Aging Beers: Sierra Nevada Fresh Hop IPA– At Five, Three and Three Years From our “Vault”; Chico, California*
Date: February 15, 2018
The Story— We’ve been irrationally fond of Celebration from the first sip in 1984– three years after its first release in California. A long road trip to New England a year or two later searching for that year’s disappearing cases convinced us that a very hoppy ale appealed to a very big “niche” and led us to create Tuppers’ Hop Pocket Ale. Find the story of Celebration and the birth of Hop Pocket at our review of this year’s release here.
*We’re pretty sure they brew the Celebration near the hop fields that can give them the “fresh” hop (but not wet hops) that the beer depends on. When they brew a version at Mills River with North Carolina hops, we’ll know the East has finally arrived as a hop producer.
The Beer: Theoretically a fresh hop IPA shouldn’t be laid down, but the gentle trip to older age with this beer has fascinated us for decades. What’s interesting is how similar they are after some aging. All have a somewhat gooey hop residue in the aftertaste. Of the three in this vertical tasting, the 2015 is probably the most tangy and really, it shouldn’t be, but the 2017 is kind of a dud. We wonder if they tried to do it at Mills River. It’s obviously fresher, but really no better. We put Ellie through a blind tasting and she found the 2015 maltier, fruitier, and a bit softer. The 2013 was not as deep and a bit sugary with more citrus Fro her the 2017 was the driest and most bitter with lots of lingering bitter and a quite sharp end. If someone asked us “which would you order in a bar?” we’d have a tough time answering. Differences are subtle. The fresh hops in 2017 gang up on the palate more than most years. I’d lean toward choosing the 2015. But the bottom line is that you can pick up a six pack of this beer and have fun with it for years to come.
Value — Very good to excellent. This is a classic beer, well suited to setting down (carefully) for a year or five, and available at a close to regular beer price.
Values: “fair” is a good beer at an above market price, “good” is worth the money, “very good” is a bargain, and “excellent” is a steal.