Posts Tagged ‘california’

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada 2007 Summerfest Bottom Fermented Beer Lager

26 March, 2008

WHAT is this? Another out of season Sierra Nevada bottle. And this one is last summer’s Summerfest seasonal. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend you have a look at yesterday’s review of Sierra Nevada‘s winter themed 2007 Celebration Ale. That one was good, but didn’t quite reach its potential. Is Sierra Nevada capable of greatness with it’s Summerfest? Let’s find out.
Sierra Nevada 2007 Summerfest bottle

Much the same bottle and label formula has been stuck to with this, as with the Celebration Ale. Again, it’s that odd 350 millilitre bottle size. And they shun the usual front and rear label combination for a front label and a neck label.
Sierra Nevada Summerfest 2007 nack label
Sierra Nevada 2007 Summerfest Bottom Fermented Beer Lager front label

As you might expect, this one is a lot less Christmassy. Gone are the snow covered wood cabins with red and green surrounds. In are yellow colours and images of sunny… well; Sierra Nevada presumably. If you have a better idea that I, of where that front label scene is set, comment below please.

Again, the main front label keeps things simple. It tells us that this beer comes from Chico, California in the USA. That it was imported to the UK by Vertical Drinks Ltd. That it contains barley. But. The prominent alcohol volume of Celebration Ale has been relegated to small text on the left-hand-side. A mystery since 5.0% is not a number to be that ashamed of. True, it’s not strong. But it’s not too weak either.

It’s the neck label that tells us most. In between the marketing speak, there are some facts. And those facts tell us that this is a bottom fermented drink. That it involved cold tank aging. Whatever that it. And is, in fact. A lager. Quite an important fact, I would have said. And one worth mentioning, in big type on the main front label. People who want a lager look for drinks that clearly say “lager” on them. And people, like me, who don’t, look for words like “beer” or “ale”. Come on Sierra Nevada. Don’t write “beer” in large type and “lager” in the small description.

With my expectations dampened, I cling onto the hope, that opening the bottle will be a pleasant surprise. Time to find out.

A small detail I noticed just before opening were the different things written on the bottle tops. Normally, I wouldn’t bother mentioning a detail as boring as bottle tops. Especially as more breweries use the same design across their range. But Sierra Nevada don’t. For their Celebration Ale, they use “Fresh Seal Cap” and “Use Bottle Opener”. But for Summerfest, it is “Pry Off”. These are the only tops I’ve seen that actually give instructions about what the consumer has to do with them. And funnier that on this bottle, the instructions read more like an insult.
Sierra Nevada bottle top comparison

After over-coming my laughter, the lager finally made it into the glass. And what can I say. It looks like lager. It’s light-gold in colour. It has bubbles rising quickly to the surface. And it has a head. Actually that detail is important. It means that this one is at the premium end of the scale.
Sierra Nevada 2007 Summerfest Bottom Fermented Beer Lager in a glass

As for smell. Well, it is lager. There’s nothing to mention. It smells faintly of barley.

A few gulps in, and I’m delighted to report that it isn’t as bad as I expected it to be. The first thing I noticed was how refreshing it is. A quality you might want at summer. It’s not too bitter. And although there is that aftertaste that I loath so much, it’s not as strong. And doesn’t linger as badly as those of cheaper lager.

Further in, and this is very easy to drink indeed. It is very nearly as easy to drink as water. I’m growing to quite enjoy Summerfest. Even if it is just a lager. It’s not as gassy as I feared, either.

To sum up, then. 2007 Summerfest is refreshing and drinkable. And the bad bits of being a lager have been hidden to some extent. Just as they promise, this is a good drink for the summer. However, I’m reviewing this on a dismal March day in London. Character and full-bodied flavours are never going to feature in a lager. And you have so many alternative lagers to choose from. If you simply want to get hammered, there’s lot of lager options. Or if you want a classier option from an independent brewery, they exist to. For example, Harviestoun Schiehallion.

My point is then, 2007 Summerfest is good. But is it different enough to stand out on already crowded shelves? I’m not so sure. And for that, it scores well, but I’m absolutely certain that Sierra Nevada are capable of delivering much more. Let’s hope we see more from this west-coast American brewer on our supermarket shelves soon.

Rating: 3.35

Have you tried 2007 Summerfest? Or any other Sierra Nevada bottles?
If so, leave your experiences, comments and insults below please.

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

25 March, 2008

A first for my Big Log today. An American ale. My local Tesco have bought in a small batch of Sierra Nevada bottles. And this is one of them: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale.
Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale bottle

One look at the festive logo tells you that something is ever so slightly amiss. And the shoulder label explains what that is.
Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale shoulder label
Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale front label

It seems that Tesco got this small batch of bottles in late. You see, this 2007 Celebration Ale was produced to celebrate the winter from which we are now emerging. In other words, the winter that’s nearly over. Fortunately, it’s still cold enough outside to feel like winter, so I’m going into my first American ale with an open mind.

Have I purchased a bottle of Celebration Ale that’s missing the rear label? Or do Sierra Nevada don’t bother with rear labels? Answers in the comments section at the end of this post please.

As it is, we’ve got to make do with the front label. One of the few pieces of information on it, tells us that this bottle is 350 millilitres. What sort of value is that? This is the first time I’ve seen that amount. Maybe it’s something common to American beers. If anyone out there knows the reason behind this, again, please leave a message at the end of this post. I’m dying to know why the unusual number.

Something prominent and appealing is the alcohol volume. Which in this case, is 6.8%. Despite its funny size, this could well turn out to be an outstanding little drink.

The brewery is also worth a mention as this is my first taste of Sierra Nevada. This one was brewed and bottled by the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. of Chico, California of the USA. I didn’t even know Chico was a real place. It looks like I’m learning new things all the time from this diminutive little bottle. Finally, it was imported to the UK by Vertical Drinks Ltd. In case anyone out there is interested in that sort of face.

Unsure how much 350 millilitres actually was, I chose a half-pint glass. That was a mistake. If in doubt, go for the bigger glass. The drink however, poured delightfully. The head went in creamily and controllably. More so than many other premium beers and ales. And the colour is a rich, deep, dark gold.
Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale in a glass

After so many lagers, it is fantastic to smell an ale again. And this one is a treat. It smells of fruit and flowers. But in a light way that is slightly different to the English fruity and flowery ales that I’ve reviewed on this blog. No lets see if that fruitiness and floweriness carries over to the taste.

The first taste that hits you is bitter. And the lingering aftertaste is sour. Quite a surprise as I was expecting something light and fruity. A few more gulps in though, and you do start to notice that this is more than a bitter or pale ale. There are some hints of the fruits that you noticed in the smell. Although they’re not as much in evidence as the smell leads you to believe.

Maybe because of the rough ride home from the supermarket, I found Celebration Ale a little on the gassy side. But not too much so. It was also very easy to drink. Yes it had that aftertaste that I disliked. But much of the taste, flavour and character was inoffensive. You could go as far as to say that it is playing it too safe on that front and lacking the full-on character and flavour of other decent beers and ales.

What to make of Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale then? I went into this genuinely wanting to be surprised and impressed. And the smell did just that. But the taste simply hasn’t delivered. It’s simply too plain and lacking true character. But it is still a drinkable, strong, west-coast ale. And for that, it claws back marks.

Rating: 3.2

That quality is there, but make 2008 a real celebration for us, won’t you Sierra Nevada?

Have you tried Celebration Ale or any others from the Sierra Nevada brewery?
Then leave the world your comments, thoughts and insults below please.

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