Good afternoon, gang! How's tricks? DID YOU VOTE?! I won't buy you a beer unless you voted. Nah, just kidding, I won't buy you a beer regardless, and I also don't like to jump down non-voting throats. I cast my ballot, because I'm a paragon of virtue—plus I have a soft schedule and was already wearing pants, so, what the hell, easy enough—but I understand if you can't work it into your day.
I would like everyone to vote, but I would also like all the pop-up super-patriots to settle back down and respect that not everyone is willing or able to prioritize standing in that particular line on this particular Tuesday. And it's not just about physically going to the polls, either: It can be mentally taxing to really put in the proper effort, especially if you live in an amiably insane city like mine, which uses a proportional representation system to elect city councilors and school committee members.
I don't remember exactly how it works (no municipal elections this time around), but it essentially involves ranking candidates one-to-ten-ish. This is fantastic in theory, but in practice it means the thorough voter must choose between his or her eighth- and ninth-favorite school committee wannabe (you can just rank your first few and leave the rest blank, if you're a coward). Ranking human strangers is a vexatious matter! That's why I prefer to rank beers.
I like to make beer lists, because I can fairly and objectively say, "I drank these 15 beers, and this is the order in which I, one person, prefer them." These rankings are self-evidently worthless, because I'm just one asshole (who mostly drinks Schlitz), but at least I'm not pretending to throw science at you, as does this list of the 25 "best" American breweries. It's a fine list, as are most lists, but also one that prompted one of the beer big shots I know to rightfully point out that if your list of the best breweries doesn't include Sierra Nevada, you've got a bullshit list on your hands. This is no big deal, because most lists, in addition to being fine, are bullshit, but it did remind me that it's high time Sierra Nevada gets some attention on Drunkspin.
They've recently rolled out Celebration, a winter-seasonal IPA that's been around since 1981 (!) and has lately been made with fresh hops. That makes this beer special in three ways: It's a 33-year-old IPA; it's a winter beer that isn't just a mishmash of whatever crud was lying around the brewery, plus ginger; and it's loosely based on Sierra Nevada's original 1996 Harvest Ale, which started the fresh/wet-hop craze.
Hops are real, live agricultural products, and as such they have a growing season that necessitates the bulk of the harvest being kiln-dried and preserved for use throughout the year. But recently, more and more of your better American brewers have gone through the hassle of producing beers with hops that are airlifted into the brew kettle immediately after they have been picked. These beers are properly (and grossly) called "wet-hopped"; Sierra Nevada instead employs what they call "fresh hops," which are added to the beer within a week of having been dried. These newly dried hops are livelier and more aromatic than standard hops in the same way that a just-opened jar of oregano has more to give than a jar that's been sitting open in your cabinet for a year.
This difference is subtle but real: It's especially evident when you drink a fresh-hopped version of a beer you're familiar with. The effect isn't that easy to suss out with Celebration, because it's not simply the Pale Ale or Torpedo recipe made with fresh hops. However, Celebration helps the hop student out by using three of the most venerable American varieties—Cascade, Chinook, and Centennial—which we've all had a million times in their less-fresh forms.
The aroma opens with a huge blast of pine resin undercut with orange and lemon. The taste shows a fruiter-than-expected malt character that features small hints of raisins and dried cherries, plus a bit of spice. This is a beautifully balanced 6.8-percent-alcohol-by-volume IPA that starts to lean toward the bitter side as it opens up.
Ranking things is hard and subjective, but Celebration IPA is further evidence that if your best-brewery list doesn't include Sierra Nevada, your list could use some fixing.
This is Drunkspin Daily, the Concourse's adequate source for booze news, reviews, and bullshit. We'll be highlighting a beer a day in this space; please leave suggestions below.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain. Image by Jim Cooke.
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