Beer of the Week – Sierra Nevada Celebration

How many of you remember 1980?

The year Sierra Nevada Brewing Company was founded. Way, way back in these dark ages of craft beer, Sierra founder Ken Grossman was brewing hoppy, flavorful beer in Chico, California. We take craft beer for granted these days, but imagine a time before cell phones, flat screens and hundreds of bottles of craft beer lining the shelves of your local store. The Brewer’s Association lists close to 2,400 breweries in operation in 2012, but way back before it was popular Mr. Grossman was blazing a trail.

In the winter of 1981 Grossman brewed the first batch of Celebration Ale featuring the first hops of the growing season. According to the brewery, over 90 percent of the world’s hop harvest happens between Aug. 31 and Oct. 31. All of these hops are used throughout the calendar year, but fresh hops “are the freshest dried hops to come from the fields, typically within seven days of harvest.”

So, is there a noticeable difference between hops used on November 1, one day after harvest and hops used on July 1,nearly one year after harvest?


The answer is simple. HELL YES.

Celebration is a “fresh hop” ale, but it’s not a “wet hop” ale. Wet hops are undried, packed and shipped from the field within 24 hours of harvest. We think of hops like dry kitchen spices—the flavor of thyme or rosemary right after the jar is opened is far more intense than it is six months later. The same can be said for hops. There are ways to control the way hops age and to reformulate and readjust as some of the aromas fade, but there’s nothing like the magic of the first bales of hops as fresh as can be. That is the stuff dreams are made of!

Celebration Ale is one of the earliest examples of an American-style IPA and one of the few hop-forward holiday beers. Famous for its intense citrus and pine aromas, featuring Cascade, Centennial and Chinook hops.


This brew poured redder and denser than many IPAs. Little bits of sediment bobbed about, adding visual interest. As the head receded, off-white lacing coated the glass. The nose was of citrus, pine and damp earth with a caramel sweetness lurking somewhere beneath it all. Pine, grapefruit with a slightly sweet finish, this brew keeps itself in check. Boasting 6.8% ABV and 68 IBUs, this one impressed me greatly – I’ve turned quite a few padnuhs on to this one, and none have told me they didn’t like it.

Try to find this one before it’s too late, you won’t regret it. Hurry, before there are no Holidays left to celebrate.


Joel is a local beer enthusiast, home brewer, member of the American Homebrewers Association®, The Louisiana Craft Brewers Guild and is a Cicerone® Program Certified Beer Server

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