This is the second part of the spring seasonal challenge: Reviews of the first four.
As spring begins and life magically starts to appear, beer geeks across the globe finish the last of those dark, heavy, rich winter brews and search for lighter, crisper beers. Breweries everywhere realize this and release their more approachable spring seasonal beers. These celebratory suds are more drinkable and less malt-forward than their winter siblings but generally have more body, depth, and hop snap than the thin-bodied, thirst-quenching beers of summer. They’re the kinds of beers that are refreshing enough to swill while doing spring yard work, yet hearty enough to sip by the grill as the cool evening air approaches.
We decided to put some of these spring seasonal suds to the test. Dozens are available at the local beer-mega-mart and we chose eight, based upon, well, what looked interesting. See Part One here.
Spring brews can be of any style and are open to interpretation and, in general, have more variation than other seasons’ releases. Consequently, each beer is evaluated on its own merit with the only condition being that they be available by the six-pack.
The second four springtime participants:
Redhook Mudslinger: Heavenly scents of delicious chocolate truffles emanate from this Pacific coast 5.8 % ABV (alcohol by volume) English Brown Ale. It smells yummy. Light brown with amber highlights and remarkably clear, it’s beautiful in the glass. The first sip is of sweet malt followed by toasty and slight chocolate notes. But it finishes with hop bitterness along with restrained earthy and citrus-y hop flavors. Drinkable and clean but rather pedestrian. Grade: B-
Highland Brewing Company Little Hump Spring Ale: This American Pale Ale out of North Carolina pours an effervescent yellow with a dense, off-white head. Grapefruit aromas hit the nose along with some faint sweet malt. Hop flavors of grapefruit and lemon greet the tongue initially with a good dose of malt goodness providing some balance and depth mid-sip. The dry, crisp finish is all hops with grapefruit and pine being the most prevalent. Fairly bitter for the style, but certainly no tongue bruiser. Overall, it’s a light-bodied, drinkable and soft pale ale yet it’s complex and really delivers with the hops — nearly an IPA. Grade: A-/B+
Sierra Nevada Glissade Golden Bock: A 6.5 % ABV German lager brewed by the famous California microbrewery usually known for it‘s hop-forward beers. In the glass, it smells of lemon rind and toffee, an active but receding bright white head covers this lightly-carbonated straw-colored brew. It starts off sweet, then flavorful German malts and a slight fruitiness kick in. The malty finish is pleasant with a slight graininess, slightly spicy hop notes and a little hop snap. Sporting solid malt flavors and an appealing finish, this one is refreshing but one-dimensional. This Bock would be a great early summer choice. Grade: C+
Blue Point Spring Fling Ale: This up-and-coming New York brewery calls this 6.0 % ABV seasonal a “Copper Ale” but it’s probably a pale ale by style, albeit on the darker side. A thick head of foam covers a very clear, yellow-amber ale and the foam impressively sticks around awhile. Scents of fresh baked bread rise from the glass entrancing the nose. Caramel and toffee hit the palate first, followed by delicious, resiny-citrus hop notes. It finishes with vanilla malt and spicy hop flavors along with some toasted malt. Moderate hop bitterness can be felt, especially at the end. Fruity yeast undertones add character throughout, giving the ale almost an English feel. Impressive and delicious with a unique finish — the best beer of the tasting. Grade: A-
The Best of the Best Spring Seasonal Suds: Blue Point Spring Fling Ale, Highland Brewing Company Little Hump Spring Ale, Magic Hat Vinyl, Sam Adams Noble Pils.