Nick Carr on April 15, 2016 1 Comment Seasonals have become a standard for most craft breweries. Releasing a beer somehow tied to the season, whether through ingredient choices, style, or simply on whim; is good marketing. It gives us, the consumers, another reason to look forward to the changing tides of season, something to anticipate. Some of my favorite beers are seasonals and every year I wait expectantly, getting more and more excited, as the time of release draws nearer. And, when done, there’s always a passing yearning to have it around longer… but then would I like it as much if it was a year around? I’d have to say no. The fact a certain beer isn’t around all year long gives a good beer a little more greatness. Spring has come and along with the anticipation of warmer weather, barbecues, and baseball comes its seasonal draughts. Warmer weather usually ushers lighter beers, though as you’ll see, this isn’t always the case. Spring is the time for IPA’s in all their glory; for the humble farmhouse ales in all their subtle yet unmistakable forms; for the Blonde and the Wheat. Here the lighter fruits make their first appearance, a messenger sent back in time to tell of the coming harvest. In all their different forms the spring seasonals march. They come with enough diversity to give every style connoisseur something to relish. 1. Romantic Chemistry from Dogfish Head Brewing Company Location: Milton, DE The name Romantic Chemistry comes from the chemical tie three of this beer’s ingredients’ have in common. Along with hops, both apricots and mangoes contain Myrcene, so these ingredients should play well together. Throw in a bit of ginger to give a clean spicy kick and you have something that just may be a go-to pairing for the cool streaked days of early spring. Brewer’s Description: “What you have here is a serious India Pale Ale shacking up and hunkering down with mango and apricots. At the same time! Romantic Chemistry is brewed with an intermingling of mangos, apricots and ginger, and then dry-hopped with three varieties of hops to deliver a tropical fruit aroma and a hop-forward finish. It’s fruity, it’s hoppy, it’s tasty!” Read more from the brewer Characteristics & Tasting Expectations: Style: American IPA w/ Fruit ABV: 7.2% IBU: 40 Hops: ? Malts: ? Special Ingredients: Ginger, Mango, Apricots Food Pairings: Spicy Chicken Wings, Sharp Cheddar, Mango Curd Tart Suggested Glass: Tulip, Nonic Pint or IPA Glass Availability: March – May 2. Pataskala Red X IPA from Stone Brewing Company Location: Escondido, CA This IPA is named for the town in which Stone CEO and Co-founder, Gerg Koch, grew up. Stone Brewing has quite the love affair with hops and you should expect no less than their full expression here. Painted across a cranberry colored face, curtsey of the little-used German red malt, comes citrusy, fruity-heavy tones interplaying with biscuit and caramel before descending into lingering bitterness. A perfect companion for a season in change. Brewer’s Description: “Pat-ASK-ala? Pata-SKALA? Pa-TASK-a-la? While those in the know favor the third pronunciation, no matter how you say it, this is a unique red IPA. The beer was first brewed in September 2015 to support music and arts education programs in Pataskala, Ohio, where Stone co-founder Greg Koch grew up. People there loved it, so we added the beer to our seasonal lineup. The deep crimson hue is courtesy of a fairly new special German malt variety by BESTMALZ called Red X. Dry-hopped with Mosaic, Cascade and Amarillo hops, this beer is incredibly citrus-forward, rounded out with biscuit and toffee notes. We think you’ll find this red IPA to be quite deliciously satisfying, no matter how you choose to pronounce it.” Read more from the brewer . Characteristics & Tasting Expectations: Style: Red IPA ABV: 7.3% IBU: 75 Hops: Amarillo, Cascade, Mosaic Malts: ?, includes BESTMALZ Red X malt Food Pairings: Pigs in a Blanket, Soft Sheep Cheese, Spice Cake Suggested Glass: IPA, Tulip or Nonic Pint Availability: February 1st 3. Irish Ale from Boulevard Brewing Company Location: Kansas City, MO Just in case St. Patrick’s Day, snuck by you unseen grab-up a sixpack of this Irish red and throw a an early spring celebration in the good saint’s name. The malty warming backbone will counter those cooler spring evenings well, while shedding the weight of a true winter warmer, and creating enough of a lighter feel for the warming midday brunch. Brewer’s Description: “Irish Ale, Boulevard’s early spring seasonal beer, is our Midwestern tribute to the legendary red ales of old Ireland. Our recipe combines six kinds of pale and roasted barley malts to provide a rich, toasty flavor and tawny reddish hue.” Read more from the brewer. Characteristics & Tasting Expectations: Style: Irish Red ABV: 5.8% IBU: 30 Hops: Magnum, Zeus, Bravo, Sterling, Saaz Malts: Pale malt, Munich, Amber 50, Cara 120, Cara 300, Chocolate Food Pairings: Portabella Mushroom Burger, Port-Salut Cheese, Crème Brûlée Tart Suggested Glass: Mug or Nonic Pint Availability: January – March 4. Azacca IPA from Founders Brewing Company Location: Grand Rapids, MI With spring comes the beginning of the growing season, so it seems only appropriate to celebrate the budding greenery and fruit trees heavy with delicate flowers with a beer named for a god of agriculture. This single hop IPA brings a little-known and still experimental hop front and center; and don’t we all love experiments? Brewer’s Description: “Named for the Haitian god of agriculture, the Azacca hop boasts intense, tropical fruit notes. Azacca IPA includes a touch of caramel malt to provide a sweet backbone to the citrus, mango and orchard fruit notes in this 7% ABV, 70 IBUs beer. The label artwork symbolizes the god of agriculture watching over a field where the ingredients used to make the beer are being grown.” Read more from the brewer. Characteristics & Tasting Expectations: Style: American IPA ABV: 7.0% IBU: 70 Hops: ? Malts: ? Food Pairings: Mahi Mahi, Pepper Jack, Apple Pie Suggested Glass: Tulip or IPA glass Availability: January – March 5. Puppy’s Breath from Cigar City Brewing Company Location: Tampa, FL For those needing a quick throwback to colder months or looking to plumb the depths of something darker on a cool evening. Don’t let the name throw you… no puppies were hurt in the making of this porter. It brings a roaster coffee/chocolate element to bear with signs of milk chocolate sweetness and warm nuttiness. Best enjoyed on the front porch with your best friend nestled up close beside you. Brewer’s Description: “Due to their immature digestive system and their diet, the breath of a puppy can smell like coffee or chocolate. This porter is loaded with roasted malts that have the wonderful smell of chocolate and coffee.” Read more from the brewer. Characteristics & Tasting Expectations: Style: American Porter ABV: 6.5% IBU: 25 Hops: English hops Malts: ? Food Pairings: Baby Back Ribs, Espresso Rubbed Cheddar, Chocolate Pudding Suggested Glass: Lager or Tulip Availability: April Release 6. Hoppy Blonde from New Belgium Brewing Company Location: Fort Collins, CO Flirtatious, yet bold this American blonde comes with a basket of hops slung under her arm, inviting you into the sun with notes of mango and lemon painted across a slight bready sweetness before jumping ship with a refreshingly crisp and notable bitterness. A vibrant capricious blonde ready for splash-down on a fresh spring day. Brewer’s Description: “Take the leap and hop into the tropics with Hoppy Blonde Ale. This easy-drinking beer sips light and refreshing with a soft malt base, while vibrant notes of mango, lemon, blueberry and pine spring across the tongue courtesy of Mosaic, UK Admiral and Centennial dry-hopping. Light enough to session, but with a head rush of hops, Hoppy Blonde will leave you jumping for more.” Read more from the brewer. Characteristics & Tasting Expectations: Style: American Blonde ABV: 5.75% IBU: 45 Hops: Nugget, Simcoe, Mosaic, UK Admiral, Centennial Malts: Pale, Caramel 80, Munich Food Pairings: Chicken Caesar Salad, Swiss Cheese, Sugar Cookies Suggested Glass: Nonic Pint or Tulip Availability: February – April 7. Equinox from Lagunitas Brewing Company Location: Petaluma, CA Just in time for the spring equinox comes this offering from Lagunitas Brewing… a beer brewed with Equinox hops and a side of Simcoe hops to boot. The Equinox hop brings all the smells of spring; light lemon/lime, pineapple, apple, and green pepper — like a spritzy spring salad… actually come to that it may be the perfect pairing for just such a sunny-day lunch (though at 8% percent it may overstay its welcome with this pairing). The added oats will no doubt buoy the body and lengthen the palate, creating a smooth ride to a sharp hop finish. Brewer’s Description: “A creamy, pale oat ale hopped up with a huge charge of Equinox and Simcoe hops for a piney, eucalyptus, cedar, sprucey, forest blast. First brewed in 1995… brewed today in a time of change.” Read more from the brewer. Characteristics & Tasting Expectations: Style: American Pale w/ oats ABV: 8.0% IBU: 50 Hops: Equinox, Simcoe Malts: ? Special Ingredients: Oats Food Pairings: Fresh Goat Cheese, Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Pumpkin Flan Suggested Glass: Nonic Pint or Tulip Availability: March – June 8. Oberon Ale from Bell’s Brewery Location: Kalamazoo, MI Though this is actually their summer seasonal, because it is released in March, it can be a balm for those of you languishing-in-wait for those hotter days of summer. Nothing speaks to the long days of summer like a good wheat beer and this one, makes its appearance early to tease a bit of remembered summers into these windy spring days. Brewer’s Description: “A wheat ale fermented with Bell’s signature house ale yeast, mixing a spicy hop character with mildly fruity aromas. The addition of wheat malt lends a smooth mouthfeel, making it a classic summer beer.” Read more from the brewer. Characteristics & Tasting Expectations: Style: American Wheat Ale ABV: 5.8% IBU: ? Hops: ? Malts: ? Food Pairings: Sushi, Chevre Cheese, Bowl of Fresh Berries Suggested Glass: Tulip or Nonic Pint Availability: February – March 9. Sanctification from Russian River Brewing Company Location: Santa Rosa, CA Spring is the time of change, newness, and trying new things; so, while in this adventurous mood why not venture outside the realms of normal spring fare? Enter Sanctification… a blonde ale base hidden in a clean but tartly sour dress, showing whispers of citrus and green apple, and disappearing with a crisp refreshing snap. Go ahead toast to new experiences, good fortune, and coming change. Brewer’s Description: “Technically, this is neither an ale nor a lager. The base recipe is for a Golden Ale, but we do the primary fermentation with 100% brettanomyces. The brett gives it some sour notes but not as much as if it had been aged with lacto and pedio. It’s rather refreshing on a warm day!” Read more from the brewer. Characteristics & Tasting Expectations: Style: American Wild Ale ABV: 6.75% IBU: ? Hops: ? Malts: ? Food Pairings: Shrimp Salad, Stilton Cheese, Blood Orange Tart Suggested Glass: Flute, Tulip or Oversized Wine Glass Availability: Spring Seasonal 10. Beer Camp Tropical IPA from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company Location: Chico, CA The newest “Beer Camp” brew to go commercial scale. It will bring all you love about Sierra Nevada’s hoppy beers rushing home. Tropical fruit on the nose with some caramel breadiness to balance and that dank rising of herb and resin as the bitterness kicks at the back of your tongue. Easy drinking enough to porch-it for the first grilling fires of the coming summer season. Brewer’s Description: “Beer Camp is the ultimate brewing experience. We invite beer fans into our brewery nearly every week to design their own beer and then we bring it to life. Each spring, we’ll feature one of our favorite collaborations from the previous year. This year’s selection features intensely aromatic hop varietals rich with the flavors of the tropics. We use Citra, Mosaic and El Dorado hops to create bright fruit-forward flavors of mango, papaya and bitter orange.” Read more from the brewer. Characteristics & Tasting Expectations: Style: American IPA ABV: 6.7% IBU: 55 Hops: Mosaic, Citra, Comet, El Dorado, Amarillo Malts: Two-row Pale, Munich, Honey malt Food Pairings: Jerk Chicken, Asiago Cheese, Key Lime Pie Suggested Glass: Nonic Pint, Tulip or IPA Glass Availability: February – April 11. Runoff Red from Odell Brewing Company Location: Fort Collins, CO A celebration of the spring thaw when the days warm, rivers begin to run with fresh snowmelt, and you feel that aching in your bones to get on the river or out into the wild country. This hoppy red ale brings the bite, but mellowed somewhat behind a higher wall of malt… think hoppy Irish red. Great for campfire conversations or that first fish fry of the season. Brewer’s Description: “When it’s spring in the Rockies, one day can span all four seasons. Morning snow gives way to afternoon sun, sending fresh snowmelt into our rivers and into our mash tun. With a complex malt backbone dry-hopped for notes of citrus and pine, it’s almost as surprising as the season itself.” Read more from the brewer. Characteristics & Tasting Expectations: Style: American IPA ABV: 6.5% IBU: 50 Hops: ? Malts: ? Food Pairings: Burgers, Port-Salut Cheese, Caramel Apple Tart Suggested Glass: Nonic Pint, Tulip or IPA Glass Availability: January – April 12. Rabbid Rabbit from 3 Floyds Brewing Company Location: Munster, IN A saison beer with a couple twists and a nice Springy name (ha, ha) to boot, this one’s for those searching a little adventure beyond those run-of-the-mill saisons -not sure a saison is ever run-of-the-mill, but we’ll run with it here. Expect a flourish of herbally/spicy get-up-and-go, some light citrus, and that calming whisper of chamomile. Brewer’s Description: “This Franco-Belgian style Farmhouse Ale has an effervescent body and a light straw color. Rabbid Rabbit, with its light malt body, augmented by spices, is a complex and frothy beverage with a deceptively high alcohol content.” Read more from the brewer. Characteristics & Tasting Expectations: Style: Saison ABV: 7.4% IBU: 25 Hops: ? Malts: ? Special Ingredients: Rock Candy, Chamomile Food Pairings: Chicken Salad, Colby Cheese, Apple Pie Suggested Glass: Tulip or Oversized Wine Glass Availability: March Release 13. Perzik Saison from Avery Brewing Company Location: Boulder, CO Usher in spring with the tastes of the orchard. Avery offers a classic saison wrapped around the light aromas and tart warm flavors of peaches. A bright smooth addition to any spring salad or, dare I say, peaches and cream. Brewer’s Description: “A classic saison—dry, crisp, fruity, spicy and refreshing—with a dose of summer—peaches!” Read more from the brewer. Characteristics & Tasting Expectations: Style: Saison ABV: 6.4% IBU: ? Hops: Bravo Malts: Wheat, 2-row Special Ingredients: Peaches Food Pairings: Peach Marinade Steak Salad, Triple Cream, Peaches and Cream Suggested Glass: Tulip, Weizen or Oversized Wine Glass Availability: April – July 14. Deviant Dale’s from Oskar Blues Brewing Company Location: Lyons, CO For those seeking a brush of hop meanness to pair with the mean winds of spring, go Deviant. The story goes this IPA started with an accidental addition of the wrong bag of malt to Oskar Blues Dales Pale Ale. The accident was embraced and built upon until something bold, lumbering, and intense was released upon the world. Enjoy! Brewer’s Description: “Deviant Dale’s IPA was born at the crossroads, in a juke joint, as if Dale’s Pale Ale sold its soul to balance Deviant’s foreboding aromas of citrus, grapefruit rind and piney resins, its copper ball-of-fire color and inscrutable flavor-intense finish. Deviant is the Devil incarnate with untold amounts of malt and hedonistic Columbus dry-hopping. Oskar Blues delivers this boundary-buster in the brewery’s first 16-ounce tallboy can.” Read more from the brewer. Characteristics & Tasting Expectations: Style: American IPA ABV: 8.0% IBU: 85 Hops: ? Malts: ? Food Pairings: Pad Tai, Sharp Cheddar, Carrot Cake Suggested Glass: Snifter or IPA Glass Availability: January – March 15. Sriracha Hot Stout from Rogue Ales Location: Newport, OR This is yet another not-oft-trod path through the lighter spring beer fare. A stout with a hot secret. Expect a medium body playing a smooth roast/coffee/chocolate game right up to the back of the palate where things turn to slow angering, moderate chili spice builds with each sip. Brewer’s Description: “The only beer officially sanctioned by Huy Fong Foods, creators of the original Sriracha Hot Sauce, Rogue Sriracha Hot Stout is crafted by infusing Sriracha Hot Sauce in a classic stout during the brewing process. With a deep ebony hue, Sriracha Hot Stout features rich notes of caramelized malts that give way to a warm, slow burn on a smooth finish.” Read more from the brewer. Characteristics & Tasting Expectations: Style: Spiced Beer ABV: 5.7% IBU: 55 Hops: ? Malts: ? Special Ingredients: Huy Fong Hot Chili Sauce Food Pairings: Chow Mein, Pepper Jack Cheese, Chili Cinnamon Brownies Suggested Glass: Mug or Nonic Pint Availability: March I realize this is just a small corner the spring seasonals available out there and I’ve probably ungraciously and unknowingly passed over many an awesome spring seasonal release, but I can only do so much. With this short list I’ve tried to include 15 well-known breweries with good distribution. It’s left to each of you out there to find and experience your local breweries spring seasonal and of course if it’s something to write home about or you have an absolute favorite I’d urge you to tell us about it in the comments… spread the word about good beer. Cheers and Happy Spring Time!