Celebrate good beer w/ @SierraNevada’s Celebration ale.


Sierra Nevada’s celebration ale is a beer I really look forward to every year. Before I was really into craft beer, I was into this beer. This american IPA has been around since 1981, and as far as I’m aware the recipe hasn’t changed. It’s said to be a bigger version of their flagship pale ale. 


It pours with minimal head, the aroma is your typical C hop (Cascade, Centennial, Columbus) aroma of bitter grapefruit / pine. To be honest I’m having a hard time picking up the nuances, and describing this beer, as I’m coming off a week or two long cold, and my sence of smell and taste haven’t fully recovered.

What I can tell you is this is a solid offering, I’ve had it too many times to count, and I buy it every year.

Drinkability – Despite it’s abv, you certainly could drink mroe than a few.

Taste – malty, bitter, hop balanced ipa.


Vitals. ABV 6.8 (sneaky, I’d have never even guessed it was above 5). Poured too cold into a perfect pint.




Sierra Nevada 2011 Homegrown Estate Ale


At last week’s Craft.Beer.Social Yankee Swap I had a great conversation with fellow contributor Derek Peplau about the direction of this site and what we want it to be. One of the things we both felt was that not everything we post has to be multiple paragraphs with DSLR quality photos. Let’s face it: sometimes we’re just drinking a great beer (or not so great beer) that we want to share with the world. Or at least the 7 non-family members and friends who read this site…

Anyhow, in that spirit I decided to do this post entirely from my iPhone. This includes the photos, which I enhanced with the fine Camera+ app. Will my thumbs ache when all this is over? You betcha. But it’s well worth it just to prove the point that this can be done on the fly from my couch as I watch the MetLife Natural Disaster Pringles Bowl or whatever this is on my TV right now.

In case you’ve missed them, Sierra Nevada produces some nice fresh hop bombers at reasonable prices. I never miss a bottle of their Hemisphere beers, and this one caught my eye because of its unique wine bottle-like design. It’s their way of shouting “Hey! Beer can be high brow too!”. The label describes their vineyard… oops, I mean their barley & hop fields which I assume are tended by a lonely, sensitive bachelor who is walks in bare feet looking for love. It cites the grapefruit scent which I certainly detected on the nose. The pour left a prominent white head that screamed freshness. It was a perfect fit for my brand new Alchemist glass. The hop flavor was supported by a firm malt body. This beer was made for those who appreciate freshness. It paired nicely with my chips & salsa.

This ale won’t blow your socks off, but I’ll be shocked if you don’t enjoy it. I’ll be looking to keep a bottle in my fridge at all times.

Drinkability: a solid A. Those fresh citrus hops will keep you lifting your glass, and at sub-7% ABV it won’t hit you too hard.

Taste: A-. I’ll probably come in higher on this one than others in the group, but to me this is delicious.

Vitals: 6.7% ABV, served at 47 degrees to start and it tasted just as good 40 minutes later when it had warmed a bit. It did not insult the Alchemist label on my glass. Oh- and it’s organic so I rested easy knowing that a crop duster hadn’t dropped a load of pesticides into the bottle. This made the 2 dead crickets I found in my glass more tolerable. (kidding!)

HaandBryggeriet “Bestefar” Norwegian Winter Ale


Welcome to the last in my series of Christmas/winter ale reviews.  Half of it really ended up as a survey of Norwegian winter ales, and I have to say, I was very happy I gave them a shot.  As far as I know they’re relative newcomers to this market, and they ranged from good to excellent.  Tonight, we have another from HaandBryggeriet, their “Bestefar” Winter Ale.

It pours nice and dark and yielded a thick head pretty quickly, but then settled down to just a thing film.  Lacing was pretty minimal.  Sticking your nose into the top of the glass you get raisins, coffee, chocolate malts, and alcohol.  

It’s a little more carbonated than I was expecting.  It’s medium bodied, and the carbonation keeps it from being ‘chewy’ or ‘oily’.  There are a lot of flavors competing for your attention simultaneously when you take a sip.  I picked up roasty malts, chocolate, coffee, raisins, a kind of woody taste, vanilla, molasses with a rather boozy finish.  They really throw the kitchen sink at you with this one.  Given enough time I could probably sit here picking flavor notes out all night.  My pallate’s probably not sophisticated enough to find everything that’s in there, frankly.  

Overall, another really nice beer from this brewery.  It’s not exceptional, but would be great enjoyed on a cold winter night in front of a fire.  The alcohol warming at the end will definitely help take the chill off wherever you are.

Taste:  B/B+  I don’t know if we’ve given one of these before.  It’s very good, but neither grade felt right.  A bit more focus and taming some of that alcohol warmth would put this one solidly in the B+ if not A- realm.

Drinkability: C  One and done with this.  It’s a nice sipping beer, maybe even in a snifter if you’re feeling fancy.  It’s big on the ABV and tastes it.

Label: A  These guys have a great label style and tell a story that makes enjoying beers like these that much more, well, enjoyable.

Vitals:  Poured from a large-ish bottle at about 50F.  Beer has aged over a year (bottling date August 3, 2010) and could probably age further which might mellow the alcohol taste further.  ABV: 9.00%


Norwegian Beauty: Nøgne Ø’s God Jul/Winter Ale


As we approach the end of the year, it’s finally begun to get well and truly cold here in New England.  Perfect night to break out another new winter ale, and tonight it’s another scandinavian craft beer, but the first from this particular brewery, Grimstad Norway’s Nøgne Ø.  

A simple but stylish label on this bottle with some nice background on the beer and the brewery on the back.  It’s apparently known alternately as God Jul and Winter Ale.  My bottle identifies it as the latter.

It pours nice and dark with a very thick head.  In fact I kind of over-poured this one trying to get some good foam.  It smells quite nutty, and indeed they do recommend nuts as one good thing to pair with the beer.  Some caramel and malts too with a hint of dark fruit, chocolate and floral smells.  This is one of only a handful of beers I’ve seen actually recommend food pairings on the label itself.  I’d love to see more breweries follow suit.

There’s almost no carbonation to speak of, just a really smooth, slightly oily consistency to the beer and medium, bready body.  It’s surprisingly easy-drinking with some very nice flavors.  I’m getting caramel, coffee, roasted malts, chocolate, and dark fruit — pretty much everything on the nose shows up in the beer with the chocolate being more pronounced when you drink it.  It finishes very smoothly with some alcohol warming.  Overall this would be a great choice to unwind with on a cold night in front of the fire.  A gold for the Norwegians in my book.

Taste:  A-  Complex, smooth, and very enjoyable porter.  I’m wishing I’d picked up another to share.  Aces.

Drinkability:  B+  Smooth as silk.  Slightly boozy at the end.

Label:  A-  Bold, simple & stylish with lots of background on the brewery and information and recommendations about the beer.  Nicely done.

Vitals:  Poured into a pint glass at about 52F.  8.5% ABV, 30 IBU.

Have you been enjoying a particular winter/Christmas ale?  Let us know below in the comments.



HaandBryggeriet Nissefar “Father Christmas” Holiday Ale


Following my experience with their very surprising Dobbel Dram Imperial IPA, I was excited to see a Christmas ale from HaandBryggeriet on the shelf.  

Pours a dark coffee color with a head that dissipates fairly quickly leaving just a film on the top of the glass.  I got mostly a coffee smell wafting up from the glass.  I was expecting more pronounced flavors in this beer as the Christmas ales tend not to be very subtle, but this one is.  A little research online informs me it’s also classified as an Old Ale (aka a Stock Ale).  It’s a bit Porter-ish I’d say.  I’m also not enough of an ale expert to split those hairs though.  I’m going to tag it as every one of those and let you, the readers, decide which you agree with.  We like to cover the bases here at CBS.

I get coffee notes with some plums or dates buried DEEP in the background as well as a bit of smokiness with a slightly astringent finish.  Carbonation is very light, and it’s a medium-bodied beer.  Nothing crazy about this one, and I’m not sure I’d get it again.  Not because it was bad, but because it was simply not enough of anything.  

Frankly, the label’s the best part of this beer, in my opinion.  I love what they’re doing from a graphic design standpoint, and there’s always a nice accompanying story for their beers.  Speaking of which, I think I’m going to try a new category tonight…


Taste:  B  It was certainly above what I’ve seen some of the so-so craft breweries produce (I don’t want to name names here, but you can probably come up with your own list.  Apple beer anyone?).  Maybe it’s simply too subtle.  I’d really love a second or third opinion on this beer.  In fact, I’m challenging our loyal readers and the CBS crew themselves to find this one and see what you think.  Have I sold it short?

Drinkability:  B+  It’s not sweet, heavy, or carbonated enough to put you off a second.  The question is, will you discover enough flavors there to make you want to try another glass?  

Label:  A  Great illustration evoking Norwegian mythology, a nice description on the back of the name, lots of info about the beer and even the batch.  I wish all labels were this interesting and informative.  Aces.

Vitals:  Poured from the bottle into my brand new CBS pint glass (thank you, Shannon!) at about 48F.  7.00% ABV.  Batch 385, total bottles produced: 1080.

You are a mean one, old tom.


I’ll admit bias to Maine Brewing Company’s offerings right off the bat. They have so many things that I appreciate in a brewery. They are small and local, they care about the big picture, and they make really good beer.

Mean Old Tom is their winter season release, a stout aged on vanilla beans. I don’t know how many of the bottles made it’s way to MA this year, It’s first year here, but I doubt many are left on the shelves.

The beer pours with a thick coco colored head, that settles as you drink it. The beer smells and tastes of coffee. Thick rich coffee, unfortunately there is not more vanilla on the nose or in the beer. If they had left it off the lable, I’d not have even thought about it.

Very enjoyable,it didnt’ blow my mind like I was hoping. At 6.99 a bottle for a bottle smaller than a bomber, your expectations are a little higher, and you might not make this a go to beer. I’d have no reservatons bringing it to a swap.



Taste – B+ Thick, dark with a sweet coffee backbone.
Drinkability – B Pretty drinkable for the stout style, but one is enough.
Vital Stats – Bottle conditioned, 6.5% ABV, American Stout served in my CBS pint.



Lagunitas Sucks Less (by brewing this beer)


The only reason I’m drinking this beer is because of my friend and collaborator Derek’s review earlier this week. After reading it I was compelled to find the beer (and try it), but unfortunately couldn’t find it anywhere. Eventually I was able to track some down and after a late night mission, had some cooling in my beer fridge. 

I’m not going to go into great depth about this beer, Derek already did a fantastic job in his review. I will say this is one of the best smelling IPA’s I’ve come across. The citrus on the nose is absolutely over the top. I was smelling orange rind, grapefruit and lime… just amazing! I thought the taste didn’t quite live up to the promise of the smell, but this is still an excellent beer. Like Derek, I’d like to see this end up in the regular rotation. 


I also want to give a shout out to friend and collaborator Shannon, who hand etched some very nice Craft. Beer. Social. pint glasses for the crew. I was determined to be the first to log a review in the new glass and it looks like I pulled it off. 😉

Taste: B+. The smell alone almost got this into the A-range. 

Drinkability: B+. This is a pretty big beer. I’m not slurring my speech, but I’m close.

Vital Stats: ~45F into my beautiful CBS glass. 7.85% ABV. 63.21 IBUs. 


Edit: I was reminded that friend and collaborator Bill was actually the first to suggest this might be a good beer to seek out. Maybe it was the photo he included in his missive that caused me to erase the recommendation from my memory?