Welcome to Spring, beer lovers! While it’s supposed to be warming up sometime soon, it still feels like winter here in the Northeast. Don’t worry, we have you covered for whatever face spring decides to show us.
Spring doesn’t have many traditional styles brewed specifically for the season, except for German Bocks, which are brewed in May (we’ll have more on Bocks later this spring, so please don’t write nasty comments about how stupid we are because there are no Bocks on this list). Without too many specific styles for brewers to adhere to, creativity can go wild.
A word on our methodology: With so many breweries to choose from around the country — we stayed national for this list but many are originally Euro-styles — we really branched out and tried for something different like light dessert stouts and fruity, imperial IPA’s. Here are our top 10 craft beers on our radar this spring:
1. At only 5.8%, Chicago’s Half Acre Beer Company Chocolate Camaro, a milk/sweet stout, might look pitch-black and ready for winter but it’s the perfect chocolate treat at the end of a Spring meal or even by itself. For a lower ABV stout, this one packs a flavorful punch of chocolate (obviously), coffee and just a bit of peanut butter that’s sure to get your engine running.
2. Spring is a great time to start looking into beers with fruit added, but it’s not often that an IPA is the style of choice. Tree Shaker Imperial Peach IPA from Odell Brewing Company in Colorado will start hitting shelves in early April. Brewed with over 3,000 lbs of puréed Colorado peaches, this may be a fruity beer, but at 9.7%, it’s got pits.
3. Deschutes Brewery from Bend, Oregon can do no wrong. Known for their big and experimental beers (see: Abyss and Conflux) as well as solid offerings of just about every other style, here comes a low-ABV blonde surprise in River Ale that, at just 3.8%, has enough crisp hop taste to make this a spring winner.
4. While The Bruery in Placentia, CA is another brewery known for their specialty beers (and love of sour yeasts), Saison De Lente is one offering you can find in your local specialty beer store and is definitely worth picking up. Brewed for spring, it’s just funky enough to still be very accessible, and is a great intro beer to American Saisons and brett yeast.
5. Part of three collaborative beers brewed in 2013 between two great saison-focused breweries, Prairie Somewhere sees Prairie Artisan Ales from Tulsa, OK and Saint Somewhere Brewing Company from Tarpon Springs, Fla team up for what’s sure to be one of the season’s most memorable offerings. This farmhouse ale has generous helpings of Cascade and Citra hops, and the added fruity tartness of oranges and limes.
6. It’s a session ale dream come true that Founders Brewing Company All-Day IPA made its way into wider released six-packs for 2013. While passionate beer fans will look to more exclusive Founders spring releases like Doom and Kentucky Breakfast Stout, I’ll be hoarding this sessionable 4.7% all-day (get it?) for summer days at the beach.
7. Spring is Kölsch time and while Gaffel Kölsch from Cologne, Germany (the birthplace of Kölsch) brought me into the game, Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.’s Kölsch sealed the deal. If you’ve never had a Kölsch before, it’s a light beer similar to a cross between a pilsner and a lager, with a little spice character and a significant but not overwhelming bitter backbone. At 5.5% ABV, it’s got a little more heat than your traditional German Kölsch, but is still very refreshing.
8. Hangar 24 Brewery was one of my most pleasant discoveries of the year with their Alt-bier and Orange Blossom Pilsner. While both would be a great fit for spring, the appropriately named California Spring Beer is my pick. The pale wheat ale has a great Belgian character with hints of lemon, orange, coriander and a delicate hoppiness make this a seasonal winner.
9. This “small” beer — just 3.6% — from New Hampshire’s White Birch Brewing is a Polish Grodziskie-style smoked wheat ale. For comparison, think true Berliner weisse (it’s got a tart kick) with a smoky flavor. It’s perfectly refreshing for mild days of spring but grab a couple for the heat that is surely around the corner.
10. Weyerbacher Brewing Co. is a name you can trust, especially for big beers, and their Riserva might be a wild ale but it’s a big one — an 11.4% ABV big one. Here you get a lot of funk, thanks to a good amount of Brettanomyces yeast as well as a lot of fruitiness, as it’s aged in raspberry purée-treated oak for over a year. It’s good to go as is: puckeringly tart and sweet, but hold one to age for a year, and see how it changes.
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