It’s easy to set your drinking agenda for almost every season: During the warm summer months, you want crisp, refreshing pale ales and pilsners. Fall calls for pumpkin beers and Oktoberfests. And there’s nothing better than drinking a rich, full-bodied porter on a frigid February day. But what the hell do you fill up your fridge with during spring?
This is a transitional season, and as a result, it’s much tougher to identify traditional spring brews. So we enlisted the services of the smartest beer gurus we know to deliver a dozen awesome recommendations for the trickiest weather stretch of the year.
PAULANER ORIGINAL MUNCHNER MARZEN
Hometown: Munich, Germany
Germans traditionally brew marzens in March, refrigerate them throughout the summer, and bust ‘em out again in the fall for Oktoberfest celebrations. But some brewers forgo the storage process altogether and drink marzens as soon as they’re ready, making seasonally appropriate beers like Paulaner’s O.G. marzen a little maltier upfront and more bitter on the back end, says Matt Simpson, a certified beer sommelier who taught a “Beer 101” course at Emory University.
HOFBRAU MUNCHEN MAIBOCK
Style: Heller Bock
Hometown: Munich, Germany
“If you want a really good maibock, seek out this one straight from the motherland,” Simpson says. Munich’s oldest bock dates back to 1614, and the Hofbrauhaus still taps the first barrel in the last week of April every year. It’s bigger and chewier than a marzen, but has a deceptively sweet finish and a distinct floral aroma—just in time for May flowers.
THOMAS HOOKER LIBERATOR DOPPELBOCK
Hometown: Bloomfield, Connecticut
You can thank a bunch of monks in the Middle Ages for the doppelbocks you know and love today. Since they were required to fast during Advent and Lent, they lived on “liquid bread,” which is what modern doppels taste like today. The classic Liberator is rich, creamy and malty, with some booze and fruitiness to boot, Simpson says. Can’t eat solid foods for a month? This is a hell of an alternative.
SAMUEL ADAMS FRESH AS HELLES
Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts
Helles lagers provide a perfect balance for the transitioning spring weather: They’re full-bodied (great for chillier days) and mildly sweet (even better for warmer temps). Sam’s new seasonal offering is brewed with Mandarina hops and orange blossom petals, which add a bright accent to the slightly sweet honey malt notes that make it smooth and refreshing, says brewer Jennifer Glanville, the director of brewery programs for Sam Adams.
HARPOON FRESH TRACKS
Style: American Pale Ale
Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts
Here’s another refreshing Boston brew that’s bursting with citrus notes. Plus, Harpoon’s bright, golden pale ale sure is pretty to look at—“like the first buds of spring in a glass,” says John Holl, senior editor for SevenFifty Daily and the author of The American Craft Beer Cookbook. Bonus: “It comes in a can, so it’s a perfect companion for when you’re planting your garden,” Holl says. (Why didn’t we ever think of that?)
THE PIKE BREWING CO. HIGH FIVE HOPPED HONEY ALE
Style: Hopped Honey Ale
Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Take one whiff of this Seattle special and you’ll get a lactic, sour note. The first sip brings orange and grapefruit citrus hops with hints of vanilla and caramel, before the honey comes in on the finish, says Holl. “The deeper you get, the more earthy it becomes.”
ALASKAN HUSKY IPA
Hometown: Juneau, Alaska
Spring is a tease: You might chill on your deck in shorts and flip-flops one afternoon, only to fetch your parka when the temperature drops 40 degrees the very next day. Enter this Alaskan IPA, whose mosaic hops give it a “tropical vacation nose,” says Holl. “Pineapple, mango and papaya all burst forth and help you think of warmer times each time a still-cold wind blows past.”
HILL FARMSTEAD SUSAN
Hometown: Greensboro, Vermont
Hazy, orange IPAs have recently emerged from New England to hit the national craft beer scene in a big way. But this old-school, murky beauty from Vermont is still one of the best. After you admire the gorgeous orange pour, you’ll pick up loads of citrus flavors like passion fruit, and a “sort of cookie dough honey taste” to balance out the hops, Simpson says. Susan is only available in the northeast on draft, but trust us: It’s worth the roadtrip.
JOLLY PUMPKIN BAM BIERE
Hometown: Dexter, Michigan
French-speaking Belgian farmers invented saisons a few centuries ago so they’d have a good table beer to drink during their harvest season. And you won’t find many modern saisons better than Bam Biere, says Simpson. It’s spicy, peppery and especially funky—courtesy of Jolly Pumpkin’s own strains of wild yeast—with a mild tart finish.
BOULEVARD SHOW-ME SOUR
Style: Sour/Wild Ale
Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri
Boulevard calls this ale its riff on the whisky sour. The barrel-aged, Belgian-style table beer is malty sweet and lightly tart, making for an “intriguing and flavorful” brew to enjoy during a night out, says Holl. But with a relatively low ABV, you can polish off a couple without suffering the consequences the next morning.
SOUTHERN TIER THICK MINT
Style: Imperial Stout
Hometown: Lakewood, New York
“Brewers use spring as a testing ground to release some beers that may have been kicking around in research and development for a while,” Holl says. “They’ll see if these beers can get a little traction before deciding whether or not to release them year-round.” How else to explain this delightful new concoction from Southern Tier, which Simpson calls “a minty imperial stout that’s basically like a girl scout cookie”? Just beware: While you can house a box of Thin Mints in one sitting, you should probably stop after a pint of this bad boy.
FUNKY BUDDHA MUY BONITA
Style: American Strong Ale
Hometown: Oakland Park, Florida
Here’s another experimental offering that strangely makes sense for spring: a big, rich, sweet, and fruity strong ale that’s “like drinking apple pie,” says Simpson. That’s because it’s made with real apples, cinnamon and vanilla. Serve it for dessert at your first barbecue of the season.