Beer Review 0156: Sierra Nevada Summerfest Lager

Yes, ‘tis the season for summer seasonal beers. I tend to yawn these days at summer beers, because quite frankly, the majority of them are usually disappointing, trading “flavor” for “refreshing.” Which, there’s nothing wrong with that…but when you’re like me and looking for all the flavor you can get, something has to give!

The summer beer we’re looking at today (and keep in mind, summer doesn’t officially start for another half-month) is from Chico, California’s Sierra Nevada, a consistent maker of quality beers. Many of their offerings have been reviewed on this site and they usually score high marks.

But Summerfest is the red-haired stepchild of their portfolio; this is a lager, and goes light on the hops (by Sierra’s standards). Brewed to just 5% ABV (alcohol by volume), Sierra admits this is much lighter in body than their other beers, but just as complex in character. Brewed with Two-Row Pale and Munich malts, and hopped with Perle & Saaz, (kudos to Sierra for listing the grain and hop bill on their website!) this seasonal beer comes in at just 28 IBUs (International Bitterness Units), which has to be the sweetest thing Sierra Nevada makes. Technically, this beer falls under the Czech Pilsner style.

I feel like we have covered enough of Sierra Nevada’s history in other reviews on this website, so here’s a bit of a news update about them if you’ve been living in a cave: the company will be starting construction on a second brewery located in Asheville, North Carolina, very soon. Of course, let the debates begin: there’s already a group of people out there saying the beer from Asheville won’t be the same because it won’t be brewed with Chico’s water.

That’s an argument for another day and time. And website.

Emptying the bottle into a glass produced an average size head that quickly dissipated to just a thin, frothy cover. The beer was a brilliant bright golden yellow, which accentuated the carbonation bubbles flying about in the liquid. Like you might expect from a lager, this one was crystal clear, free of all particles and sediment, and left behind some good lacing.

The most disappointing part of the drink was the aromatics. There just wasn’t much here, other than a big hit of grain and bread, with a much smaller note of floral hop, with maybe a very faint whiff of some general citrus. Then there was a somewhat off-putting metallic scent. Very reminiscent of a macro lager here, unfortunately.

The taste revealed quite a nice balance between hops and malts; kicking things off was a nice floral hop, again hinting at the citrus; then the malts fire up and wash over the tongue, leaving behind a core of grain and bread. The mouthfeel is thin but exceptionally crisp and snappy. The finish turns just slightly bitter, which prepares your mouth for another sip and adds to the crispness. It’s almost like a cleansing effect.

The take-away for me on Summerfest is while this is a good, non-offensive beer, I’d really LOVE to see what Sierra Nevada would do with a lager if they took the gloves completely off. In fact, there are many breweries I could say this of — lagers are highly overlooked in the craft beer scene these days, and it’s time for breweries to step up to the plate and redefine this style of beer.

Summerfest isn’t *it,* but it is a good start. Hint, hint, Sierra!

Sierra Nevada Summerfest Lager, 78 points. Price: $13.99 US for a twelve pack.

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