From the outside, it looks like any other semi-rundown convenience store, sure to pedal in porno, smokes, over-priced half gallons of milk, and brown-bag clad 40s. It kind of looks like that from the inside, too, I guess, but we're getting off-track. The point is that D&Q is quite possibly Houston's best bottle shop (please correct me if I'm wrong), located in a nondescript Richmond Avenue dive in the shadow of Spur 527. If you haven't been, and you like beer, go.
My first visit yielded a few nice selections, including a couple of lonely castoff bottles of Saint Arnold DR #11, and the lovely branded glass in which I enjoyed a bottle of Aventinus Eisbock. Clearly, I'm not writing about those, though. I'm writing about Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Hop Ale. I've since seen it elsewhere, but I saw it first at D&Q.
The schtick here is that this beer is brewed with freshly harvested hops, flown from their Oceania-ic home just days off the vine. I must admit that I took slightly anal-retentive exception to the label "Fresh Hop Ale," since the label itself tells you the hops are dried before shipment. I guess "Freshly Dried Hop Ale" just didn't have the same ring to it.
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My 24 oz. bottle poured a kind of coppery gold, with a hazy body and moderate carbonation that produced a nice, creamy taupe head. The head quickly succumbed to its own cratered lack of surface tension, reducing to a full cap that left thick and slightly scummy lacing down the glass.
The hops are very noticeable from the second the liquid leaves the bottle, and I almost have to retract my pointless snark about the very connotative use of the word "fresh." For lack of a better term, the difference between the aroma of this and most other aggressively hopped beers is just that, an element of "freshness." The first whiff was bright green young pine, followed by a bit of grass, grapefruit zest, and a hind of medium roasted malt.
That piney element repeats in the taste, again tasting green and bright. It's a fitting match to the fairly aggressive bitterness, which comes on quickly. The bitter edge seems to highlight the alcohol, making the moderate 6.7 ABV seem quite a bit higher. Pineapple and other tropical fruits add balance, and some caramel malt undertones provide a sounding board off of which all those flavors bounce. At the very end, there's a slightly musky floral note, kind of like damp roses. My wife said she tasted nothing but dirty pennies.
My wife's oddly tuned palate aside, the "fresh" hops schtick is a bit more than that, showing a much bigger and more obvious impact than I expected. I'm not sure that I'd buy this in bulk, but I'd certainly drink it again, and it has me very interested in searching out other "fresh hop" brews. Anyone out there have any to recommend?