Celebration Ale is a seasonal winter brew from the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in the US. Rumour has it that due to this beers high popularity and limited release, a black market exists trading in the older vintages of Celebration Ale. I randomly spotted this beer in the bottle shop of a local restaurant – considering this is a limited release brew in the US, I feel very fortunate to have snagged one locally! This is beer #81 off the epic list (technically the beer on the list is the 2008 vintage, but I think this is the closest I will get…unless I explore the black-market rumour further).
The bottle says:
The label features a winter scene; a lone timber cottage nestled amongst some pine trees, all of which are covered in snow. Add to this a deep red border featuring red flowers and fresh green hop cones, and it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. A passage on the neck reveals that this beer is 2010 vintage fresh hop ale, brewed for the holidays using the first whole cone American hops of the season. Overall the labels don’t give the impression that this is a sessionable beer; I think I’d only ever buy one of these at a time and only during winter.
The Celebration Ale pours with a thick creamy head that has a slight amber colouration to it. The colour of the body is slightly murky dark amber with lots of carbonation visible. You can tell that it’s a very hoppy ale as its being poured; there’s a big resin aroma coupled with some grapefruit, with a little malt sweetness hiding in the background. The flavour follows the aroma, with an initial creamy caramel flavour which is quickly overtaken by some grapefruit bitterness. This bitterness last on the back of the tongue for ages and pushes right to the brink of unpleasantness, leaving the mouth watering a little afterwards. It’s hard to ID specific flavours –time to let it warm up a bit…
…Now we’re talking
The hop aromas have turned more towards orange peel, and the sweet malt has grown in intensity to show off some toffee and cinnamon scents – now it’s starting to smell like Christmas too. All the flavours have opened up and gained some balance. The biscuity-caramel malt flavours are more prominent and the bitterness has been reigned in. The aftertaste is also more rounded; it’s creamy and inviting with a nice soft mouthfeel. The head has lasted until the end with good lacing down the glass.
This ‘holiday’ beer works to highlight the difference between Christmas in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, and how they’re celebrated. I could picture myself enjoying this beer slowly, warming myself next to a fireplace while snow falls softly outside; perfect for a typical Northern hemisphere Christmas. The Australian alternative involves standing next to a BBQ trying in vain to cool yourself down by drinking your preferred brew; Celebration Ale wouldn’t cut it in this situation. Though it would give me an excuse to celebrate Christmas in July next year…