4.6AROMA 10/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 9/10 PALATE 5/5 OVERALL 18/20
When beer geeks think of winter and/or Christmas beers we tend to associate the season with very spicy dark lagers and ale, but Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale is a beer that completely disavows itself from that notion. This is an outstanding beer with a bit (and I do mean a bit) of berry flavor and spice, but it’s still an American India Pale Ale at its core. In fact, it’s almost a shame that it’s only seasonal since I could drink this year-round.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
It’s clear that Celebration Ale is a beer that intends to break the mold from the get-go. It pours to a dark amber/light color which is very hazy with tiny sediment particles floating in the body. This is odd given this is not a body-conditioned beer, but most likely it’s just not a completely-filtered brew. It forms a generous two-finger, slightly off-white frothy head which lasts throughout the life of the beer and leaves significant lacing on the glass all the way down.
The aroma is extremely inviting with a strong presence of hops and flowery scents. It’s a botanical garden and a biergarten all in one! It’s slightly citrus, but the strong bitterness that will be present in the palate makes itself known immediately in the nose.
There’s a certain taste I like to experience in a great IPA and as soon as Celebration Ale hit my tongue I knew I had another great beer on my hands. There’s a false notion that IPAs, while intense in flavor, are actually simple beers, but that’s not true here. As strong as the floral aroma was, it carries over to the palate so that the beer actually tastes like flowers. I also detect a slightly fruity taste on the backend, not citrus, but something closer to a berry flavor (cranberry and/or strawberry).
Not surprisingly this is a very bitter beer. Sierra Nevada’s website indicates that it weighs in at 65 on the International Bitterness Units scale. That’s perfect I think as it gives the beer a strong hop bite and a bit of a hop crispness as it finishes. It leaves a dry, bitter, but hoppy aftertaste as these hops appear to be stubborn and listless. Each swig brings joy to my mouth.
As much as I love IPAs and bitter, hoppy beers in general, it’s occurred to me that not everyone can handle their intensity. I’d say that’s probably true of Celebration Ale, although I must mention the fact I was genuinely impressed by how drinkable it truly is. The mouthfeel is thick, sticky and rather heavy, and despite the strong bitter and dry palate, it goes down very smooth. I liked it so much I purposely drank it in smaller sips in order to savor the flavor. The berry taste only seems to make itself known in the finish and lingers momentarily in the aftertaste.
At 6.8% ABV, this is about average in weight for an IPA as well as winter seasonal. It would work very well with a hearty dinner, as a session brew, or an “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” treat.
I really appreciate Sierra Nevada’s gusto to make a Christmas-themed beer that is unlike most, if not ALL, other beers of the season. At about $10 a six-pack it’s a very wise investment and I highly recommend it.