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Beer #3 – January 3, 2010: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

January 3, 2010

Beer: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

Brewery:  Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA

Style: India Pale Ale

Serving Type: Bottle

Price: $7.99 to $9.99 / 6-pack

Availability: Winter Seasonal

Glassware: Mug

Strength: 6.8% ABV (alcohol by volume)

Drinkability: Years ago, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (the brewery’s flagship beer) seemed mouth-puckeringly bitter to me, so I would never think of trying the more aggressively hopped Celebration Ale.  Hoppy beers, with their relative bitterness, are an acquired taste for some, but well worth developing a taste for.

Tasting Notes

Appearance:  Celebration has a nice coppery-amber hue with a foamy white head, but what strikes me is the constant flow of bubbles of carbonation rising to the top of my glass.

Aroma: If you ever want a true sense of the hops of the Pacific Northwest (in particular, Cascade and Centennial hops), you will smell it here.  Pine tree and tangy citrus dominate the aroma.  While the IPA style is an unusual choice for a Winter Seasonal, the aroma is appropriately reminiscent of a Christmas tree!

Mouthfeel:  Celebration has a thick & full mouthfeel, with a moderate but balanced carbonation.

Taste: The initial biscuit and slightly sweet bready flavor swiftly dissipates into a tangy middle of pine sap, grapefruit and orange rind with herbal and grassy notes and just a little clover honey.  It finishes with flavors of walnut shells and lemon pits, leaving a tanginess on your tongue.  Overall, relatively dry, yet balanced given the predominance of hop flavors and bitterness.

Pairings: India Pale Ales (IPAs), with their relatively high bitterness, compliment spicy food quite well.  Thai and Mexican cuisine are great choices, but Indian curries are a classic pairing.  Despite “India” in the name, IPAs originated in England, brewed at a higher strength and more aggressively hopped than the common Pale Ale in order to survive the long over-sea voyage to ex-pats in India.

Trivia: Of the four basic ingredients in beer (malted barley, water, yeast and hops), hops are the most recent innovation, possibly initially used as early as 700 AD, but became a standard ingredient in German beers in the 1500’s.  Before hops, brewers used various herbs and spices to both help preserve beer and to add contrast to the sweetness of the malted barley.  Hops, with their high acidity, were discovered to be both a great natural preservative and a source of bitter flavors.  And a little hops go a long way: for every few pounds of malted barley or grain, only ounces of hops are typically used.  This potent little flower of the Humulus plant forever changed beer as we know it.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 31, 2010 10:38 pm

    This is another one of my favorites.

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