Brewery: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
City: Chico, CA
Beer: Celebration Ale
Style: India Pale Ale (IPA)
Notes: bitter, earthy hops, roasted malt, oak and brown sugar
Fresh Hop Ale
Typically, hops are harvested in early September and then dried in kilns and often pressed into pellets to prevent the plant from spoiling too soon after harvest. However, for some lucky brewers, such as Sierra Nevada, who actually grow a large portion of their hops in house, the whole flower can be brewed into the beer. This makes for a very special brew that can be defined as a ‘wet hop’ or ‘fresh hop’ ale.
While the drying process serves to preserve the hops, it also causes the conical flowers to loose some of their essential oils that provide an extra-special fragrance and taste. When a beer is described as having a floral aroma, it is generally due to the addition of wet hops.
Sierra Nevada brews this beer especially for the holidays, featuring the first hops of the growing season in Chico, CA. This beer is worth celebrating because it has been brewed with fresh conical hops instead of usual hop-pellets adding a unique dimension to an already fantastic brew. If you have never enjoyed beer brewed with fresh hop flowers, pick this one up off the shelf, you should be able to find it in most states in the U.S.
The Celebration Ale pours a dark copper and red color. The color is so exquisite, you know its going to taste right too. The head is tan colored, but almost green. It’s not well fluffed and looks similar to the foam one might find at the top of a fermentation tank. The foam is almost crystallized as opposed to the fluffiness of the Dupont Avec les Bon Voeux.
At first whiff, this beer unveils its floral hops. Particularly, these are earthy and reminiscent of dirt (in a good way). The smell is then complimented with hints of sweetness derived from brown sugar and mildly roasted malt. Overall, the smell is smooth and inviting, but in no way overpowering like some wet hop beers can be.
Similar to this beer’s aroma, this flavor delivers a healthy dose of earthy hops. Then the roasted pale malt and subtle dark toffee take over. The beer then finishes refreshingly dry making this beer surprisingly sessionable for an IPA. The aftertaste is notably light and leaves your pallet craving more. Overall the beer maintains a balanced bitter flavor from start to finish.
Compared to previous years that I’ve tasted, the 2010 Celebration Ale is far more subdued. As expected this Celebration Ale is sessionable, but it lacks the full breadth of bitterness that last year’s ales provided. Nonetheless this beer is a must for any holiday party you attend – a true crowd pleaser, but reflects your necessity for good beer.
Where Can I Find this Beer?
Almost anywhere. Sierra Nevada distributes to almost all 50 states. This beer can be found in most chain super markets such as Safeway, Albertsons, and Whole Foods. Enjoy!
Stay tuned tomorrow for the 4th Day of Christmas!