Beers of spring

Lighter styles, unique flavors highlight seasonal offerings

By Hayley Fudge

The winter beer season of barrel-aged and coffee-laden stouts, porters and massive hop bombs is barely in the rearview mirror. Nearly forgotten are the pumpkin, yam and brown ales of fall. Creeping closer are the crisp and refreshing light pilsners, session IPAs and kolsch offerings of summer. But, here and now, it’s time for the beers of spring.

Spring has historically been viewed as the red-headed stepchild of beer seasons—the least anticipated limited offerings of the year amongst craft consumers. But, if there’s a beer season that is not tied down to particular styles or identities, it’s spring. It actually brings a quite diverse offering to store shelves, breweries and craft establishments. And as the brewing industry continues to grow and evolve, it’s worth taking another look at the seasonal beers that begin to emerge just as the daylight hours are growing longer and the re-emergence of green is bringing life back to the outdoors.

Spring styles and flavors

If there is a single beer style that best represents the strongest example of a spring seasonal, it’s likely to be the bock beer. Bock beers have a strong tie to spring events, traditionally produced during the winter months for consumption during Lent and Easter. As the case with many styles of beer, bock beers are brewed in different variants.

Regular bock beers have strong malt backbones and flavors and fuller, thicker mouthfeels. This doesn’t necessarily correlate to high alcohol content. While refreshing and light in nature, “crushable” is not a term typically associated with this style—it is better sipped and enjoyed.

Hellesbock, often also referred to as a Helles lager, and Maibock (literally meaning May bock) are similar style. They are both light colored, refreshing lagers. The alcohol content of these beers can be higher than their lighter colors indicate, typically higher than that of other light ales such as pilsners.

Finally, dopplebocks (or double, for the robustness) round out the family. It is said that doppelbocks played a key role in the springtime observance of Lent. Monks who made their home in Munich, Germany, originally brewed this beer to provide caloric sustenance while they fasted during the observance of Lent.

While not as intimately tied to spring as bock beers, several other styles start to pop up more frequently as the days grow longer and the temperatures warmer.

Wheat beers, both American-style and traditional German hefeweizens, become more prominent this time of year, such as the popular Oberon Ale brewed by Bells Brewery in Comstock, Michigan. It has long been loved by outdoor recreationalists who welcome its easy-drinking return for post-hike/bike hydration, and Oberon launch parties take place nationally, including several in the greater Dayton region.

Can’t-miss local offerings

As with every other beer season, Dayton continues to up its game with locally brewed offerings to please the palates of thirsty patrons in the Miami Valley. While it’s still early in the season, a couple brewers have shared plans for the upcoming months. It’s shaping up to be a delicious April through June in this neck of the woods.

Brewmaster Darren Link of Fifth Street Brewpub appears to have had a busy winter planning the cooperatively-owned brewery’s spring lineup. On deck for mid-April is a collaboration brew with Yellow Springs Brewery: the 180g hoppy Belgian ale. It will be released in conjunction with Record Store Day April 16.

In addition, Link is bringing back the popular Herbivore No. 1 and Herbivore No. 2—No. 1 is a honey basil pale ale, and No. 2 is lemongrass and ginger American wheat. He is also working on a smaller batch offering: a single-hopped session ale with New Zealand Waimea hops. Release details are forthcoming.

Across town in Kettering, Eudora Brewing Company Owner Neil Chabut also has an exciting next few months planned. Recently tapped is the brewery’s early spring seasonal offering, a hefeweizen. The traditional German-style wheat beer is dominated by banana and clove-like characteristics created by the yeast strain used.

Chabut is also looking to brew a traditional German Maibock, with a release fittingly planned for May. The German lager will be a slightly lighter version of a bock beer—malty and flavorful, yet crisp and refreshing.

And there’s plans for one more spring surprise from Eudora that is likely to be a draw. “I’m really looking forward to our Blood Orange Hefeweizen bottle release coming up in mid- to late-spring,” says Chabut. “It’s our hefeweizen fermented with real blood oranges. We’ll be selling it in four-packs of 12 oz. bottles.” Release dates and pricing will be available on the brewery’s Facebook page as they are rolled out.

Finally, Yellow Springs Brewery has just released a canned blood orange version of the popular Captain Stardust saison.

“There’s nothing better than being able to enjoy a beer outside after this long winter,” says YSB Owner Nate Cornett.

Be sure to take advantage of these next few months to try something new and enjoy the diverse spring beer styles that bridge the gap between those robust winter warmers and light summer ales. Before you know it, it’ll be July, and the pumpkin beers will be back.
Hayley Fudge is one of Dayton City Paper’s Resident Beer Geeks. An enthusiast of craft beer and the culture that surrounds it, Hayley aspires to share her love of beer with others by whipping up beer-infused cupcakes on the regular. Reach Hayley Fudge at HayleyFudge@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Hayley Fudge is one of Dayton City Paper’s Resident Beer Geeks. An enthusiast of craft beer and the culture that surrounds it, Hayley aspires to share her love of beer with others by whipping up beer-infused cupcakes on the regular. Reach Hayley Fudge at HayleyFudge@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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