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Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

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3,413 Reviews
Sierra Nevada Celebration AleSierra Nevada Celebration Ale

Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States

Style: American IPA

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.80%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
Fresh Hop Ale; no spices.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 11-02-2001

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User Reviews
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Reviews: 3,413 | Ratings: 10,021
Reviews by Takahiro:
Photo of Takahiro
3.39/5  rDev -18.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

tulip glass for evaluation

A: Tan/light brown, clear, with thick off-white 3" sticky foam.

S: Dank marijuana, malty wort, caramel, brown sugar

T: Strong hop flavor, which interplays with thick malt in the beginneing. The malt flavor loses its battle to the hoppiness shortly after, and the hop flavor lingers on for a while. A quite while, but pleasantly so.

M: fully mouthfull of maltiness. Hop flavor cuts well into this sticky malt. Sticky.

D: Not so well. The flavor sticks to the palate and makes it tired after few sips.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of bassboneman
4.5/5  rDev +8.4%

I remember having this beer last year. I loved it then and I love it now!
The only issue I have is that the finish, to me, is slightly MORE bitter than I recall.
I am drinking this first brew of the season from the bottle - the next will be in a glass
Up yours!


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Photo of tectactoe
4.49/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Just finished my last Celebration of the season. Time to rewrite this review. Pours a deep copper-amber hybrid color with some orange highlights. An absolutely huge, beige-colored head tops this one off - incredibly thick and creamy with extraordinary staying power, also coating all sides of the glass with fat, chunky lacing. Decent clarity, and you can see a nice stream of carbonation bubbles flowing from the etched bottom of my glass to the top of the brew.

The aroma is strong, with a super-fresh dose of hops. Sierra Nevada claims that these are "fresh" hops (not wet, mind you, but fresh) and you can definitely tell. It's like sticking your head into a recently cut field of grass, vibrant and alive. The character of these hops is largely resinous, piney, and somewhat floral. The pine aromas hit your nostrils with some power, very needley and pungent. Faint citrus hints, more so on the rind and pith side, as to not make things too sweet, rather keep with the solid bitterness profile. Some spiciness from the hops is also noticeable and works to tie everything together.

The taste is crazy delicious - despite the heavy load of hops, there is certainly a strong malt presence here that does more than just lay out framework for the other parts. Slight toasted malts, caramel, toffee, and a faint, musky, earthy presence can be found immediately. As soon as you start to appreciate this nice, malt-laden infrastructure (or maybe even before that), the hops come in and go buck wild on your palate. Pines, pine needles, resinous hop nuggets, Christmas trees, Christmas wreathes - yeah, I said it. Christmas wreathes.

The malt profile is ever-present for the duration of the hop take-over, which creates a nice cosmic balance, despite the hefty bitter overload of the hops. The spice character is not to be forgotten - there's a joke going around that SN adds spices to this beer, which they've debunked as false many times. But I can see where people are coming from. A nice, peppery, earthy, and warming "hop spice" flavor trills along for the entire sip, riding a wave right into the aftertaste. I really can't overstate how goddamn tasty this shit is. Medium bodied, carbonated to the max; not too sticky, not too dry, this beer is great in all aspects.

Whether you call this a malty IPA, or a hopped-up amber/red ale, or a winter warmer, or whatever - it doesn't matter. Call it a stout for all I care. Just know that this beer is delicious. And the fact that it's a seasonal release around my favorite time of the year (the joyous bridge from Thanksgiving to Christmas) gets me that much more excited to pick it up each year. The holidays would not be complete without this beer in my fridge. I always try to make it last far into the spring - usually doesn't make it that long.

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Photo of Todd
4.45/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Balanced? No way. But who gives a rat's ass? 2001 is something to kick the Winter into gear, with its incredible raw hopped character and warming alcohol. A beer to look forward to, regardless. I do recall previous years being more pronounced in the malt dept. and more balanced. But hey, whatever. Drink a few of these and nothing will really matter.

To give this year's a perfect 5 is a little extreme. Everything was great overall, the drinkability ... like crack. I'm off to the pawn shop ...

Notes from 2000:

Presentation: 12oz short brown twist cap bottle. Lovely little X-mas scene on the label. Bottled on date, on neck of bottle.

Appearance: Rich, deep amber/copper. Excellent slightly off-white head ... very creamy, sticky and retains like its fighting for its life.

Smell: There's an absolutely incredible aroma on this beer! A nose full of big herbal hops and fruity esters. Some yeast aromas are also present, but very minimal.

Taste: Dreamy. So smooth. So rich. So fortified with malt goodness. So hoppy. At first there's a creamy feel on the palate, that then opens up to toasty, sweet malt flavours. A bold herbal hop runs rampid on the palate with a semi-prickly, puckering, lemon-rind quality. After a few more mouthfulls the brew begins to warm the body, and you can really feel the alcohol kick in. Finishes a bit dry with grain/husk flavours, and some breadiness as it warms.

Notes: At 6.8% this is one hell of a Winter seasonal! Warms the body and soul. A brew for hop heads too. One of the best Winter Seasonals that I have ever had, and one of the best Strong Ales. Drink with caution as this brew will kick your ass.

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Photo of mirp1
4.48/5  rDev +8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Celebration Ale is one of the first holiday beers ever released in the U.S. I first had it many years ago, and was blown away by it's classy simplicity. It struck me as an in-your-face, rock solid craft beer, having no intentions on faking anyone out. I looked forward to it's annual November release, and not just for the quality of the beer, but also for the striking holiday-winter theme packaging. Like many reviewers, I have had all kinds of beer over the years, from EKU 28, to Scaldis, to Heady Topper, Pliny the Elder, Ghandi Bot, Hi Res, KBS, Bourbon County Stout/Barley Wine, Bells Hop Slam/Mars, Seeking Alpha, Flower Power, Creeker, etc, etc. Consequently, my palate is conditioned to not be as impressed as I was with the more regular craft beers of the world. When I was told last week that Celebration Ale was now in stock at local beer stores here in Utica, NY, I quickly went out and grabbed some. Modern holiday beers have become spice crazy, and so have jumped the shark. Celebration Ale is that rock solid holiday craft beer that never sold out. Great color, malty, crisp, with cascade, centennial, and chinook. Nuff said.

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Photo of Jeff_whitman
3.75/5  rDev -9.6%

Does not drink like a wet hopped beer. Its missing the fresh hop smell and flavor. Not a bad beer but it wasnt great either.

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Photo of peabody81
4.5/5  rDev +8.4%

I have enjoyed this beer many times over the years, but this year is the first that Sierra Nevada has been local to North Carolina, so I've never had one this fresh before. Bottled on 9/26/14.
Aroma: piney, but not overwhelmingly so
Appearance: very nice orangey-amber-brown with delicate lacing
Mouthfeel: just right, not too watery, but not chewy either (not that there's anything wrong with that)
Taste: More balanced than I remember, but my hop tolerance is so high now that what would be insanely bitter to others is meh to me. Leaves a very nice, just the right amount of bitterness, aftertaste. Very drinkable.
Overall: One of the all-time classics, getting it fresh - BONUS!!!!

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Photo of Glengosch
4.82/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I seem to remember this beer being called Celebration Ale in years past, now it's called Celebration IPA, and hey, IPAs are all the rage, so why not call it that? But on to the taste and stuff...

*Taste - The flavor of this beer is primo, superb, deluxe, fasmatasmic - or some other word that is better than good. Seriously. One of my favorites. In a blind taste test, I don't know that I would know that this is an IPA. Normally with an IPA, (a good IPA) I am punched in the face with pine or floral citrus (and I don't mean that in a bad way). This here ale is the perfect balance that makes it almost unrecognizable in the field of American IPAs. Maybe it solidifies itself ahead of the rest.

On the back end, it's like you get the bitterness without the burn - if that makes sense(?). I guess what I'm trying to say is the taste is as pleasant as the minimal aftertaste.

You get a good balance of maltiness too. Bonus.

As far as taste/flavor is concerned, it's hard to find better.

*Smell - it smells great, but I taste the hops more than I smell them.

*Feel - it feels good. Smooth. Easy to drink with a high ABV.

*Look - Amberish/goldenish/a little darker than a Sam Adams BL (for your reference)

*Overall/bottom line - Depending on what I'm in the mood for, probably my favorite beer. Great hop taste, balanced with some (great) malt taste. Do yourself a favor, if you like beer, and drink this. You're welcome.

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Photo of DevAJ
2.36/5  rDev -43.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.25 | feel: 2.25 | overall: 2.25

I either am just not into hoppy beers yet, or I haven't found the proper hops. It's not bad for the first 1/4th of the beer, but after that, it's just too much for me. I guess I just don't like a ton of American hops, because I don't find Schlafly's Tasmanian IPA to be that bad (it supposedly uses Australian hops).

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Photo of GreatStoutman
4.54/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Dark copper body under very light tan head that holds its own while producing a beautiful lacing. Smells sweet and piney, citrus. Layers of flavorful hops that really take you for a ride. Celebration indeed, this is an awesome IPA!

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Photo of mrbran0
5/5  rDev +20.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Best seasonal ever. For real.

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Photo of rand
4.1/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Just picked up a couple of 6 packs of fresh, 2015 vintage, and realized I hadn't reviewed this. 12 oz bottle poured into a pint glass.

A: Clear, amber appearance, with a small, fluffy head. A couple rings of lacing are left after a few sips.

S: Hop-forward nose with a citrusy, floral bouquet. I just went through a lot of fresh-hop brews from the September harvest, adn this smells very similar.

T: The hop essence defines the flavors but it's floral, grassy and nuanced rather than bitter. NOtes of green apple and citrus rind are countered by honeyed biscuits and toasty grains. There is some bitterness toward the back of the sip, joining a touch of warming alcohol. Closes with a medium finish, with lingering bitter residuals.

M: Medium-light complexion with an oily slick mouthfeel.

There's good reason everyone clamors over this brew this time of year. It seems all of the fresh hop IPA's available have only made this more popular. Get it while you can.

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Photo of Wiffler27
4.46/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

pours a deep dark red / almost red-brown color with a thick white head. the head subsides slightly but a solid white head remains, even after 30 minutes! great looking and lively beer.

smells like sweet roasted malts. a slight smell of sweet hops exist but it is not prominent in the aroma.

the taste is fantastic, nice combination of grapefruit and toasted malt. not overpowering but very solid. goes down very smooth, easy drinking!

overall this is a pretty good IPA, nothing mindblowing but it does everything right. not overly hoppy or malty, utilizes a few different tastes.

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Photo of BSanch8
4.06/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Great looking Amber color for this IPA. great piney, resin and lift citrus flavor. Great carbonation. Unfortunately mine was already 2 months old. Still very great. Need to try it fresh for the full taste.

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Photo of 1000lbgrizzly
4.08/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Clear copper body, few lazy bubbles rise. Very pale tan rocky dense head with lots of 3D lace. Aroma is mostly citrus and malt: orange and grapefruit with equal parts caramel and bread. Flavor, too, is perfectly evenly balanced, with citrus notes being immediately balanced by bread, crisp bitterness being immediately balanced by sweet caramel and malt. Full body, smooth.
Incredibly balanced brew here. I don't care much for the huge grapefruit-y citric hops, but I can't deny the appeal to those who do, nor the perfect execution of the balancing malt. Big flavor, big aroma, great feel, sexy appearance. High score is mostly based on style, but if I were to rate subjectively it'd land just below 4.0.

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Photo of JonnyBoyy
4.18/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

I prefer this over Torpedo

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Photo of Mazeltov
4.29/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Dark amber color, very aromatic, roses, yellow grapefruit, nutmeg, bitterness is on the point, smooth on the palate, this is very charming one, very fresh and dry style, medium bodied, well-balanced, delicious.

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Photo of doktorhops
3.66/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Sierra Nevada are like the Tiger Woods of beers - they play a sharp game of golf, and cheat on their Swedish wives... err, no, that analogy doesn’t work, how about Sierra Nevada are like the J.K. Simmons of beers - consistently undervalued for their work and quietly brilliant, plus they won an Oscar that they thoroughly deserved (or at least they would if there was a beer equivalent of an Oscar). I’m happy with that revised analogy. Now on to their Celebration Ale - this is a Winter Ale with a difference - all IPA, no spices. This will be awesome-sauce.

Poured from a 355ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Cloudy toffee brown-tinged amber body with a sticky 1 centimetre off-white head. There’s a decent amount of protein in the head, Sierra Nevada have got to be happy with that, I know I am. 9/10.

S: Malt forward with a biscuit/caramel combo, followed by hints of piney/citric, it’s certainly not as big on the hops as Torpedo, we’ll see how it comes out in the flavour because sometimes you do get big hop flavours in brews without big hop aromas. In Sierra Nevada we trust. 7/10.

T: The good news: This is one smooth IPA. The bad news: Sierra Nevada’s own Torpedo IPA scuttles this brew [nautical puns anyone?] with hops, more and more HOPS! Palate-wise SNaCA (as I am henceforth calling this beer) has a big caramel/biscuit base with hints of pine/citrus hops and a rather sharp bitter finish on the edge of your tongue that carries through to the aftertaste. This needs more hop flavours and less hop bitterness (which is entirely possible - my last homebrew was all tropical hop flavour without bitterness). 7/10.

M: Medium bodied, slightly oily hop presence with a light but dense carbonation. Almost the exact same mouthfeel as the Torpedo. 9/10.

D: Missed opportunity from the makers of the mighty Torpedo. This is a fresh hop IPA that has bitten off more than it could chew - too malty, not enough hop flavour, unnecessary sharp bitter edge, above-average aroma. Those are the negatives, on the plus side it is a hearty, smooth and half decent IPA, I guess I’ve been too spoiled with Sierra Nevada’s other offerings (oh yeah and Founders, Deschutes, Ballast Point, the rest of the west coast, et al.) to give this a higher rating. [err, best before: 10.24.14... disregard my ENTIRE review now!] 7/10.

Food match: Staring at the label with the snow-cover log cabin made me think of a hearty beef stew by a nice warm fireplace watching the embers die, or cake.

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Photo of t0rin0
4.53/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Update: I should probably reveiw this new as that's how most people are going to be drinking it. Appearance and body are the same but the hop flavors and aromas are mostly floral with plenty of pine and woodiness. It can be a very nice beer if you drink it within the first month or so from bottling but it can turn into something fun after a few years. It oxidizes in a nice way.


I recently aquired bottles from a number of different years. These include 2006, 2005, 2002, 1999, and 1990. I tried them all this month (August 2007). Believe it or not the bottle from 1990 (almost 17 years old now) was still quite good. It seems to have mellowed more than the 1999 bottle though.

The appearance is as it has always been, a reddish color with a bit of brown in there. Nice color.

The fresher years smell spicy and hoppy but the older they get the sweeter and less hopy they smell. Not necesarily a bad thing, just the malt coming out.

Fresh celebration ale is fairly bitter. It has a very dry aftertaste. The flavor is malty but that is overpowered by the hop flavor, which is not a bad thing. The older they get the more chocolatey and sweet they taste. Its unfortunate that I couldn't try some more years between 1990 and 1999 because the 1999 seems to be the best that ive tried whereas the 1990 seems to have lost a bit of flavor and is most certainly over the hill. If I get to try some more years I'll update this post.

Mouthfeel was the same for all years. Very smooth and thin. That seems to be a characteristic of Sierra Nevada beers.

Drinkability is a tough one to describe. Judge for yourself based on the flavors that ive described.

Overall this is one of my favorite beers of all time (out of the 460 or so that ive tried)

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Photo of Tee76
3.56/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

As far as an IPA goes this is exceptional. Great lacing, great taste, very drinkable. My only complaint is its marketed and sold as a winter beer. There's nothing "Christmas" or winter about this brew. Sierra Nevada should sell it year round. I could easily drink this on hot day.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.35/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I've had two of these in my beer fridge since November and have somehow managed to resist them. I've been reading about how hoppiness decreases over time, which probably means (since I'm of the 'hoppier the better' school) that I should have had them as fresh as possible. Anyway, I'm about to remedy that oversight tonight.

Medium orange-amber with a moderate haze. The head is very large and is dark cream edging into ecru. Stiff and rocky, then lumpy, it sticks in chunks to the inside of the pint glass. It looks for all the world like a thick, frothy milkshake. Ultimately there are chunky rings of lace on the glass and a thick, lumpy film on top of the beer.

The nose is primarily grapefruit peel-like. Upon tasting, a soft (yet insistent) wave of hops hits the taste buds. Several varieties are probably present and I'm betting that Cascade is among them. The hoppiness is primarily citrusy and floral, with a hint of pine. There is also a background spiciness that becomes more noticeable as the beer warms.

There's a fairly large malt load as well. Alcohol is noted, especially after the initial wave of hops subsides (alcohol is almost undetectable in the 2007 Celebration). The finish is long, decently hoppy and ultimately dry. The body/mouthfeel is creamy and is reasonably full.

There's no question that Celebration Ale is an excellent IPA. It doesn't get extraordinarily high marks from me, however, because the hops aren't quite prominent enough. I know that this isn't a DIPA and that it would undoubtedly have been hoppier if I had drunk it sooner after bottling, but even so...

If you love IPAs that are hoppy with a nod toward balance, then start the Celebration early. Next year I'll crack open my first one on the day I buy it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I never drank 2005 Celebration Ale, thought 2006 Celebration was more maibock-like than IPA-like (woefully underhopped) and just enjoyed the hell out of a bottle 2007 Celebration a few hours ago. (re-reviewed 12/29/07)

When done right, this is clearly an expertly brewed ale. The malt backbone was nice and sturdy (mostly pale with a hint of caramel) and the citric hops were right up front where they belong. I was equally impressed with one of the smoothest, creamiest mouthfeels that I've experienced in a beer of this style in quite some time. So *this* is what Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale is supposed to taste like!

scores for 2004: 4.5, 4.0, 4.0, 4.5, 4.0... ... 4.15
scores for 2007: 4.0, 4.0, 4.5, 4.5, 4.5... ... 4.3

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Photo of pianoguy
4.5/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle from a 12 pack
Full disclosure; Total wine has a clearance section for seasonal beers near the the end of their season. I picked this up for $9.99. Label says it was packaged 11/25/2014.

Pours murky orange with a fluffy 3/4 inch, "surface of the moon", like head, that sticks around for a while. I can't say enough about the appearance of this beer's head .I'm giving the look my first 5 ever.. Good lacing all the way down the glass.

Smells of orange citrus with a little nutmeg - cinnamon .

The taste is slightly different then the smell. I couldn't smell the malts but I can sure taste em . Got that slightly bitter hop finish.

Great feel. It's got that "quaff my thirst" vibe due to the excellent head

Overall an excellent beer. It's nice to find a great IPA that only comes out in the winter. I usually switch to porters and winter warmers in late September but I will be looking for this IPA next winter.

Bravo !

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Photo of oberon
4.12/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A nice find in the middle of summer,a 2002 offering.Pours a nice copper clor with light to medium head that has some nice staying power,the aroma is hop zesty with a slight sweet background.The taste is very hoppy and citrus like but there is caramel malt taste that lingers as well.Very well done stays real well.

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Photo of Popsinc
4.07/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A very nice clear, amber pour with quite a generous pancake head. The nose is nicely hopped and has plenty of fruitiness kickin around as well...peach and apricot i'd have to say. The taste is big and hoppy right off the bat with underlying fruitiness and a nice malt backbone. Underlying caramel sweetness. This beer offers bold, up front taste and well balanced body. A very, very light and smooth mouthfeel make this one an easy drinker...dangerous with the 6.8% abv. The finish is of a lovely hop bitterness as the light fruity notes disapate towards the end. Great stuff!

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Photo of Marty
4.7/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I love this beer! It's beautiful; pours a golden amber hue with a tall, foamy, lasting head that leaves a sticky lace down the inside of the glass. The taste is crisply hoppy and malty sweet. I was having trouble characterizing the smell, but one of my friends hit it right on the nose... peach! There are definitely hints of peach in this beer. One of my all-time favorites.

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Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.15 out of 5 based on 10,021 ratings.
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