Reviewed: Sierra Nevada Summer Break Session Hazy IPA
Official description: Drop into summertime, stocked with a Session Hazy IPA brewed for long days of play. Go anywhere with hoppy notes of mango and passion fruit, backed by smooth malt flavor. Malts: Two-row Pale, Oats, Wheat. Hops: Chinook, Simcoe, Comet, Mosaic, Amarillo, Strisselspalt. Yeast: Ale Yeast. 30 IBUs, 4.6% ABV.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. – Sierra Nevada Summer Break Session Hazy IPA – 12oz can served in Rastal Harmony glass – 4.6% ABV
Sierra Nevada had a runaway hit with Hazy Little Thing in 2018, which was one of the very first New England-style IPAs to hit mass distribution. Now, it seems like Hazy IPA is the norm rather than the exception when perusing store shelves. Its popularity continues to grow with some breweries, even on the West Coast, essentially going all-in on the style.
Sierra Nevada, though, hasn’t followed suit and decided to market dozens of Hazy IPA recipes simultaneously. They’ve been far more judicious with very few other New England-style beers in their portfolio. Wild Little Thing and Big Little Thing are surprisingly unrelated to Hazy Little Thing. What they have in common is that they diverge from the classic Sierra Nevada estate grain flavor and traditional focus on resinous, piney hops. Only Fantastic Haze seems to have taken a stab again at the style, but with its monster 9% ABV and overly estery aroma, it went in the wrong direction in my opinion. Summer Break could be its redemption.
I’m reviewing Summer Break from a 6-pack of 12oz cans that I picked up for $10 plus tax. The 6-pack comes in a paper carton – one of the best packaging solutions for distribution especially if you’re a germaphobe. On the outside of the paper carton (and on the bottom of each can), you can spy a canning date. In my case, these are a little less than a month old at the time of review.
Into my glass, Summer Break is barely hazy when considering the range of turbidity within the style. Rather than a soupy, grayish-yellow milkshake appearance; Summer Break looks like an unfiltered West Coast IPA with very low turbidity. Its sparking, straw-colored liquid is topped with a cumulus cloud of craggy, white foam that rises easily over the edges of the glass without spilling over.
Bringing up the glass, fresh pineapple, lemon sorbet, Dole Whip, and pomelo burst forth in what is a bright, enticing aroma. From first impressions, I get more West Coast IPA vibes. Digging in, Summer Break is just lightly sweet with a surprising depth of grain character. Clarified butter and flakey buttermilk biscuit give the beer an odd slickness on the palate. Thankfully, this is balanced with green mango and lemon zest character for bitterness. With such low ABV and minimal bitterness, Summer Break leaves itself vulnerable to exposing any faults in the base beer. With wheat and oats in the grain bill, there’s significantly more silkiness and creaminess in the mouthfeel than you might expect from a 4.6% session IPA. Like Hazy Little Thing, Summer Break tastes like a hybrid between a New England and West Coast IPA.
Perceived Specs for Sierra Nevada Summer Break Session Hazy IPA
Summer Break is a delicious, though unusual beer. It’s only slightly bitter, which falls in line with the ever-popular Hazy IPAs out there. It has a remarkably rich mouthfeel (silky, creamy) for the category thanks to oat and wheat additions. But then the whole package is bright and refreshing, still, with pineapple and pomelo in the aroma plus green mango and lemon zest flavors. Put it all together and you have an extremely approachable beer that ties together the best attributes of both New England and modern West Coast IPAs.
VERDICT: 94 pts (OUTSTANDING)
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