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Sierra Celebration 2011 WTF?

Is it just me or this years model without merit? Almost tastes generic.

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  1. The annual argument.....At the rate this beer drops in quality each year in the eyes of beer geeks, it should be the equivalent of Bud by now. ;-)

    Tasted like Celebration to me - not the best Celebration, but Celebration that is so drinkable and tasty.

    What's the date on that? Just appeared on my local shelf yesterday (11/9) and is dated 10/6. Seems like they brew this and sit on it for a couple of weeks, then my local distributor sits on it for a few weeks. Usually later batches that show up with shorter date span are better. I also thought last year's was an anomoly with strong bitterness and nice hop flavor/aroma compared to the last 5 years or so - so maybe you are just lamenting that loss.

    10 Replies
    1. re: LStaff

      Tasted fine to me. Not saying you're one of them, but I know there are a lot of hopheads out there who are of the more-more-MORE! mindset when it comes to hops, and nowadays unless it's a bitter hop bomb that strips the enamel off their teeth they think it's not worth their time.

      Anyways, even though Sierra Nevada is pretty consistent with their brews it's possible you got a hold of a bad batch. Or as L Staff mentioned maybe it was bottled a while back and sat in a hot warehouse for a bit before being sent out. Personally i think it's one of the best bang for your buck beers out there and I'll be picking up some more tomorrow.

      1. re: LStaff

        Nah, I'm not a hop head and though I may be wrong I never considered Celebration to be a hop bomb or IPA. Normally it has a great bouquet that screams Californai to me. This year, it seems mild. Maybe my 6 is off. the lot # reads 1269114 06. Now, if I could only get some Jubel ....

        1. re: MOREKASHA

          Well, Sierra Nevada does consider Celebration an IPA (note their website's page for the beer http://www.sierranevada.com/beers/cel... lists it's medals all entered under "India Pale Ale") and, when first released in the 1980's, 65 IBU's was a hop bomb. I was just checking some stats from that era for a discussion in another thread and Michael Jackson's 2nd S&S Pocket Guide [late 1980's] noted that Grant's IPA was the "hoppiest beer in America" - at 50 IBU's.

          As others have noted in the thread, SN states that Celebration is the same recipe every year but there can be some variation in the hops themselves from harvest to harvest. SN's spokesman Bill Manley, under his "SierraNevadaBill" screen name had a full explanation a couple of years in a BeerAdvocate thread a couple of years ago at http://beeradvocate.com/forum/read/24... (I guess one'll have to "join" the site to view it, unfortunately).

          I think the frequent comments about this beer in particular not being "the same/as good as last year" is, in part, "palate drift" - higher IBU beers becoming more and more common and, in the case of "Christmas/Holiday" beers, the much more common use of a heavy hand with not just hops but other herbs and spices to the extreme.

          When Celebration Ale was first released, there weren't a lot of seasonal beers released for the winter holidays, but it does seem that in the ensuing 2-3 decades many brewers followed Anchor's template with their Our Special Ale, rather than Sierra Nevada's. To the point of it becoming expected that a Holiday release taste like someone dropped grandma's potpourri in your glass.

          1. re: JessKidden

            Palete drift, I can agree with that. Some beer that I used to find drinkable, I cant touch anymore. And visa versa. AS I said before, the bouquet is not there, at least not in the 6 i just had.

            1. re: JessKidden

              Great comment. I couldn't agree more with your "palate drift" theory. I hit my limit with big IPAs a while back and always find myself eager to revisit Celebration Ale's, in my mind, ideal balance of hop bitterness and bouquet with a grounding malty character. After two weeks of looking for it, I finally tried my first 2011 and I certainly think it's the same Celebration I always enjoy, regardless of small year to year differences.

            2. re: MOREKASHA

              FWIW- I just got some with that same date (269th day of 2011) and I agree that this particular sixer cames across with a very muted aroma compared to years past (although nicely bitter). I'm just going to chock it up to batch inconsistency and see if I can get some from another batch; other reports do seem to be more favorable.

              1. re: TongoRad

                For the record, I have gotten other sixers since that last post and they were all up to snuff. Just one of those things, I guess, but it definitely confirms my belief that with beer you shouldn't form any definite opinion based on one particular sample.

            3. re: LStaff

              Okay, I'll bite. Where is the date on the bottle? I found my first six-pack on Oct. 30 and was as happy as ever when I tasted it.

              While I have had stale bottles of this beer on occasion over the years I haven't noticed some big "downhill alert" for this year's model.

              1. re: ratgirlagogo

                > "Where is the date on the bottle?"

                Above the bar code, "Julian" dating (last digit of year + 3 digit day of the year) for bottling date
                As you'll note, cases and 12-packs have the actual date stamped on them.

                Sadly, in many markets it takes a while to hit the shelves- I found my first case this week, and the bottles are dated Sept. 27. That's already around 6 weeks old- close to 1/4 of SN's own shelf-life recommendation of 180 days. (Altho' most would want to drink a "fresh hop" IPA much fresher than 6 months old.) Ditto for the first bottles I found of their "Wet Hop" Northern Hemisphere Harvest Ale- bottled a month and a half ago on 9/21.

                1. re: JessKidden

                  Thanks, I learned something. The Celebration in my hand was bottled on Sept. 26th, then (Mr. Rat's birthday! too bad he doesn't like this beer). Tastes fine (better than fine, actually) and as you said this isn't a beer that anyone is likely to decide to cellar or something. It's kind of the beer equivalent of Beaujolais Nouveau - the hoppiness is good with heavy holiday food and it's a drink-it-now beverage.

            4. Celebration is great. It always has been.
              It perhaps varies slightly from year to year, but probably only because of year to year crop differences. My understanding is that the recipe for Celebration is essentially the same from year to year.
              It's a great brew, and to be honest, it's one of the very few commercial beers that I still buy.
              It has never disappointed me since first having it more than 24 years ago.

              1. I had my first sample of the '11 Celebration Ale last night. It was perfectly good.

                Generally speaking, and in spite of the annual pronouncements of the beer's downfall, I think CA has been very consistent in recent years.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Kenji

                  I agree. It's been great varying only very slightly from year to year, but always made from the same basic recipe. A great product with great balance.

                  I think that in some circles, the growth of Sierra Nevada and it's more mainstream status has resulted in those negative pronouncements decline.
                  Just imagine what the uber geeks will be saying when the company starts brewing Sierra Nevada east of the Mississippi. LOL.

                2. I think I may have a case of "palate drift" !

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Td61

                    It could be. The variation of CELEBRATION from year to year is so slight that if it were possible to taste fresh examples of successive years side by side, I think that the differences would be practically negligible.

                    Palate drift, eh? Well,I do believe that my palate has probably drifted as well, or is at the very least continuing to evolve. For the last 40+ years I had always sought out and enjoyed very hoppy beers but lately am getting more than a bit tired of so many 'hop bombs' (which really is really an easy way out for brewers).
                    I find myself appreciating more balance in my beer these days, and even enjoying more malt forward brews. CELEBRATION is certainly a well hopped brew, but one thing I always liked about it was its malt presence to balance things out. Same with BIGFOOT.
                    There are a lot of great small brewers out there, but SN is still probably the best of the best . And while they're not so small anymore, the quality of their product hasn't suffered despite their incredible growth.

                    1. re: The Professor

                      Bigfoot is a fantastic barleywine, with, as you say, lots of great malt and hop character. Last year's edition was good as ever.

                      1. re: Kenji

                        Bigfoot is probably my favorite beer in the world. It is amazingly drinkable for such a big beer.

                      2. re: The Professor

                        Good malt character is definitely a key element in a great hoppy beer. Good examples are Bear Republic and Eggenberger.

                        Sierra Nevada is great for many reasons, and one of them is their devotion to quality control.

                        1. re: The Professor

                          But isnt there a difference between "palate drift" and "preference drift" (although one may lead to the other and in your case perhaps this is actually "style fatigue")? I know I dont get the same taste from beers that I used to and yes I always chalked it up to those darn brewers screwing with the beer recipe until several years back when I was made aware that on any given day the way you taste ANYTHING can be significantly affected by environment, psychology, what you ate over the last 12 hours, and most importantly to this discussion, HOW your taste changes with time and age. After all, we all know how much age effects many of our other senses so why not taste too? Ive even been shown "taste" maps where high peeks of taste distinction (for a particular taste) change over time to milder bumps and eventually grey base lines while other tastes become stronger. If thats true then no wonder I find the same beer to be very crisp and hoppy one day and dull and malty another.

                          Frankly, this bit of knowledge has made me depressed at times because now when I run across a new beer that I find stunning to drink, I worry that in the future when I buy that beer again it will never taste quite as good...

                          1. re: Insidious Rex

                            Yes, your palate changes from day to day which can effect your perception of a beer. This can be negated though when you drink the same beer from day to day and can sort of "average" out those differences in your mind and get a general impression/opinion of a beer.

                            But don't discount the variable nature of agricultural products either - especially on a yearly made seasonal beer. And brewers aren't perfect - although blending can help mitigate those differences.

                      3. Generic compared to what? I bought a 12-pack of it and found it serviceable ....

                        1. Working on case #4 this week. The new rye IPA should be out soon though - so that will be the end of Celebration season for me....until next year.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: LStaff

                            I've been enjoying Celebration Ale since the late 80's and have never felt there was an "off year". Wish I had a few extra cases stashed away for the winter.

                            1. re: SP1

                              There were a couple editions of CA in the 90s whose hop presence seemed to me, after diverse samples, a tad soft. But generally speaking, the brew is remarkably consistent.
                              The ale may have started out with a slightly lower gravity than the 1068 it has long maintained. One of Jackson's books ascribed an OG of 1060 to it.

                          2. Maybe I am biased (see my avatar!) but this is one of my favorite all time beers. This year it was as tasty as ever. I'm sure that part of it is how long I go without having it but there are a few shops that have it into the summer and I find it ages decently for such a "small" beer. I can't imagine it is just the freshness maybe you just aren't a fan anymore. I also had it on tap and it was even better of course.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: scubahood10

                              wow...how times have changed. 1068 OG is now considered a "small" beer??????

                              1. re: The Professor

                                Not that I actually care about a beer's original gravity unless I am homebrewing, how can that not be considered small? I have been enjoying Firestone Walker beers and those are huge but so smooth.

                                1. re: scubahood10

                                  I guess it just all depends on your perspective. Seems to me that you're comparing it to other beers with even higher OG. Saying that 1.068 is a "small" beer is just comical to me.

                                  I would agree that some American perceptions have been reprogrammed to some degree by the more common availability of stronger beers and the current fad that measures quality according to strength (a phenomenon probably largely fueled by those "craft" brewers who started out as homebrewers).

                                  I've been homebrewing for a LONG time and have made my share of hi-test brews (some well over 1.068)...but I have to admit that your reference would be the first time I've _ever _ heard a 1.068 brew characterized as a "small" beer.

                                  I guess times HAVE changed!
                                  Cheers! (and sure I hope you're not getting behind the wheel of a car after having a couple of those "small" beers) ;-)

                                  1. re: The Professor

                                    Well, if 9+% IPA's and 10%+ bbl. aged imperial stouts and other high abv white whales are your world, then a sub 7% reasonably priced and easily obtainable beer is just session ale now isn't it? ;-) Shiver me timbers Capt'n Rehab! What would you call it if you only have one a year though? lol

                                    Reprogrammed may not be the word(s) I would use to describe this phenomenon of late, but the concept is similar. ;-(

                                    1. re: LStaff

                                      I guess you're right.
                                      Still gives me a good chuckle, though. ;-)

                                      1. re: LStaff

                                        I just tend to think of those individuals as being on the far end of the bell curve, and their baseline is completely f***ed. Thinking that their experiences represent the majority of craft beer drinkers is probably where the error lies. To say it's a 'small beer compared to what I normally drink' is fine, but it is different from stating that something is 'small' in the objective sense (which definitely provoked a few eye rolls from myself as well).

                                        Barrel for Barrel, the vast majority of craft beer produced and sold is still in the 1.050s, so that's what is 'normal' these days, and will be for a while.

                                        1. re: TongoRad

                                          It's funny how sensitive people seem to be about the different trends in craft beer. I'm pretty sure that what I said was taken out of context or not understood. First, I used small in quotations to imply it really isn't small but it is smaller than some of the huge beers that are becoming common place. Plus, I was using small in the contexts of cellaring if you actually read my post. I don't know anyone who would cellar a 4% abv beer because they just aren't built to hold up. I said that Celebration does cellar decently for not being huge. The reason the beer isn't available all year round is the fresh hops so it's intended to be drank fairly quickly otherwise they could just brew more and age it like a lot of breweries are doing this.

                                          I don't think my tastes represent the majority of the craft market but if that is all you are looking for then Sam Adams better be one of your favorites because that is a large majority of the craft minority. I just drink what I like whether it is a 100+ ibu hop bomb, a 12%+ monster RIS, or a regular SNPA.

                                          1. re: scubahood10

                                            I just reread your post and now I can see where you were going with it, but must admit that I originally didn't see it that way.

                                            That knee-jerk reaction does come from someplace, though. I do frequently see people saying that they have outgrown certain (and perfectly good) beers, they describe normal gravity stouts as being 'thin', won't recognize something that hasn't been dry-hopped out the wazoo as being hoppy, stuff like that. The signal-to-noise ratio on the beer boards I read seems to be getting lower and lower these days, and, well, it gets kind of annoying at times.

                                            The only reason I brought up Sam Adams (and even SN) was just to establish a baseline of where 'small' should be, but that seems to be cleared up now. I really do appreciate how they have both created and maintained their particular niche, though. I remember all too well what it was like before they came upon the scene, and think it's great that one can almost always find something good to drink no matter where they go.