Now that all of my pesky, yet delicious, autumn seasonals are behind me, I can finally get crackin' on some winter craft beer! I have more than a few socked away so if you like winter seasonals, warmers, spiced beers, or just any beer with a Santa reference on it, you are in luck. To start things off, I'll be prying open a bottle of Sierra Nevada's Celebration 2011. I may have had a few of these already this season and am eager to get my thoughts down on paper. Let's pour!
|Look at the gorgeous head on it!|
The hop profile is dominant, not huge, and definitely varied. Christmas firs, grapefruit bitter, a little mustiness, and a fresh grass come together and harmonize in an almost floral hop bouquet. The malt is roasted to perfection and the molasses just barely peeks past the hops for the sake of balance. A lemon hop characteristic becomes more distinct as the beer warms.
The head alone is worthy of a 3/3 in this category. It is light beige, generous, and lazily undulates its way to the top of my tulip to sit there. And sit there. And sit there. Eventually it begins to fade, like a cloud dissolving into my beer, but not without leaving an exceptional sticky lace over everything it passes. The color is quite handsome too. Full of bright rusts, coppers, and the color of oak leaves before the turn completely brown for the winter.
|Doesn't do it justice.|
After starting fairly clean and crisp, the backbone wastes little time before fading in and exhibiting its talents. A backdrop of light molasses is given and then the hops begin to shine. The bright citrus shows first and blends extremely well with the sweet malts. However, when held still in the mouth, a very creamy Crystal malt sweetness takes over. Now give the beer a quick swish over the sides and back of your tongue. Violá, hop bitter, resin, and a just a sprig of pine appear from nowhere. It's funny how the biology of the tongue can dramatically affect a tasting. The finish is more of the crystal malt, in both flavor and body, and a very drying hop bitter straight from the west coast. The bitter lingers well into the aftertaste and the beer leaves the back of the throat a bit sticky.
The crystal malts that I have all-but-confirmed are present give this beer a substantial body and really support the strong hop presence. It remains wonderfully drinkable and the carbonation rings true to the very last sip. The 6.8% ABV is undetectable and the stickiness left in the back of the throat is far from distracting. What a great dry finish this beer has!
Overall Impression 8/10
This is a great, solidly-made, seasonal ale. The best part is that it didn't use more spices than a Turkish bazaar to do it. It doesn't lean on the typical cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, all spice, blah, blah, blah to make it seem like grandma is baking gingerbread in your mouth. The body is sturdy, the carbonation is perfect, the aroma is wonderful, and the flavor is quaffable, yet doesn't err by being too light. A great choice during the holidays!
To me the score seems low for a beer I enjoyed this much. It's hard to believe that a beer with this much body and flavor comes in a reasonably priced sixer and not its own bomber (Good work Sierra Nevada!). I love that a holiday beer doesn't need to show its ABV to be a "warmer" or be an overly-spiced malt bomb to make you feel like old man winter is here. This is a bargain of a beer with gads of flavor and a high level of technical excellence. What better gift do you want for the holidays?
What's that? You'd like a little something extra from your beer bloggers? Fair enough. Now, to give a little background my mother-in-law has an extensive Santa Claus statuette collection. I mean Ex. Sten. Sive. As in, an entire room of the house if surrendered to forces from the North Pole every winter. I have risked life and limb ("Not the beer! My actual limbs!" *bonus points for Sierra Nevada reference in a Sierra Nevada post*) to bring you these photos.
Merry Christmas to all! And to all a good night!
|I'm gonna get it for this one.|
|Someone was a VERY good boy this year!|