Sierra Nevada Brewing has long been a pioneer in the use of hops. They’re the largest purchaser/user of whole cone hops in the world, enabling them to get first pick of the best hops. They created one of the very first wet hop/fresh hop ales, now known as Northern Hemisphere Harvest. They’re one of the first to introduce the hops of New Zealand to the United States with their Southern Hemisphere Harvest. Needless to say, Sierra Nevada known what it’s doing when it comes to our aromatic green friends.
In 2014, Sierra Nevada announced they’d be expanding their Harvest series to include some fun single varietal beers. The first beer of year is the newly released Yakima #291 Hops. 291 is an experimental hop developed for Sierra Nevada. If you’re unfamiliar with the number name of a hop, most experimental hops start out life as a number until it’s been decided they’re worthy of a name. Citra, Mosaic, & Simcoe, amongst others, all started out life as a number before going on to brewing fame fortune.
291, as is the case in most single hop beers, is used for both bittering and finishing and comes in at 55 IBU. The malt bill is fairly simple to keep the emphasis on the hops: pale and a bit of caramel.
Appearance: Pale gold, off white head, great retention.
Aroma: Fruity, apricots, straw, blueberry, floral notes, cracker undertones.
Taste: Straw, blueberry, crackers, a bit of spice/pepper in the finish with a touch of dankness.
Overall Impression: The 55 IBUs is designed to let the aromas and flavors come out without overwhelming you with bitterness. It’s dry and crisp with just a light touch of bitterness. The 291 hop worked well for both bittering and flavor/aroma. It’s really lovely hop with some subtle and unique characteristics that will probably be making its way into more beers. I’ve been a big fan of Sierra Nevada’s Harvest series beers for a while, and I’m glad to see an expansion of the lineup. #291 is certainly an excellent entrant into that lineup and one that most hop lovers, both fanatical and casual, will surely enjoy.
Availability: Nationally at better beer stores.