Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale 2010 Vs. 2009

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
2009 Vs. 2010
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.
(RateBeer.com)

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

Background:
This is a favorite of mine over the Holidays. This particular tasting will be an aging/cellaring comparison between a 2009 vintage that I have cellared for a year and a current 2010 vintage. I have individually reviewed both years. Last year I thought the 2009 vintage was much hoppier than the previous 2008 year and I wanted to see what the effects of cellaring a bottle for a year would be. Well lest see what effect a year in the beer cabinet make on this 2009 bottle.  

Review:
The 2009 pours with a slightly darker head; still off white but a darker shade than the 2010. The colors of these beers are pretty much identical but the 2009 has a haziness to it that the 2010 does not.

It is also worth noting that there is a good amount of sediment in the bottom of the 2009 bottle. That is somewhat surprising since this is not bottled conditioned.

There is a noticeable difference in the nose of the two vintages. The 2010 has the fresh complex hop aroma but this is subdued in the 2009. The 2009 has much more of a malt background to it. There is still a strong hop presence but that does not dominate the nose as it does on the 2010.

For comparison I’m going to taste the 2010 first and then the 2009.

2010
Clean crisp and refreshing, what a great fresh hop ale.

2009
Wow this is much smoother. It is not as malty as the nose would lead you to believe. This is still an IPA but it is smoother and more balanced than the fresh hop 2010 version is.

I’m really not interested in giving each of these a full review again. I’m going to continue tasting from each glass and appreciate the differences. My initial intent was to see if I would like the 2009 beer better after it aged for a year.

Well I have gone back and forth several times and I have to say that I’m enjoying the aged 2009 bottle more than I am the 2010.

I think I’m going to finish the 2010 bottle first and than savor the 2009. I am really enjoying the balance of the 2009 over the fresh hop bitterness of the 2010. Now you have to keep in mind that I just reviewed the 2010 and really liked it.

Also I must comment that the 2010 seems to be more carbonated. It pours with a much more vigorous head then the 2009 does.

So I’m just drinking the 2010 for now. Man, this is a great little beer. I really do enjoy this fresh hop ale. And I still maintain that I am not a “Hop Head”. But I really do enjoy fresh hop ales and ESB’s. This really is a good fresh hop ale.

Two 24 oz bottles may be a bit much to review by myself. Typically I would have some help with this type of review but my son John is not over tonight. I have to admit that I am only about three glasses into this and I am starting to feel the effects of the alcohol.

I may have noted this before but it is worth mentioning again that this “Celebration Ale” has always been a Fresh Hop Ale but it wasn’t until the 2010 labeling that it was noted as such. I think that is way I find such a difference from one year to another. I really think that is the difference in that years hop harvest. Or I could be imagining the whole thing.

Sorry for the babble. I’m just about finished the 2010 bottle.

Well, this is interesting I just poured the last few ounce out of the 2010 bottle and it is much cloudier, well, more hazy than cloudy but none the less I am surprised that there was any sediment in the 2010 bottle. I would not call it lees but there is sediment in the bottom of the 2010 bottle.

The end of this hazy glass with some sediment does have a more chalky taste to it. It does not have that fresh hop crispness to it.

I really must also comment that the lacing on both of these vintages has been quite impressive.

2009
After sipping the 2010 excessively I can really tell how much maltier the 2009 is. Also the 2009 has really opened now that it has warmed up a bit.

This is much more soothing, dare I say, comforting, than the 2010.  

Well, I may have to take back the idea that the 2010 was more carbonated. The 2009 is also pouring with a nice head.

I must say that the increased malt presence and the downgrading of the hops in the one year of cellaring has really been note worthy.

I’m not going to give this a letter grade but I must admit that I liked the 2009 vintage better after cellaring it for a year. Now a real Hop Head would have the opposite findings in this experiment because of the lowing of the hop presence.

The overall style did not really change but the subset of the style definitely did. I would still call this aged brew an American IPA but I would not call it a Fresh Hop IPA. At any rate I’m glad I did this. I’m going to look for more cellaring opportunities.

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