Celebration is a wonderful beer, the progenitor of the Hoppy Holiday Ale category, though it ticks me off that Sierra Nevada put the misleading tag "Fresh Hop Ale" on Celebration's label again this year when the beer only contains dried hops. Remember, dried hops are NOT fresh hops, despite SN's wacky definition of "fresh" as dried and shipped within 7 days. Nevertheless, it is a delicious beer if you like lots of hops and lots of malt, and this year's batch really hit the spot with me.
It seems slightly odd to age a beer known mainly for its hop character, but you'd be surprised how well the hop flavor held up in some of the older batches, and it does give you a glimpse of the year-to-year variation in the hops, since the beer's recipe is the same every year. WWD tapped kegs from seven consecutive years: 2005-2011. For the most part, I preferred the newer batches in the tasting, though for some reason the odd-numbered years stood out over the even-numbered ones (Lindsey called this "reverse Star Trek movie ranking"):
- 2011: hoppy and clean
- 2009: hoppy with some oxidation
- 2005: hoppy and surprisingly flowery still
- 2010: hoppy and piney
- 2007: hoppy and a hint of maple
- 2008: hoppy and malty with more oxidation than '09
- 2006: hoppy but it's gone around the bend
By the way, Woodstock Wine and Deli is an interesting place to shop for bottled beer. They hide a few beers away and shelve the vintages later at random times. Saturday there were bottles of Celebration as far back as 1996 for sale; on previous visits I've seen bottles of Bridgeport's Old Knucklehead from the 90's as well. Even if you don't find that special bottle, they always have three or four decent beers on tap.