Beer Review 0004: Sierra Nevada Celebration

It’s New Year’s Eve, so it’s time for a Celebration, isn’t it? Time to celebrate the leaving of a mediocrely-dreadful 2010 (at least for me) and the arrival of a fresh and new 2011 — I couldn’t think of a better way than by cracking a bottle of Sierra Nevada’s Celebration.

Celebration is an India Pale Ale brewed once seasonally (winter) that uses the first hops of the growing season. According to the bottle, those hops are all of the whole cone American variety. The bottle is marked 2010 vintage and I’m told each year’s batch is just a little different.

Put on your hopglasses and get those faces ready to squish. The spectrophotometer registers this beer as 65 IBU. Okay, so not quite the most bitter thing out there, but respectable.

Celebration pours a rusty amber color and forms not only an impressive but what one could describe as a nearly perfect head. Be careful of an aggressive pour or you’ll lose some beer on this one. The head starts massive and slowly shrinks to maybe an inch, hangs for awhile and then disappears to a creamy foam overtop the drink. The lacing is very good, it sticks to the glass all the way down. I noted the beer to be slightly cloudy when first poured but it cleared up within a few minutes. The coloring itself is not impressive and looks a little sickly.

As one would expect, this one is a hop bomb. The complexity in the hops is outstanding; I found heavy citrus flavors that leaned more on the tart side (grapefruit and lemon) paired with herbs, perfume and a subtle pine. I also got some malts which were more prevalent on the palate than in the nose. Toasted and roasted character was abound with a caramel and slightly nutty aroma.

Touching tongue to ale presents a malty base with that wonderful toasty caramel immediately present before transitioning into the citrus hit and pine kick. The mouthfeel was delightfully creamy while carbonation was soft to flat. The finish was disappointingly average in duration and started great with hints of perfume, lemon and pine but left me with a soapy, almost cologne-like flavor in my mouth.

At 6.8% alcohol by volume (ABV), this is nowhere near strong, but for some reason the alcohol kick in Celebration can definitely be felt and warms the entire body, perfect for the season of its release and snowy log cabin pictured on the bottle.

I awarded this beer a 12 in appearance noting an impressive head and a 13 in aroma for complexity of hops and subtle use of malt. Flavor and palate earned 28 points, taking some off for the soapy flavor I got on the finish. Overall drinkability comes also at a 28, this being a beer I think most hopheads will adore, but not being a beverage suitable for all night drinking nor for the faint beer drinker at heart.

While Celebration had some low points, I did enjoy the beer and will return again in 2011 to test the theory that each year’s first hop harvest produces a unique beer.

Sierra Nevada Celebration: 81 points. Price: $7.99 US for six pack.

So where are hops most likely to be grown in the United States? The Yakima River Valley in Washington state and Willamette Valley in Oregon.

And watch out: hops are toxic to dogs, causing hyperthermia, or elevated body temperature.


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