As the name of this brew from Tröegs suggests, this is a very hoppy ale. The drinker almost doesn’t need the sketch of hop flowers on the bottle in order to envision them. They’re in the flavor.
That’s how it ought to be with beers that have the word “harvest” in their name. They ought to bring you back to a time when the ingredients provided the flavor, when our ancestors could nearly feel the soil on their hands and the sweat on their brows as they ate or drank the fruits of their labor.
The brewer’s “food complements” suggestions tacitly capture that aesthetic. The suggestion of “strong flavors,” however, doesn’t quite describe what’s needed. “Natural, earthy flavors” would be better. “Garlic, onion, and ginger” don’t complement the Harvest Ale because they’re strong (the hops are strong enough!), but because they have a strong association between the flavor and its source.
If you’re selecting a meal to go with this beer (which is naturally the proper order of priorities), think first of things that bring to mind our agricultural heritage. Long grains and steak aren’t necessarily “strong” flavors, but they’re identifiable flavors. Nature provides its own complements, after all.
And if you’re selecting a second beer to follow, go with something sweeter, maltier, and more alcoholic, like a tripel or a dopplebach. Hop Knife is 6.2% alcohol by volume; something stronger would be a good complement, indeed! (But I’m mainly advising on balance of the flavors, of course.)
The Tröegs brewery is in Hershey, Pennsylvania, which is far enough south that the autumn may not yet be so advanced in knocking the leaves off trees. Maybe the pumpkins don’t feel quite so rotten on the front step and the morning didn’t bring snow, instead of frost.
Even up here in New England, though, where it feels past time for the harvest (and the final mowing of the lawn), some weeks remain to cultivate a sense of heritage. After all, it takes time to brew and consume what one has harvested, and if it doesn’t last through the winter, we’re in trouble.