Friday found me at the Illinois Secretary of State’s Drivers License Facility attempting to renew my motorcycle learner’s permit. We in Morris are most fortunate to have, in the same little strip mall, the Illinois DMV and the beloved Morris Beer Store. The only shop separating the two is a Chinese restaurant. Yes. Beer, good ethnic food and vehicle legalization within a few steps of each other.
With my legal fees out of the way, it was only a matter of linear feet before I was within the friendly confines of the great MBS. The place was damn near empty. Marge was behind the counter taking care of a customer. I bade a greeting, dropped off last week’s printout and slunk around the beer shelf. I was in the mood for another summer beer and I was hoping for one that was different. Not a slammin’ lawnmower beer, but rather one with some great beer taste to it.
I was early into my scan, just passing the Leinie section when Marge came around. “So what are you reviewing this week?” (Yeah, they all know me.) I mentioned my penchant for a summer seasonal beer and asked if she knew any anything new. She banged on a few sixpacks with her index finger saying, “We have this.” Bang. “And this.” Bang. “Have you had this?” Bang-bang-bang. She drummed on a sixpack which I hadn’t seen before. It was a beer called Summerfest Lager from the folks at Sierra Nevada out of Chico, CA.
I grabbed one of the squatty bottles. “Crisp Summer Lager” it said at the bottom. Hmm. I haven’t had a lager in quite awhile, let alone a summer lager. Now this was different. It was perfect. It was what I was looking for without knowing what I was looking for. At the register, I paid the nine bucks for six beers. Marge mentioned that she felt nervous having recommended a beer to be reviewed. I told her that I’d paint her in a very flattering light in the review. (I’m so full of crap.)
The Friday night work day was a short four-hour shift. We had gotten so far ahead that we were starting to encroach into Monday’s work. We were sprung at 7 p.m. and I was a bit surprised to drive home in all the evening traffic with the sun in my eyes the whole way.
I brought my lunch bucket out to the Manly Garage and had a nice meal of ham, bread (!) and Fast Mac&Cheese. A cup of tea and a crossword puzzle, with no worries of time constraints rounded out the meal nicely. Then it was officially beer time.
I grabbed the first Summerfest and examined the label more closely. No ABV rating, no born-on date. There was a blurb on the neck label:
Summerfest is a Pilsner-style lager brewed for enjoyment on warm summer days – featuring a slight malt sweetness, delicate spicy and floral hop flavor, and (sic)* a crisp refreshing finish.
The cap sported the warning:
FRESH SEAL CAP – USE BOTTLE OPENER
That’s just so those unsuspecting good ol’ B/M/C drinkers don’t hurt theyseffs tryin’ ta twist it off.
With a lager glass selected from the beer glass locker inside, I uncapped the first bottle and poured its contents hoping for wondrous tastes beyond my imagination.
The beer came up a nice golden yellow with a half-inch head and tons of very large bubbles racing to the top. The head was quite thick and nicely white. The aroma was mild but had that subtle hint of nice beery things to come.
The first sip was mild and had a rather thin body at the start. There was this one old familiar flavor that I caught during the exhale. I’d say it was that lager flavor. The beer grabbed the tongue on all three sides and filled in the middle with this subtle flavor. The thinness went away and the mildness settled in.
The beer didn’t taste European nor did it taste American. It was a beer that perhaps the Atlanteans would make. It tasted like a good old American lager, but it was somehow different. It was milder and smoother than say, Brooklyn lager, Schlitz, PBR or new Old Style; more along the lines of Land Shark. The flavors were there but they were disguised as ghosts as they painted my tongue with taste this early on in the experience.
The malt sweetness of this beer as stated on the neck label was there in force, but spicy it was not. As the sips went on the swallows became crisper and the exhales started to give me hints of floral. It didn’t exactly remind me of funeral flowers but there was something there. Now all we needed was a little umbrella… disguised as a Samurai sword. I must say that once I picked up on the floral hints, they were in every sip thereafter. Not overwhelming. But kinda… nice.
By the end of the first glass, that crispness at the swallow became more and more apparent. Now this is enjoyment! Crisp and florals. But I couldn’t get over how smooth and light this beer was, while still tasting like a full-blown brewski. I now understood why the Sierra Nevada folks gave this beer its Summerfest name. With an ABV of 5% flat, this is one of those nice, summer coolers that could be imbibed almost endlessly as long as there are replacements in the cooler.
This is not a lawnmower beer. But it could be. I could see slammin’ a coupla two-three after some laps around the yard, but the beer has more taste and more flavor than a slammer. This is a beer for a lazy summer afternoon while you watch the sun descend and the moon and mosquitoes come out. It could be a great after work unwind beer. A couple before supper will put you in the right frame of mind to enjoy the reruns on TV, if you are so inclined.
This Summerfest Lager is another bullseye in the great tasting seasonal selections for this time of year and a great brew from Sierra Nevada. Mild and flavorful, it can be a go-to-brew for quenching a thirst. For easy sipping or hard gulping, this beer will make you smile. Just make sure you have plenty on hand. Your PBR loving buddies will love this beer. Just remind them to use a bottle opener.
Taste: A- > Beer with helium and flowers.
Smoothness: A- > Slip’n’Slide right down the gullet.
Drinkability: B+ > More flowers. No wait. More crispy, please.
Bang for the buck: B > Worth its weight in gold fillings.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: Smells kinda sweet. (sip) (pause) (sip) A little bit of a tang, not a lot. (sip) That’s all there is to it. (sip) It’s got a little bit of bitterness to it. (sip) Last week’s was better. (The lady prefers the Nude Beach I see.)
Sierra Nevada Brewery Tour
(Compare Ken Grossman to Jim Koch)