Friday, December 31, 2010

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale 2010

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Chico, California, USA

American IPA

6.80% ABV

Commercial Description:
Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale represents a time honored tradition of brewing a special beer for the holiday season. There are generous portions of barley malts and fine whole hops of several varieties, creating a brew with a full, rich and hearty character.

General Pricing:
12oz bottles: 8.00 6 pack, ~$15 12 pack
24oz bottle ~$3.30

I have had this many times before. It seems to be a staple around the Fresh Hop and Holiday beer seasons. I did review this last year but I have noticed that each year is slightly different. Some years it seems hoppier than others. After talking to the local rep at a beer tasting I realized that this is a Fresh Hop ale. It could be that the differences I’m detecting are the differences in the hop crops each year. At any rate this year’s vintage reminded me more of how I remembered this beer a few years ago; more balanced with a good malt background. So I thought this beer deserved a 2010 vintage review. I also have a 24oz bottle from last year in the beer cabinet. I thought last year was too hoppy and wanted to see what happens to the hops when cellared for a year. I’ll be reviewing that shortly.

The beer pours a clear copper, well more like an amber with ruby hues and a fairly rich off white to light tan head. This beer is also highly carbonated with lots of tiny bubbles rising up from the bottom of the glass.

The nose is delightful with caramel malt aromas and the most pleasant hop complexity. The interesting hop aromas on the nose of this beer are rich with pine, citrus and floral notes.

OH MAN is that good! I am not a hop head and American IPA’s are my least favorite craft beer but this one works for me. It has the malt flavors of a good amber ale with a very unique whole hop bite that is not overpoweringly bitter. I really like these fresh hop beers. You get the bite from the hops but you also get a wonderful floral complexity from the whole hop that is lost when the hops are pelletized. So let me attempt a better play by play.

The experience starts out with a caramel malt sweetness up front on the tip of the tongue. Next you experience effervescence over the tongue in the middle of the sip. There is also a slight building hop bitterness as you get to the back-end. The back-end is surprisingly still easy drinking but there is a little effort in the swallow. The building hop bitterness anticipated from the middle of the sip grows stronger and finally materializes toward the end of the swallow into the finish. The finish is where it all comes together. There is a virtual explosion of hop flavors coming out of the swallow. These whole hop flavors are amazing but never overpowering. The finish is full with of pine, citrus and floral fresh hop flavors. There is also a nice malt background that does not get lost with all of the wonderful fresh hop flavors. There is a lingering aftertaste but this is not as bitter as most American IPA’s.

The head on this beer has not quit. It has diminished to a nice protective layer over the top of the beer with a decent ring around the glass and very impressive lacing.

This really is a good beer. I like the whole hop flavors; they are complex in the fact that they are not just one note. There are at least three different hop flavors that come out of this beer and best of all they are not overpowering or overly bitter.

Well this is the last one of these that I have and now it’s gone.

I’m really not sure why I like this beer so much. I guess I’m impressed when an IPA is not all one note; bitter hops. This Fresh Hop IPA is nicely balanced. The beer maintains it’s malt background along with the hop bitterness.

I’m going for an A for this year’s vintage. This beer maintains a nice caramel malt background with a very interesting multitude of hop flavors. This fresh hop ale is sure to please even those of us that are not hop heads.

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