Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, CA is one of the original craft breweries in the US. Ken Grossman, an avid home-brewer and owner of a homebrew supply store was frustrated with the quality of the hops available to home-brewers. This led him straight to the suppliers, where he started ordering whole cone fresh hops, and the hop-forward beers of Sierra Nevada were born. Sierra Nevada brewed its first batch of beer in 1980, and quickly developed the recipes for their flagship stout and pale ale. In 1981 Sierra Nevada developed Celebration Ale, their winter seasonal beer that is widely credited as the first American style IPA. Celebration Ale is a fresh hopped IPA, most hops are harvested in the fall and then dried before they are used to make the beer. Fresh hopped ales use the freshest possible dry hops. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale uses three of the most classic American hop varieties; Cascade, Centennial and Chinook. This results in an IPA that redefined the style and helped spark the craft beer revolution in the US.
Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale pours a clear amber red with a mild white head, and leaves a solid lacing on the glass as you drink. The smell is all classic American hops, citrus, pine and earthiness. The taste is very hop forward, lemon, grapefruit and some resin. There is a enjoyable mouth-puckering bitterness with each sip. There are some malts in the backbone that provide a touch of sweetness and add some hints of caramel and toffee. Overall the beer is hop-forward but nicely balanced. Even with the bitterness the beer is easy to drink, and leaves a pleasant tart aftertaste. It is no wonder that this beer helped make the IPA one of the most popular styles of American craft beer. Even after all of the changes in the market and variety of beers available, Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale still holds up. Pick some up for the holidays before the supply is gone! Hoppy Boston score: 4.50/5.