Best Spring Beers

By Bob Barnes

The Top Crisp Beers to Drink in Spring

If Groundhog Day heralds the end of winter, setting the clocks forward signals the beginning of spring. The additional daylight hours call for brighter flavors and sharper textures to wake up slumbering taste buds.

Choose from crisp brews, wheat ales and American IPAs, but hurry GAYOT’s Best Spring Beers won’t last ’til summer, so grab these favorites while there’s still time.

> The selections are presented in alphabetical order.

1. Brouwerij Het Anker Maneblusser

Brouwerij Het Anker Maneblusser

Origin: Mechelen, Belgium
Beer type: Belgian Blonde Ale
Price: $10 for six-pack 12 oz.
ABV: 6.2%
Brewed by: Brouwerij Het Anker

This blonde ale from Het Anker was crafted as a tribute to Mechelen, the brewery’s hometown.

The brew’s name comes from a peculiar occurrence on the night of January 27, 1687. As the city was wrapped in a dense fog, the moon made a reddish glow on Saint Rumbold’s tower. A drunken man yelled, “Fire, fire, the tower is on fire,” causing a great stir. Before people reached the tower to extinguish the flames, the moon had already passed through the fog. From that moment, Mechelenians have been known as Maneblussers, or “moon-extinguishers.” The blonde ale is brewed according to the traditional method, and is refermented in the bottle. It has subtle citrus aromas and a crisp, clean finish.

2. College Street Big Blue Van

College Street Big Blue Van

Origin: Lake Havasu City, AZ, U.S.A.
Beer type: Fruit Beer
Price: $9 for six-pack 12 oz.
ABV: 5.4%
Brewed by: College Street Brewhouse

College Street Brewhouse & Pub is based in Lake Havasu, and this bold American-style wheat beer is worthy of any spring break blowout.

The brew’s name is a reflection of its two dominant ingredients: blueberry and vanilla bean. The flavors harmonize nicely together before resolving in a long-lasting finish that lingers on the palate. Big Blue Van is both refreshing and intriguing, melding ingredients not often paired together. And while blueberry is usually a subtle flavor when used in beer, it is definitely not shy in this one.

3. Deschutes Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale

Deschutes Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale

Origin: Bend, OR, U.S.A.
Beer type: American Pale Ale
Price: $8 for six-pack 12 oz.
ABV: 6.2%
Brewed by: Deschutes Brewery

Northwest pale ales are known for their use of hop strains grown in the fertile Willamette Valley of Oregon, the second largest hop-producing state in the United States.

Deschutes Red Chair benefits from liberal doses of the locally grown Cascade and Centennial varietals, which give the brew a sharp citrus punch. Its vibrant flavors can stand up to today’s IPA hop monsters, but a generous helping of malts adds enough balance to make the ale multidimensional. Named for the oldest operating ski lift on Mt. Bachelor in Central Oregon, this Red Chair offers a smooth ride without any overwhelming one-note bitterness.

4. Firestone Walker Brewing Company Parabola

Firestone Walker Brewing Company Parabola

Origin: Paso Robles, California, U.S.A.
Beer type: Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout
Price: $10-$13 for 12 oz. bottle
ABV: 13.6-15.5%
Brewed by: Firestone Walker Brewing Company

Firestone Walker Brewing Company distinguishes itself by specializing in aging its beers in oak barrels.

Firestone Walker Brewing Company has its roots in winemaking, and the central California-based brewery founded in 1996 has distinguished itself by specializing in aging its beers in oak barrels. This year’s annual Parabola imperial stout has intense flavors of black cherry, dark chocolate and roast coffee. It comes in three varieties, with each imparting subtle nuances from the particular types of barrels it’s aged in. The 13.6% Parabola aged for 12 months in an equal mix of bourbon, rye and wheat whiskey barrels accentuates the beer’s signature richness and intensity with notes of black pepper and cereal grain; the 15.5% Double Barrel Parabola matured in bourbon barrels for 12 months and then transferred to wheated whiskey barrels for an additional year adds a dimension of fudge and cereal grain-like goodness; and the 14.6% Amburana Parabola completed in bourbon barrels for 12 months and then circulated with Brazilian amburana hardwood spirals (a wood prized for its baking spice flavors) brings hints of cinnamon, vanilla and waffle cone. Each bottle’s label meticulously lists the original and final gravity, IBUs (international bittering units), ABV (alcohol by volume %), type of yeast used, SRM (color) and number of cases produced.

5. Sea Dog Sunfish

Sea Dog Sunfish

Origin: Portland, ME, U.S.A.
Beer type: American Pale Wheat Ale
Price: $9 for six-pack 12 oz.
ABV: 4.6%
Brewed by: Sea Dog Brewing Company

Founded in 1993, this Portland, Maine, brewery features artwork celebrating both New England’s seafaring history and Barney, the company’s canine figurehead.

And, as with all of Sea Dog’s beers, a paw print is emblazoned on the bottle cap. First offered exclusively at Sea Dog brewpubs in Florida and Maine, Sunfish became a crowd favorite and was released nationwide in 2014. This light-bodied wheat ale pours a clear straw hue with a predominate aroma of peaches. Upon sipping, you’ll encounter a spritzy carbonation that tingles in your mouth and a subtle fruit flavor that’s slightly sweet without being cloying. The finish is dry and refreshing, making this beer an easy-drinking thirst quencher for a warm day.

6. Ska Brewing Modus Mandarina IPA

Ska Brewing Modus Mandarina IPA

Origin: Durango, CO, U.S.
Beer type: IPA
Price: $9 for six-pack 12 oz.
ABV: 6.8%
Brewed by: Ska Brewing Company

A unique twist on the IPA style, this brew is named for the generous portion of Mandarina Bavaria hops it uses, which impart a mandarin orange-like flavor.

Continuing the theme are sweet orange peels added during brewing and the bright orange packaging. The first impression after pouring is an orange-hued appearance and an entertaining nose, which is akin to walking through an orange grove. Upon sipping you’ll enjoy citrus flavors along with pronounced dry hop bitterness in the lingering aftertaste. While orange takes center stage in this beer, there is enough robust bitterness to stand up to pairings such as grilled or smoked meats.