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. This first set is four being reviewed at a time and the next four are coming soon.
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 6-pack.
The first four springtime participants:
Magic Hat Vinyl: A 5.1 % ABV medium-bodied amber lager from funky Magic Hat Brewery out of Burlington, Vermont. Dusky, orange-amber hues emanate from Magic Hat’s Spring Lager, while scents of amber malt and ginger ale greet the nose. Initially dry initially with a hint of caramel, this crisp and smooth lager really opens up with loads of tasty toast and fresh-baked-bread flavors. Spicy, earthy, German hop notes along with a slight sweetness make for an interesting finish. Delicious and easy drinking with character. Grade: A-/B+
Shiner Dortmunder: This pale lager from the Spoetzl Brewery in Texas sports an attractive bright white, medium-thick foam head. It pours an effervescent yellow in color with aromas of sweet malt and lemon. Sweet and pale but chewy euro malts hit the palate first followed by floral and grassy hop notes. The finish is soft and pleasantly grainy. This one is dry and clean but lacks depth. There’s nothing really wrong with this refreshing Dortmunder but nothing stands out either. It would be a decent late-spring, early-summer choice. Grade: B-
Anchor Bock: Colored an attractive mahogany with crimson notes and a thick light-brown head… this one is striking in the glass. It entrancingly smells of black licorice and chocolate — it looks and smells near perfect. Molasses is the first noticeable flavor while grainy mocha and vanilla hit mid-sip. Dry and heavy, it finishes with date notes and a slight bitterness. A very good beer, but much more of a winter brew than a spring one, it’s almost as if it was mislabeled. This one would be a great spring release…in Alaska. Grade: B
Sam Adams Noble Pils: All five German Noble Hops are represented in this hop-forward, complex, 4.9 % ABV Pilsner from famed microbrewery Sam Adams. Colored a bright yellow and remarkably clear, it’s more carbonated than most. Lemongrass aromas hit the nose along with some sweet malt. Spicy hop and robust Bavarian malt flavors are recognizable initially followed by grassy and tangerine hop notes mid-sip. The finish is full of hop bite with a lemony snap. Medium bodied with the requisite soft, Pilsner mouth-feel, this hoppy Pilsner really delivers. One of Sam Adams best offerings. Grade: A-/B+
Four seasonal suds celebrating the vernal equinox down, four to go. Tune in next time for “Spring Seasonal Beers: Part Deux”!