As Minnesota’s brutal winter gives way to spring sunshine and greenery, so, too, comes a shift in the beer world.
Gone are the winter seasonals, such as the aptly named Stir Crazy from Indeed Brewing Company.
So, it is time to cast out the typically heavier styles brewed for our cold and dark season and welcome easygoing beers.
This means if you head to Newt’s in downtown Rochester, you’ll find Summit Brewing Company’s latest seasonal beer on tap: the maibock.
Maibocks can be considered the beer du jour for spring. Though mai means “May” in German, the beer shows up much earlier in the American beer market, as all seasonals tend to do (pumpkin beers are no longer reserved for chilly autumn releases; the squash brews see shelf time as soon as late summer).
The transitional beer style typically features a touch of hop bitterness on top of a delectable malty flavor. The gold-colored Bavarian lager might be fleeting, but it really is an underrated style that can prepare taste buds for the upcoming summer heat waves.
Summit’s interpretation of the style, which undoubtedly will show up alongside more and more tap handles in the coming days, tastes like warm toast with some spices sprinkled on top thanks to the Czech Saaz hops.
Plenty of other Minnesota breweries will release their own spring seasonals, if they haven’t already, and many other beers brewed year-round are perfect for the new climate.
August Schell Brewing Company has its own take on the maibock, Maifest. It’s a perfect warm-weather beer, especially after finishing the annual 12K the New Ulm brewery hosts at its brewery estate in May.
But what of other beers? Well, maibocks might be a top beer for spring, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy something else. You should drink whatever you like at any time. If you do in fact like to match your beer with the season (or just dislike maibocks), there are some other great choices out there.
Surly has its Helles lager, Hell. Indeed shipped Mexican Honey Imperial Lager (though released while we were still all trudging to work through snow), a subtly sweet, smooth and easy to quaff concoction in spite of its higher ABV of 8 percent.
And while a hefeweizen is a summer style, we’ll lump New Glarus Dancing Man into this list as well, considering it released early this month and should be consumed year-round. It’s easily one of the best, if not the best, hefeweizen made in America today.
That’s thanks to the open-top fermentors, one of only two in America, from what I’ve heard. But that’s another column for another time. Dive into the banana and clove flavors if you can.
But what of the local beer scene? Rochester has plenty of beers to help us transition into spring if you can’t handle Forager Brewing Company’s Sherpa’s Survival Kit American double stout on a 70-degree day.
Word on the street is Preserved Gose is set for a return to the brewpub. It’s essentially a tart lemonade (it doesn’t give off a lot of the saltiness the style is known for), perfect for quenching thirst.
Grand Rounds Brewpub brews a honey Kolsch that is a malty treat with just a hint of the sweet bee nectar. It’s another good way to change up your drinking habits.
Over at LTS I’d suggest the kolsch as well, but the FUN Belgian-style Blond, and Petite Saison D’Ete, a Belgian Style Saison, are both great spring and summer beers.
I don’t like to base my beer selection on seasons, and you shouldn’t either. If a barrel-aged stout is what you want to drink while sitting outside on a nice 70-degree day, that’s totally acceptable. Use this more as a suggestion, or at least motivation to try a maibock this season.
It may just put a spring in your step.