Categorized under: Advent, Beer Review, Sierra Nevada

Beer Advent Calendar – Day 15: Celebration Ale presented by 2beerguys

@craftbeered @2beerguys @thirstynobeard

Beer Advent Calendar – Day 15: Celebration Ale presented by 2beerguys
To celebrate the Holiday Season, and have teamed up with beer bloggers around the country to host the first annual beer bloggers advent calendar. This is the season of sharing and we intend to share our love of beer with you. 31 Bloggers Blogging – click here for the running list of beers/bloggers.




Commercial Description:

The long, cold nights of winter are a little brighter with Celebration Ale. Wonderfully robust and rich, Celebration Ale is dry-hopped for a lively, intense aroma. Brewed especially for the holidays, it is perfect for a festive gathering or for a quiet evening at home.


  • Style: India Pale Ale
  • ABV: 6.8%
  • IBU: 65
  • Hops: Bittering: Chinook | Finishing: Cascade & Centennial | Dry-hopping: Cascade & Centennial
  • Malts: Two-row Pale and English Caramel
  • OG: 16 plato
  • FG: 4 plato


Why I selected Celebration Ale:

As I think about seasonal beer and what, for me, defines one, two key components come to mind. First, it must be a beer that you look forward to as it approaches and that you miss as soon as it’s replaced by the next in the seasonal rotation. Second, it must have a legitimate tie to the season in which it is brewed and distributed in. As they go, Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale is the epitome of what a seasonal beer should be.

It is unequivocally the seasonal I look most forward to each year. Period. It’s one of those beers I remember the taste of year-round, and get incredibly impatient for as its release grows near. We have a slightly different perception of a beer’s appropriate season here in the northern part of country. For us, we don’t want to see a fall seasonal until the humidity is gone from the air and the leaves have started to change. And, even more so, we don’t want to see a spring seasonal while there are still pine needles caught along the baseboard, left over from the Christmas tree we just took down. However, you won’t hear anyone complaining that this beer hit the shelves too early, as it captures the true meaning of the brewing season it’s born in: the hop harvest. The hops are added to the boil at the peak of their freshness, as soon as possible after they’ve been harvested from the fields, dried (in whole cone form), and delivered to the brewery.

The recipe for Celebration Ale hasn’t changed since 1983. Sierra Nevada began brewing this beer in 1981, just a year after they opened their doors. However, only recently did they add the ‘fresh hop ale’ (not to be confused with wet hop ale, a distinction that I was not wholly aware of until reading a post on fellow blogger Billy Broas’s blog,, titled Why Fresh Hop Ales Can Be Deceiving) moniker to the label. This drove some, myself included, to ask if they had changed the recipe. This added to a common misconception that the beer was brewed with a new recipe each year. I expect that the addition of the ‘fresh hop ale’ language was added to keep pace with changes in the sophistication of the American beer drinkers palate and the growth in the understanding that even the most casual craft beer drinker has regarding how a beer is made.

Now, as for the beer itself…

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

Into a tulip glass, Celebration Ale pours a deep amber color with hues of orange and honey, crowned by a voluminous three-finger head with a frothy, off-white consistency with tremendous retention. Sticky lacing remains long after the head has dissipated with wispy rings that are tacky to the touch, giving a wonderfully inviting glimpse into the fresh hop resins that await. At first, there is an assertive yet slightly subdued hop aroma. From an approach standpoint, this is where Torpedo and Celebration start to show their differences, as Torpedo has a remarkably pungent nose of citrus and spruce. That’s not to say that Celebration is in any way devoid of aroma, as a well-structured bouquet of peach and rose comes forward with some light bread malts. The initial taste, though, is precisely why I anticipate this beer every year, as it starts out with a sturdy bread-like backbone that merely plays second fiddle to a very aggressive bitter profile with pine, herb, and semi-tart qualities. The finish is full of lingering bitterness that, while not palate thrashing, leaves its mark as the alcohol starts to warm. At 6.8% alcohol by volume, it’s no surprise that, as the glass and the beer start to warm, the alcohol continues to move forward into the flavor and the body. Consistency is creamy with a lingering slickness that coats and warms the mouth.

Celebration Ale pour

We first reviewed Celebration Ale back in 2006, at which time our friend Carolyn declared that she’d like to “rub it all over her body”. Yes, it’s that delicious.

About 2beerguys:

Founded in 2006, has been devoted to spreading their passion of the craft beer world. Originating primarily as craft beer reviewers, they have molded their organization into premier craft beer educators and ambassadors for craft beer industry. Their passion has taken them on the wild ride of home brewing and beer education. believes that you deserve a good beer, visit for more information.

About Sierra Nevada:

Sierra Nevada

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company was founded in 1979, with founders Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi expanding their homebrewing hobby into a brewery in Chico, California. Along with the brewery’s location, Grossman claims the company’s name comes from his love of hiking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. With $50,000 in loans from friends and family, Grossman & Camusi rented a 3,000-square-foot (280 m2) warehouse and pieced together discarded dairy equipment and scrapyard metal to create their brewing equipment. They later were able to acquire second-hand copper brewing kettles from Germany before moving to their larger, current brewing facility in 1989.

The first batch brewed on premises was its Pale Ale, in November 1980. The following year the brewery introduced Celebration, an IPA, which it continues to release as a winter seasonal. The company sold 950 barrels of beer in its first year, and double that amount in the second.

The company’s first employee was Steve Harrison, who was put in charge of marketing and sales. The head brewer is Steve Dresler who has been with the brewery since 1983, when its output was 25 to 30 barrels per week.

The company distributed the beer itself in the early 1980s, struggling with financial and marketing issues. A 1982 article in the San Francisco Chronicle highlighting the brewery, as well as having its beer sold in prominent restaurants such as Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, helped establish a market for Sierra Nevada’s beer.

By 1987, the brewery was distributing to seven states and production had reached 12,000 barrels per year, causing the company to pursue building a new brewery. In 1988, the brewery moved into a 100 barrel brewhouse, with four open-barrel fermenters, and 11 68-barrel secondary fermenters. A year later, Grossman and Camusi added The Sierra Nevada Taproom and Restaurant, which serves lunch and dinner and included a giftshop. In the year 2000, the brewery opened “The Big Room,” a live music venue located inside the brewery’s facilities, featuring a variety of acts including country, bluegrass, folk, rock, blues and other musical genres.
Camusi retired in 1998 and sold his share in the company to Grossman.

In 2010, Sierra Nevada Brewing partnered with the Abbey of New Clairvaux, with the monastery beginning production of Trappist-style beers in 2011. The Abbey has not yet been sanctioned by the International Trappist Association, and therefore the monastery will not be brewing official Trappist beer.

The brewery currently employs about 450 people.


  • LOVE the Celebration Ale. It’s probably one of my favorite seasonal beers, too.

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