One beer that I haven't talked about in enough detail in the past that made my very football oriented Christmas list of beers is Sierra's Celebration Ale. It dares to be different. Celebration is indeed designed by Sierra to be a holiday ale; it's released every November/December. Setting it apart from the Christmas beer masses is its profile that contrasts sharply with other holiday brews out there.
People have come to expect Christmas beers to either taste something like grog, with nutmeg, spices, and orange, or to be a thick ass dark stout or porter. Those beers have their place. Some are amazing. But what of hopheads at Christmas time? Leave it to Sierra to concoct a brew designed to please the hopsters. I proudly present to you Celebration Ale. It's basically an IPA but they load it up with very spicy, herbaceous hops to remind you of the association between spices and the holidays. There's plenty of citrus hoppinesss in there too, so if you haven't tried this, don't think you're going to get a mellow grainy hop experience. It has more than enough West Coast sass. There's also a pleasant balance of full bodied malts in the mix as well. With every sip I'd say you get a mouthful of 70% malt flavor integrated with the hops but the hop bite is continuous and you never feel as if you are suffering through one of those flabby hop-lacking IPA's.
Celebration is an excellent brew and a needed departure from some of the baking spice laden bombastic ales of Christmas season. Some of those beers are top notch too and far beyond Celebration in their ostensible complexity. But Sierra gives a nice nod to the hoppy end of the spectrum with this beer.
As a final note, I'll add that one should not underestimate the malt presence in this beer in terms of its character and complexity despite overshadowing hops. I did part of a 10-year vertical of Celebration at Delilah's Christmas beer fest this month and discovered that the 2002-2007 versions of this beer had wonderfully complex and giving malts. As expected, the hops in these beers were deceased. This left a wide berth for the remaining malts to reveal themselves, and they displayed orange peel, tea, and spices, making for an interesting experience. This beer can certainly be aged.
Overall, it's a deceptively complex beer that is consistently brewed and thankfully part of the Christmas roster of beers.