Spring/summer is here, time for beer

Ah, spring in New England is a thing of wonder: full of promise, renewal, dandelions, and new seasonal brews! I’ll admit right up front that I’m not a huge fan of the fruit and wheat beers that dominate in the spring and summer (Sam’s Summer might be my least favorite of their seasonals), but I’ll do my best to share the best of the rest, and I’ll even include a fruit beer or two.

I was able to taste a bunch of new brews at last weekend’s 25-table tasting at Yankee Spirits in Swansea, so kudos to them for having a varied group of brewers and cideries there. Most of these reviews come from that tasting, where I was able to sample dozens of brews (with a focus on spring offerings by local brewers, of course), and I’ll begin with a trio of hoppy offerings.

First up is from an excellent local brewery that zags when everyone else zigs: Mayflower’s Spring Hop. This lovely deep golden/light amber brew uses four hop varieties to create a complex blast of pine, citrus, and floral notes that really hits the spot. At 5.3% ABV, this is a medium-bodied and alcohol brew that manages to walk the fine line between an IPA and other beers. Definitely hoppy, definitely different, Spring Hop deserves a spot in your fridge.

Another excellent spring IPA comes from Westport’s Buzzard’s Bay Brewing: Horseneck Golden IPA. As refreshing as a day at Horseneck Beach, this IPA balances the citrusy flavor and aroma with a nice, semi-sweet bready caramel flavor that meshes perfectly with the hop bite. You won’t notice the 6.1% ABV in the taste, so be careful with this excellent brew or you might get caught in a riptide of inebriation.

The third exceptional hoppy offering is Otter Creek Citra Mantra: a really top-notch brew that makes extensive use of one of the hottest of the new breed of hops (citra, of course). This lager hits a home run with an intense, clean, crisp flavor that is simultaneously complex and refreshing. A beautiful golden beer, this is a lawnmower beer for hopheads.

Before we move on to the fruit beers, it’s time to take a random and delicious detour into Berkley Beer’s excellent Red Rye Ale. Full disclosure: I’ve started working with Berkley, doing tastings at local beer stores, but that doesn’t cloud my view of this quite-promising local brewery. Anyway, the Red Rye might be the best-balanced rye beer you’ll ever have. It takes the sharp taste of rye and offsets that with an inspired use of Belgian yeast to create a really drinkable, highly-flavored beer that will appeal to beer amateurs and geeks alike.

I finally managed to get my hands on the much-sought Narragansett Del’s Shandy, which combines Narragansett with everyone’s favorite frozen lemonade from Rhode Island. It’s a fine brew that really hits the spot, with the flavors and aromas of Del’s lemonade dominating the ‘Gansett. It’s definitely not for everyone, but it’s a fine offering by our local “budget brewery”.

Last but not least, I have to give a nod to Harpoon for their over-the-top UFO Big Squeeze Shandy. If you’re a grapefruit fan, this is your beer. Reeking of grapefruit, this zesty brew is mouth-puckeringly tart and dominated with the sharp spice of, well, grapefruit. If you’re a fan, pick it up. If you ain’t, don’t.

Originally posted on May 27, 2014