Light, bright tastes make spring an exciting time for beer drinking

Spring training for beer season begins now with a wide variety of seasonal brews.

By Tom Morgan

Spring is here! At least in theory. To me, spring beers are dry and refreshing. While they can and do highlight the influence of yeast, the beers themselves are lighter and crisper than their seasonal counterparts. After all, fall and winter beers are often bigger in size, featuring an increased malt presence and the addition of spices. Spring beers, in contrast, showcase the work yeast performs in conjunction with the malt and hops. So without further ado, here are three types of spring beers you should be looking for over the next couple of months.

Craft lagers are on the rise, and seasonably, spring is a good fit for them. Two to watch for are Pilsner and Helles. Pilsner was the original lager, coming at you straight outta Pilsen in the Czech Republic in the 1840s, while Helles was Germany’s 1890s response to Pilsner’s über-popularity. Both have found new life in the recent craft embrace of lager. If you tried Warped Wing’s Superba, you’ve had a Pilsner. Oskar Blues also makes a version, as does Lagunitas and Sierra Nevada—there are, quite honestly, numerous craft Pilsners available, some of which are even hopped to American standards, creating an interesting blend of cultural traditions. Finding a good Helles is a bit harder, but if you can find Victory’s Helles, you won’t be disappointed. It is a style that should see more visibility as craft lager diversifies. If you are looking to try several lager varieties all at once, Hofbräushaus just over the border in Newport offers a whole slew of craft lager deliciousness.

There are also several other varieties of lager to look for besides those two. Last year, Wolf’s Ridge from Columbus produced a Vienna Lager made with local malts. Vienna Lager is a toastier, maltier lager that also dates to the 1840s. Founder’s recently joined the ranks of craft breweries producing lagers with Solid Gold, an American premium lager. Most of these beers range between 4-6% ABV, making them similar to their macro-counterparts as a beer suitable for fun outdoors activities, just tastier. That is, if our weather will ever cooperate.

Another style that screams spring are saisons. While lagers are defined by the lack of yeast contributions in regards to flavor, saisons are the opposite, generally described by their yeast contributions and dry, spicy flavors. Saisons have a whole range of flavors beyond the dry and spicy base, including tart, earthy, juicy, bitter, crackery, peppery, hoppy, and fruity, with lemon or orange the most common, but sometimes bubblegum as well. While there can be spicy flavors, these tend to be yeast-derived, or may come from adjuncts included in the mash, like rye, oats, sorghum, wheat, or spelt,
for example.

Saison Dupont is the well-deserved standard for the style; it is of the dry, spicy, and earthy variety, while either Ommegang’s Hennepin or Boulevard’s Tank 7 would be well-respected American equivalents. Hennepin is often fruitier, with lemon and clove, while Tank 7 is juicier with peppery undertones. The best local saison is Yellow Spring’s Captain Stardust, although Warped Wing’s Chardonnay barrel-aged Barn Gang is a dreamy, dreamy treat as well. Part of the reason I love saisons so much is that they pair well with flower and herb additions; every spring for the last several years, I’ve made one or two dandelion saisons, and herbs like lemongrass and ginger also pair well with saisons. While I can’t sell you my beer, there should be several versions that appear in the next couple of months as seasonal one-offs by a variety of breweries.

Finally, if you are feeling a bit more experimental, and looking for even more yeast contribution, I’d recommend checking out either Belgian wits or gueuzes. Wits will be easier to find, although American versions tend to be hit or miss. Wits can be similar to hefeweizens, but the yeast character is notably different: wits don’t feature the clove and banana flavors that define hefeweizens, and tend to be brighter with citrus and spice instead. A good wit is a harmonious blend of light malty sweetness married to soft wheat and tartness, with just a hint of spices—notably coriander and pepper—to round out the whole. They tend to be cloudy—from the influence of wheat—but are bright and refreshing. Hoegaarden Wit and Wittkerke are two notable Belgian versions, while Celis White and Ommegang Witte are domestic versions certainly worth seeking out.

Finally, gueuze is another tasty option. Traditionally a Belgian style, it is generally brewed in the fall and spring and then blended, with one, two, and three year old varieties being combined to build depth and complexity. Yes, this is a sour beer style, so if sour is not your thing, be warned. Flavors showcase the possibilities that come from yeast and aging: tart, tangy, earthy, spicy, peppery, lactic, earthy, hay-like, fruity—I could go on and on. And these beers tend to be champagne-dry in character, although fruited versions may be sweeter with a diverse range of different fruit flavors. These are also often harder to find, and tend to be significantly more expensive thaN other craft beer. Still, if you are looking to expand your vision of what beer can be, they are a good place to start!

Enjoy your spring drinking!

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Reach DCP freelance writer Tom Morgan at

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