Sierra Nevada Celebration (6.8 percent alcohol by volume) is a.) a classic and b.) an oddity. Billed as a “fresh hop ale,” this annual winter beer appears months after most fresh hop beers have disappeared from the market.
That’s because the Chico brewery isn’t using wet hops, the just-harvested ingredient found in most fresh hop beers. Instead, Sierra Nevada selects Cascade and Centennial hops during the harvest, then dries enough for Celebration.
Celebration is an unusual holiday beer, too, lacking the usual spice and citrus bouquet. This red IPA has toffee-like malts and generous helpings of the aforementioned hops, which give this beer an enticing wind-through-the-pines aroma. Celebration’s recipe is tweaked each year and earlier vintages had more zest than the current one. Still, this is a welcome addition to holiday parties and meals.