Spring is finally here! The snow is starting to melt and warm-weather beers are once again filling glasses across America. This time of year, we typically turn away from the dark (heavy) beers of winter and turn toward the brighter styles. IPAs, pale ales and pilsners all have their place, but we’re also currently into farmhouse beers, fruity suds and other thirst-quenching delights. Here are 15 beers to seek out this season.
1. 21st Amendment Brewery | Down to Earth Session IPA
We’ve mentioned before how much we love their can design, and now we’re excited about the California brewery’s newest release, a 4.4 percent IPA with a surprising amount of dank, tropical hops for its lightweight body (a result of the late dry-hop addition of Mosaic and Centennial hops during the brew cycle). The new year-round session IPA hit shelves in late March as a replacement for Bitter American. If you dig lemony, bitter IPAs, it’s a great option for spring sipping.
2. Smuttynose Brewing Company | Hayseed
Looking for a beer that doesn’t require much scrutinization? Try this lovely farmhouse table brew from New Hampshire brewery Smuttynose. It’s minimally hazy with a mild personality, layered with soft wheat and a fresh French saison yeast that adds a tangy, bitter lemon finish. Perfect for taking the edge off without getting too tipsy (only 3.8 percent ABV).
3. Brewery Ommegang | Nirvana IPA
Fans were all aflutter about the news of this iconic New York brewery’s first-ever IPA hitting shelves this month. The brewery says it’ll be a juicy, citrusy hop bomb without much bitterness. Specifically: “The grapefruit, peach, pineapple and apricot aromas are mouthwatering,” says innovation manager Mike McManus. “The taste is a big citrus smack, rounded and juicy with tropical and floral notes and just a touch of honey malt sweetness.” The beer will be brewed at sister brewery Boulevard Brewing Company, but you have to live in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut to score a bottle. Or maybe just find a very good friend who might ship you a six-pack?
4. Fort George Brewery | Coffee Girl Stout
Because this list can’t ALL be hop-based (or newsy releases for that matter), a moment needs to be dedicated to this badass beauty from Oregon’s Fort George Brewery. At a loaded 9 percent ABV, the silky sweet stout explodes with rich coffee flavor and pops of bright, fruity cherry overtones. Seek one out if you’re visiting the annual Craft Brewers Conference, which takes place this month in Portland.
5. Real Ale Brewing Co. | Devil’s Backbone
Iconic Texas brewery Real Ale Brewing Co. has made well-balanced suds for 19 years now. After all that time, their branding was ready for a facelift, so the brewery hired Austin’s Butler Bros. to do a full redesign. The new identity brings a savvy cohesiveness that was certainly missing before. Try the Devil’s Backbone this spring, a year-round Belgian-style Tripel with healthy amounts of spicy hops and yeasty goodness. It tastes like pure sunshine, but since Real Ale is a great example of Texas’s unabashed sense of pride, you’ll only be able to check out a bottle in person in the Lone Star State.
6. Boston Beer Company | Rebel Rouser IPA
Boston Beer Company released two new hoppy beers to the Sam Adams lineup this year to try to stay relevant in the face of an increasingly hop-focused craft-beer scene. Double IPA Rebel Rouser and session IPA Rebel Rider join Rebel to create a trifecta for the Boston brewery, which says the aim is to “showcase hop character and aroma without scraping your palate with bitterness.” Our favorite is the Rebel Rouser, a medium-bodied brew with great balance and an easygoing blend of the five hop varieties sourced from the Pacific Northwest.
7. Santa Fe Brewing Company | Freestyle Pilsner
Don’t try to define this hybrid pils by the parameters of its ancestors. This award-winning brew might have all the trappings of a traditional pilsner (saaz hops, pilsner malt and German yeast), but an assertive dose of the hops and what the brewery calls an “unhurried lagering process” makes this little dude stand alone in its deliciousness. Aptly named Freestyle, it’s got a sweeter body with less edge than others in the category, but it’s still lightweight and refreshing.
8. Ballast Point Brewing Company | Grunion
Poor pale ales always seem to get less praise in favor of super hop-bombs and featherweight session beers, but this hoppy pale ale from Ballast Point (5.5 percent ABV) holds its own with gusto. The brewery says the recipe for the limited-release brew was intended to be “similar to the trademark beer from our role models at Sierra Nevada.” Named after a California fish, it communicates a sumptuous honey personality and notable balance, which is probably why it won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in the American Pale Ale category last year.
9. Seattle Cider | Basil and Mint
We picked Seattle Cider as a cider maker to watch as they expand their operations, and we’ve since been introduced to the spring seasonal Basil and Mint. Made with a juicy combination of Smith, Fuji, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Gala apples, the cider more closely resembles a vivid white wine than your average cider, bursting with fresh herbs. It’s evenly dry with a crisp, clean finish. Drink it on its own or with spicy Asian noodles for a stark counterpoint.
10. Lakefront Brewing | Whiskey-barrel Aged Beer Line Organic Barleywine
This Milwaukee brewery made the first USDA-certified organic beer back in 1996, and now it’s releasing a barrel-aged version of the house organic barleywine. It should be interesting to see how Beer Line’s soft fruits age while resting for 18 months in barrels sourced from Catoctin Creek. The 14 percent ABV beer is now out on shelves in 22-oz. bombers.
11. Evil Twin | Mission Gose
The New York brewery teamed up with Mission Chinese to create this (super-buzzy) gose beer. It’s a low-ABV (4 percent), tart, salty and sassy brew perfect for food pairings. What makes Evil Twin’s release so interesting is they use eucalyptus in the brew to add a slightly menthol-like flavor. Mmmm.
12. Flying Dog Brewery | Dead Rise Old Bay
In this season’s offbeat beer news, Flying Dog is bringing back the seafood seasoning-inspired brew just in time for opening day at Oriole Park. The beer was first created last year to commemorate Old Bay’s 75th anniversary, and demand was so high that not only will the brewery release another batch, they’re also working on a double strength this summer. Sounds bizarre, but we’ll try anything once.
13. Left Hand Brewing Co. | Great Juju
Brewers are experimenting more with unorthodox ingredients like spices and fruits to bring an extra zing to the table, and this year Left Hand Brewing has not only resurrected its ginger-spiced seasonal ale Good Juju, it’s amped up the heat with a new and improved Great Juju. The new Imperial version sold on draft and in 22-oz. bombers ups the alcohol from a friendly 4.5 percent to a more substantial 7.2 percent ABV. Thanks to the added oomph, there’s a more pronounced caramel-like sweetness and a stronger ginger bite.
14. Baja Brewing Company | Cabotella
It’s not a new brew, but this flagship ale from Baja Brewing Company in Mexico certainly is an interesting one. The brewery was started by a Colorado native, and it’s one of the few craft beers made in Mexico. Don’t expect to find your average Dos Equis in this bottle — the blonde ale is lightly wheaty and soft with caramel-like sweetness and crisp carbonation.
15. Three Floyds Brewing Co. | Zombie Dust
Denmark brewery Mikkeller and Indiana’s Three Floyds Brewing opened a brewpub in the meatpacking district of Copenhagen earlier this month. In a mind-boggling turn of events, Warpigs will offer 22 beers on tap, plus Texas-style barbecue, and will also have its own yeast lab. We’ll celebrate Stateside by cracking open a cold Zombie Dust, Three Floyds’ trademark pale ale.
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