As weird as I’m sure this sounds to the other Aleheads, the first time I can remember having Founders Harvest Ale, I wasn’t particularly impressed with it. Maybe it was a little old, and the freshness was past its prime, but for whatever reason I recall the the draft I had came off as muted and kind of confusingly generic.
This is Founders, though–makers of some of the most regularly awesome beers in the world. They’re one of the very few ale factories where if I have a brew from them that is somehow not up to snuff, I make a natural assumption that it’s a bad bottle or a bad day for my taste buds, and not a bad recipe. They’ve earned that level of good faith by making kick-ass beers, year round. And so when I popped the top on this bottle of Harvest Ale, I still had high hopes, despite not thinking it was great before.
I was right to be optimistic.
Founders Harvest Ale, 2011:
NOTES: 12 oz bottle, poured into a tulip glass, from a bottle shop in Champaign.
APPEARANCE: Very light, brilliantly clear, straw gold in color. One of the lighter-colored IPAs around (I think they call it an APA, but it’s 6.5% and 70 IBUs. That’s totally IPA country). About half a finger of white, persistent foam.
NOSE: In a word, “heady.” So much going on here. Very complex, green, grassy aromas. A bit of lemon in there? It smells quite literally like “fresh hops,” which is appropriate. It reminds me of the odor of a baggie of amarillo or cascade hop pellets when I’ve just cut them open before pouring them into the homebrew kettle.
TASTE: There’s only a token presence of honeyed or light caramel malt, and the rest is just all hops, citrusy and grassy, green hops. There’s no attempt at balance–it’s almost comically lopsided in favor of the hops. The beer is a vehicle for delivering lupulin to your tongue. It’s pretty intense–significantly more strongly flavored than I had remembered.
MOUTHFEEL: Medium bodied with quite a lot of bitterness. There’s just not much malt to counteract the bitterness, and it’s very assertive and lingers for a long while. I can almost feel it eroding my enamel.
DRINKABILITY: Moderate. People who love really fresh, hoppy beers could throw back a few, but those who need more balanced brews would probably only want one. It’s rich in that way of really hoppy beers where the intense hop flavors are almost sweet.
SCORE: 3.5 hops. An intense, in-your-face brew that was, predictably, much better than I previously remembered. A must-try for hopheads, without a doubt. Maybe the best fresh-hop beer that I’ve had. Certainly one of the most strongly flavored fresh-hop brews.