Sarah reminded me on Friday evening of the unique beer event going on Saturday, featured in John Foyston’s regular (and regularly awesome) beer column: an opportunity to do a true vertical tasting of six years of Sierra Nevada’s always amazing Celebration Ale. Woodstock Wine and Deli was offering 2002-2007 vintages on tap, in 6 oz. tasters, for the low-low price of $16. Celebration is probably my second-favorite holiday brew (no. 1 being Full Sail’s excellent “Wreck the Halls”), so I jumped at the chance.
Sarah was babysitting for a friend later in the evening, so we split a tasting, which ended up being more than enough, delicious as the beers were. At 6.8% alcohol, even 6 oz. tasters end up accumulating pretty quickly. Each glass in the flight came marked, with the numerals 2-7 hand-written on its base, making for easy identification, and corresponding to the unique vintage each glass contained. In general, we were both surprised at the differences apparent in the vintages, and not always in the way we expected. For starters, each beer was quite different, with ultra-hoppy aromas prevalent in some, ultra-bitter in others, and even one that was almost blasé in comparison to its brethren. My notes below.
- 2002: Bitter hops, more than I would expect from a beer of this age, nor as complex. Strong floral aftertaste, almost resiny, with moderate alcohol aromas and taste. Nice citrus/floral aroma, though, with something almost vaguely woody in the background. Very nice.
- 2003: Much less citrus on this, with malty flavors dominant. A little vanilla in there? Something naggingly acidic and sharp in the background. Not a favorite.
- 2004: Piny hops. Resiny almost, but not too sweet as in some beers of this strength/hop combo. Less bitterness than the 2002 vintage, with similarly floral aftertaste. Probably my favorite of the bunch.
- 2005: This tastes like a homebrew to me, one I would be proud to serve. Nice malty body, with strong grapefruit hops and smooth, caramelly sweetness and nicely bitter aftertaste. Definitely some alcohol, though not in an unpleasant way.
- 2006: This was the odd beer out, lacking the “oomph” of the other beers in the flight. Nothing comes out in front, and it almost seemed a bit under-carbonated, as well as a bit “keggy” with a strange smell I wrote down as “acidic” in nature. Hey, it’s my fifth beer. Cut me a little vocabularly slack, eh? I did write down “C&H sugary sweet,” so you have to give me some credit for odd commodity-product-oriented-brand specificity. Or something.
- 2007: We both didn’t like this one much, leaving about 2/3 of the beer in the glass when we left. It had a strange smell to it, almost “burnt rubber,” which is not something I want in my beer. It was kind of gross, actually, with a quite bitter aftertaste.
In all, though, quite an event. Gregg Fujino from Woodstock should be commended not only for the event, which drew a huge crowd of Portland’s Beerigentsia, but his awesome, family-run business that embraces Portland beer culture. Not too many places in town are serving 6-year-old kegs, mostly because of the costs and hassle associated with storing such demanding objets d’beer as 16-gallon craft beer. Six years of beer, with plenty to go around. Serious kudos.
What’s more, the server who poured our beers confided that he’d heard next year’s tasting might include EIGHT years of Celebration. You heard it here first. Let’s hope it’s true. I would definitely repeat this event. And, can I say it? Good god, I love Portland.