I recently went to Los Angeles to visit Belly Buddy Brian Bailey who has been living there hoping to hit it big with his own TV show (aptly titled Brian’s Belly). It’s obvious to a born-and-raised New Yorker that the Heat Miser is in charge of Los Angeles- even at Christmastime. As you may recall from the old Rankin & Bass animagic Christmas special “The Year Without a Santa Claus,” the Freeze Miser tries to send a little snow to Southtown every year- and every year his dastardly hot-headed brother the Heat Miser turns it into rain. In L.A. rain begats mudslides and economic standstill, but that isn’t the point of why I reminded you of this… the lack of snow, or cold weather for that matter, made it feel less like the winter I am used to.
It was there, on a warm 72 degree December afternoon that I discovered Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale.
This seasonal brew from the folks in Chico, CA is very much unlike other winter brews in that it lacks the traditional stuff you would find in such a beer… like nutmeg, cinnamon (and all kinds of fruity flavors you may find in the Samuel Adams Winter Sampler Pack for example). Instead, it can be defined as a very hoppy brew.
But the first impression that we had after trying a pitcher of this beer was not very positive. Perhaps it was the warm day, a dirty tap or the plastic cups (yikes!). But knowing that all of these things were quite plausible benefactors, I decided to hold off on an opinion. I will say however that it went well with the cajun cuisine we enjoyed at the Farmer’s Market.
Luckily for me, Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale seems to be making the rounds this year and I found it in several beer distributors when I got back to New York. A frosty mug and a properly chilled bottle in a comfortable NY christmas environment made this brew worthwhile after all.
This beer includes several types of hops in generous portions. Since my taste buds are not nearly as refined as Belly Buddy Mark Stevens, I had to refer to the Sierra Nevada website to find out that the recipe includes chinook, cascade and centennial hops. What does this mean to us? Well, it means that this beer is strong and quite bitter. The alcoholic content of this India Pale Ale is also rather strong at 6.8% by volume. It is certainly not the heaviest of all the seasonal winter brews, but it is also not a lightweight. However, some might say that it is simply an IPA masquerading as a Christmas ale.
The copper, or burnt-orange color it displays when poured rivals only it’s head… at least some of it’s 1/4 inch froth stayed with me all the way to the bottom of the glass. There is a citrus taste and aroma to this brew, no doubt caused by one (or some) of the hops. Although the hops are strong, the beer retains a generous malt balance. The Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale is a bigger, more bad-ass version of their famous Pale Ale, so if you enjoy one you will no doubt enjoy the other- and if you enjoy IPA’s, you will definitely enjoy this beer.
Since a winter brew is typically crafted to offer some winter warmth I can’t see myself enjoying this on a warm day and perhaps the lack of a proper winter in Los Angeles is what threw off my initial sampling. But I did enjoy it back here in New York which is currently under control of the Freeze Miser and has lights on PINE trees not PALM trees.
This beer is not crafted for the average drinker. It is a bitter ale that will please hop lovers and cause Budweiser fans to cringe in it’s glory. Since Sierra Nevada is a macro-brew that enjoys micro-brew accolades, it’s great taste is available in all of the United States.