The passing of time is a real bastard.
When I was in my 20s I could eat whatever I wanted, exercise not at all and see the needle stop at exactly the same two digits every time. These days, I have to exercise every day and yet I get rewarded with seeing three digits every time I stand on the scales.
Then there’s the issue of receding hair on my head and evolution’s horrible trick of making hair grow out of my ears at exactly the same time as making my eyesight worse so I’m unable to see it in the mirror.
Time hasn’t been kind to Cascade’s First Harvest either (yeah, you were wondering when I’d link this back to beer, weren’t you?). This year is the 12th vintage of the beer made with fresh hops picked and thrown in the brew on the same day. Back when they started out, nobody else in Australia was making hop harvest beers. Hell, it probably wasn’t a big deal anywhere, as Sierra Nevada had only started making theirs five years earlier (in 1996 according to Wikipedia).
But things are different these days. A hop harvest ale isn’t unusual – and you can get any number of hoppy beers all year round.
One things those year-round hopsters and the rival hop harvest beers have done is change the beer lover’s expectations of what the beer should taste like. The hop focus these days is towards the fruity-flowery end of the spectrum – think big and tasty.
Not only can that cause people to think that’s the only flavour hops impart (I know it’s not the case and yet I still expect every beer that promotes its use of hops to have that fruitiness) but the palate can be jaded to other flavours (or, again, that could be just me).
That’s how I came to see the latest edition of First Harvest as a bit staid. And compared to those other loud, fruity, hoppy beers, it is. But then I got to thinking, hey, it should be judged on its own merits – look at it for what it is, not for how it compares to other beers.
On its own, I’d give it a better score. Made with Wellington, Belmont and Field hops, it throws a nutty and slightly caramel flavour. I got hints of spice and even some flintiness too. Overall it’s an easy-drinking ale, more in the English style than the American.
It’s a beer that deserves some respect too, because Cascade was doing hop harvest beers long before it was cool in this country.Also, I reckon I just might need to drink a few more beers like this – just to broaden my education and show myself that hops are about a lot more than tropical fruitiness.