Home > Beers > Strawberry Music Festival Beers – Kona Longboard Lager and Widmer Hefeweizen

Strawberry Music Festival Beers – Kona Longboard Lager and Widmer Hefeweizen

Strawberry Festival Beer Selection

Strawberry Festival Beer Selection

The Strawberry Music Festival is a fabulous place to be – we’ve just returned from the Labour Day weekend fest, replete with memories, food and dirt. Camping out in the mountains was tremendous fun, the music was magnificent and the company was out of this world. I could talk about the great hospitality, fine weather and whatnot until the cows come home, but for now I must content myself with talking about the beer.

Toward the evening, the Sierra Nevada mountains cool off quickly, so while the day was still warm, I decided to head for the beer tent and sample their wares (all on draught, all served into plastic cups).

I have to say that there’s wasn’t much of a choice, as you can see from the photo. Not that I was too dismayed; I decided to dive in to some unfamiliar territory. Eschewing the standard fare of Guinness, Newcastle and Sierra Nevada, plumped for the Hefeweizen.

Widmer Hefeweizen

Not that anyone will lose much sleep over this, but this has to be one of the least inspiring examples of the style I have ever had. Now normally, this style of beer is pleasantly fruity, spicy and refreshing, bu in this case I found that there’s little in the nose, the colour is lacking, there’s little body and a disappointingly bland flavour. My standard for the style is Hoegaarden, being the first hefe I sampled all those years ago in Nottingham. Whilst that isn’t the finest of beers, it’s pleasant enough, and has become the yardstick by which I judge others. The Widmer comes nowhere near even close.

There’s barely any malt either in the nose or the taste, neither was there any of the warm spicy citrus I’ve come to expect from the type. It’s a thin brew in every respect, and in fact the only good thing I can say is that it was cold and wet. Not unpleasant, just bitterly disappointing.

No hops, little malt, and barely any nose. My first C-rated beer. C-minus, in fact.

Kona Brewing Longboard Lager

Undeterred, I ploughed on,and while the music played, settled on a brew that a few others at the Co-op have recommended – Kona’s Longboard Lager.

It’s a pale gold, as you might expect from a lager, and while it had a good head at the pour, by the time I’d walked back to the music, it had vanished, leaving a faint few bubbles at the rim. “Maybe this is due to the plastic cup”, I thought, feeling fairly generous. “Maybe it will be an improvement”.

Let me just say this. If ever you’re looking for an all-purpose beer, this is it. It will serve excellently in your windscreen washer bottle, perhaps it will remove those stubborn grass stains from your trousers from sitting on the grass at a music festival. Keep a bottle handy and shake it up to extinguish a small grass fire. Maybe it will quench your thirst if you’ve nothing else, but one thing it will not do is surprise your nose or delight your palate.

You may feel I’m being a little unkind, and that may be true, because I’m not a big fan of lagers. I’ve come across many of them, and as a rule I find them to be uninspiring, thin and tasteless. Perhaps that’s the point, that lagers are brewed for the relief of thirst, not for the benefit of Real Ale Bores. That said, I’ve had many better.

This one had little in the nose. A little breadiness and a slightly grassy scent but otherwise, little to report. It has a slightly sugary flavour, but not much else. Again, there’s nothing to say against it, but neither is there much to far for it, either. As it’s brewed in Hawaii, and given the name, I’ll assume that it’s aimed at the hard-sporting surfer who wants and easy and quick thirst-quencher after whatever it is that surfers really do. I’ll stop now before I get too rude about this one. Solid C.

After this, the dullest review of beer I’ve so far done, let me just say this. Strawberry Music Festival is still well worthwhile. We had a great holiday weekend, and you should too. Go for great music. Just take your own beer.


After all the comments received about this post, I feel obliged to point out that the keg could have been run about the countryside, and was poorer as a result. Hoiking beer around the country can cause a disturbance in the Force, maybe I should have mentioned that before. This said, BeerAdvocate users didn’t rate either of them that highly, either.

  1. 10 September, 2009 at 02:28

    You northerners with your heads on your beers! Remove that sparkler every time. That said, wheat beers are the only ones I do like with a head.

  2. 10 September, 2009 at 07:49

    I’ll give you “Northerners”! When I lived in Norfolk, and was drinking Adnams, those buggers had barely any head at all, no sparklers, no nothing.

    I like to see some head on any beers. Just looks better, and gives you something to suck out of my moustache later (when I have a moustache, that is!)

  3. 7 October, 2009 at 10:59

    I’m not going to tell you that I’m a fan of Widmer’s Hefeweizen, but it’s not completely fair to compare it to Hoegaarden for style points.

    Widmir’s making an American take on Bavarian Heffe–which is well dumbed-down, mostly through the use of neutral yeast rather than the clove-and-banana-ester-producing yeasts that Ze Germans tend to use.

    But Hoegaarden’s a Belgian Wit, which is not a “Hefe” (meaning “yeasty”, to a German). Belgians as a rule believe the yeast belongs at the bottom of the bottle, not suspended in the beer. And Witbier tends to be brewed with a variety of spices–coriander, bitter orange, grains of paradise–and is sometimes slightly soured, in the Flemish farmhouse tradition.

    None of which is to suggest that I recommend Widmer Hefeweizen. Though the brewers are great guys and Widmer makes a number of less-widely-available beers that are well worth drinking.

    • 7 October, 2009 at 11:19

      Thanks for your comments. You’re right to wag the finger at me, of course; making that kind of comparison may seem odious and unfair but I do stand by my statement, because that’s the way I work! I’m something of a beer snob, but I try, in the words of the folk at BeerAdvocate to”respect beer” no matter what. Maybe I should have been a lot clearer with my comparison, and for that I apologise.

      The yeast makes all the difference in the final tasting, as does the brewing process. I get the feeling that the Widmer takes shortcuts that no self-respecting Belgian brewmaster would, and they wind up with a thinner and less satisfying beer.

      This is what we get for buying any cheap beer, I suppose; there’s a huge difference in the cost of crafting really good ales, and Widmer are likely brewing for a section of the marketplace that often resents paying a couple of dollars more. It’s the Budweiser argument over again, the making of beer in vast quantities at a competitive pricepoint for a market that is happy with beers that are light and easy to drink.

      This is not to say that these cheaper beers don’t have a place – after all, on a blazing hot day a simple “cold one” can be highly satisfactory, and that’s where this, and many other beers, fit in.

  4. 7 October, 2009 at 22:23

    I wouldn’t put Widmer in the category of “cheap beer”. Next time you’re in Portland, we can go down to the tap room and sample across their line of beers (most of which are not distributed outside the city).

    I think the real issue here is that Widmer Hefeweizen is a beer that was created as a Hefe that would stand a chance in the American beer market in 1986, predating almost all of the modern American craft beer movement. They invented the American Hefeweizen as a style (and the accompanying lemon wedge), and by today’s standards–particularly from our vantage points in Northern California and Western Oregon–it’s quaint and fairly dated.

    It’s rather like teenagers today listening to Little Richard or Chuck Berry and trying to imagine how anyone could feel rebellious under that influence.

    But Kurt and Rob Widmer have helped nurture the craft beer and homebrew scenes in Portland as much as anybody, and while they may have taken a bit of a cash-in on the distribution side of things (Anheuser-Busch has a deal to sell their beer around the country) it’s hard for me to imagine them cutting corners on ingredients or brewing care. They’ve just ended up, for historical reasons, with a flagship beer that will never be more than a learner’s-permit beer for craft ales.

    I’m enjoying your blog quite a bit, by the way. Keep it up.


    • 7 October, 2009 at 22:28

      I’ll also note that it’s been years since I’ve tried one of these and I’ll have to admit that it’s possible that they’ve declined in quality in that period. Widmer has grown a lot over the last few years and that doesn’t always bode well for the big-production beers—it’s been sad to me how many crap Fat Tires I’ve had in the last five years. But then it’s also possible that you had an off keg or were served from a keg that baked in the sun…

      I’ll have to give them another shot one of these days, if I’m going to continue asserting that it’s not worth drinking.

  5. 8 October, 2009 at 08:54

    There’s always the possibility that the keg was off. Hoiking beer around the country can cause a disturbance in the Force, maybe I should have mentioned that. In fact, I will edit the post, just to be generous.

    All this said, the brew didn’t get a great rating at BeerAdvocate either…

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