetal character. I think that vegetal character is a sign that the amounts of hops I added was excessive, meaning next year I may drop 100g or so of the wet hops from the hop bill.

Mouthfeel: This is spot-on. Medium bodied, medium carbonation and smooth on the tongue. Dead-on for any sort of English-style pale ale or stronger bitter, but a bit more malty than the American variants.

Overall: This is a really, really good beer. Malty, good balance of bitterness and maltiness. Eminently drinkable, pint after pint. Aside from the mild vegetal character there isn’t much to detract from this beer…except for the fact that the very character I was aiming to emphasize (fresh hop flavours and aromas) have been swamped by an overly aggressive malt bill. The fix here is simple – brew this beer using English hops to make a killer pale ale…and design a different recipe for next years harvest ale.

2 thoughts on “Tasting Notes: 2014 Harvest Ale

  • October 28, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    I'm not sure – the cascades that I dried sure smelled like cascades, but I haven't brewed with them yet so I don't know if that carries through to the kettle. This is my second year for the hops, and last year I didn't get enough to really experiment.

  • October 27, 2014 at 8:34 PM

    One thing I've noticed with Ontario-grown American hops is that they never seem to have the citrusy character as when they are grown on the west coast – maybe this is a result of terroir? I've found across the board that Ontario hops are more spicy and earthy regardless of genetics, but maybe I haven't smelled enough at this point to really make any conclusions. What do you think?


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