It's a little hard to remember that Americans once merely tolerated hops. Sierra Nevada was one of the pioneers in teaching us to enjoy the flavor, and a few years ago it produced this hoppy extreme, brewed with the fresh herb, harvested just 24 hours earlier. The effect is a startling burst of hop flavor, almost dank with heady, resinous aroma. It's a seasonal brew, so it will go out of stock, but good news: Sierra Nevada will produce another Harvest Lager (Southern Hemisphere) in about six months.
It pours amber with a big head. As you'd expect, the nose positively explodes with pine, citrus and herbal aromas, and the palate is bitter-sweet (it's up in IPA territory, 60 to 65 International Bittering Units). There's certainly enough malt to balance the hops, but they gradually dry up all the sweetness in the quite long finish.
Like an IPA, this would go well with grilled meats, spicy dishes and seafood — shrimp poached in beer is a no-brainer — but the hop aroma is so intoxicating you'll probably just sip it by itself. The bottle holds 24 ounces, rather than the usual 22.
Style: The apotheosis of hops, practically a hop liqueur
Price: $4.50 to $5.50 per 24-ounce bottle
Where to find it: Wally's Wine & Spirits in Los Angeles, (310) 475-0606, http://www.wallywine.com; Wade's Wines in Westlake Village, (818) 597-9463, http://www.wadeswines.com; Red Carpet Wine, 400 E. Glenoaks Blvd., Glendale, (800) 339-0609, http://www.redcarpet wine.com; and Total Wine, http://www.totalwine.com; and Beverages and More, http://www.bevmo.com stores.