Sierra Nevada Brewing in Chico, Calif.
If this isn't the beer that started it all, it's certainly the oldest of its kind remaining. Back in 1996, Sierra Nevada introduced its first "fresh-hop" or "wet hop" Harvest ale. That was followed by years of arguments about whether a "fresh hop" could ever be a "wet hop" if the harvesting process dries it or if that "wetness" even makes a difference if the fresh oils and resins remain regardless. It was also followed by years of great beer.
The 6.7% ABV Northern Hemisphere Harvest Ale is still made with fresh Cascade and Centennial hops from Yakima, Wash., that go from the vines to the brew kettles in 24 hours. But in 2008 Sierra Nevada began producing a Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale with Pacifica, Motueka and Southern Cross hops flown in from New Zealand.Can you still call that "fresh" when the process of getting hops to the kettle can take as long as two weeks or more? We're not getting into that fray, but will just say that the Northern Hemisphere variety is tough to pass up around this time of year.