Fresh Hop Showdown. Driftwood Sartori Harvest IPA vs. Hoyne Wolf Vine Pale Ale

The competitors
The competitors

As I sit in front of a retina scorching monitor there’s a 3 year old waging physiological warfare on me from the top of the stairs. It’s bedtime, or at least it’s supposed to be bedtime. My little “princess” has become quite a manipulator when it comes to going to sleep every night and try as I might I can’t seem to crack the code of getting her to agree with me. I’ve run into a similar situation while comparing 2 fresh hopped, limited run beers from a couple of fantastic Vancouver Island breweries. One is an IPA, it is wildly popular and causes good people to do bad things to obtain it upon its release every year. The other is a Pale Ale that is from a less “popular” brewery and doesn’t generate anywhere near the buzz that the IPA does and it puzzles me. I’m going to make some of you mad with this post, I don’t care.

Sartori Harvest IPA
Sartori Harvest IPA

Driftwood Brewing‘s Sartori Harvest is the darling of the BC craft beer scene. Its name alone sends shivers down the spine of hop heads all over the south west corner of our little country. It is a fantastic beer, this is a fact I can attest to having sampled it for the past 3 years upon its release. It has changed from year to year and in my ever so humble opinion it was at its best in 2011. This year it was slightly better than last year but not by much. Here’s the thing, is Sartori Harvest a better IPA than Driftwood’s Fat Tug? I know a lot of you will point to ratebeer.com and say “Scott, you idiot, look at the numbers!” Well, the thing with ratebeer.com and any other site like it is that the ratings are user generated and thus not a true representation of a beers true value/rating. A once a year limited run beer like Sartori Harvest is bound to get glowing reviews because it’s in demand and supply is short, simple math.

Wolf Vine Wet Hopped Pale Ale
Wolf Vine Wet Hopped Pale Ale

Hoyne Brewing‘s Wolf Vine Wet Hopped Pale Ale is the red headed stepchild of the fresh hop season. Often being given poor ratings and receiving it’s fair share of negative backlash in the craft beer community. Is it deserved? No effing way, this beer is fantastic. BC has a major beer boner for IPA’s and Wolf Vine is not an IPA, it’s a Pale Ale which is a very different style of beer. When I read what some so called “beer experts” have to say about this beer it makes me want to scream. I hear the word “diacetyl” thrown around a lot when it comes to this beer and quite frankly I think you’re all a little over your heads trying to say that you can recognize an organic compound used to produce a buttery flavour over the proper use of malts in a proper pale ale. What cicerone course did you attend? Oh right, the same one as everyone else, none at all. Wolf Vine is NOT AN IPA, I really think a lot of you to read that a few times and let it sink in.

So here’s my verdict. Sartori Harvest is a fantastic beer, a true west coast IPA that makes great use of the fresh hops available during hop harvest season. However, it is not the best IPA in town and Driftwood’s own Fat Tug is proof of that (along with a few others but it really is splitting hairs on a few of them). In this showdown it makes the most pronounced use of these wonderful hops and I will be very sad when my last bottle is gone.

Wolf Vine is a stellar Pale Ale with a more subtle use of fresh hops but they add a certain delicate balance to this beer that’s very addictive. This year’s Wolf Vine is a marked improvement over last years and if the trend continues into next year this beer will be truly legendary. The strong caramel malt backbone and the fresh hops are a magic combination that elevates this humble pale ale to the status of David as he slays Goliath, a true giant killer.

Wolf Vine takes the 2013 WFLBC Fresh Hop Showdown Crown. I’ll be keeping an eye out for fresh hop releases from other local breweries and I plan on comparing them as well.  I await the hoards of sheep that like to follow the heard to tell me how wrong I am.

Scott.

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