COLUMN BY MATT BRASCH
For Digital First Media
Looking back on the Winter of 2016, the Philadelphia region can’t complain. Yes we had one major (really major!) snowfall, but 70 degrees on Christmas to 80 degrees in mid-March doesn’t leave much to be upset about — even Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early Spring! Usually at this time of year we are feeling hopeless after the oppression of gray, damp, bone chilling days and looking forward to Spring. Despite the relatively easy Winter, a feeling of joy can still be felt when the sun warms your yard and breweries begin announcing their Spring releases.
Simultaneous with an sunny, 80-degree day, on March 10 Victory Brewing Co. announced that it would again be producing 2 of its highly acclaimed releases from 2015, “Kirsch Gose” and “Sour Monkey.” Both beers are perfect for enjoying in warm weather, and many Victory fans are excited to see them back again in 2016. According to a press release from Victory, “Sweet, tart, salty and refreshing, Kirsch Gose incorporates natural tart cherry juice with a classic German-style gose…,” a traditional German style that dates back to the 1500s. Sour Monkey is a “..sour, Brettanomyces-infused Tripel [that] is a transformation of Victory’s beloved and GABF Gold Medal award-winning brew, Golden Monkey. Sour Monkey combines juicy Tettnang and Hallertrau whole flower hops with Pilsner malt and coriander seed before adding the fun and funk of non-standard yeast varieties. These yeasts are known for their volatility and are often left out of the brewing process due to their hard to control nature.” Kirsch Gose will be available on April 1, and Sour Monkey will be in the market in 750 ml. bottles on July 1.
Maybe it had something to do with the unusually warm weather, but also on March 10, Hershey-based Troegs Brewing Co. announced in its newsletter that it’s summer seasonal, “Sunshine Pils,” will be available on April 4. Sunshine Pils is a Bohemian-style pilsner with Noble hops that is perfect for quenching a thirst under the Spring and Summer sun. This year however, Sunshine Pils fans won’t be able to find the red, blue and yellow labeled bottles with the blazing sun that they are used to — last autumn Troegs changed its label art for all its beers, and following suit, according to their press release, this year the Sunshine Pils label “features a sweltering rising sun motif with fiery rays of yellow and orange.” If you look closely, you’ll see that the body of the sun looks like a hop cone.
Iron Hill Brewery in North Wales has been serving its “Bier De Mars” (Beer of March) since the beginning of the month. This truly seasonal brew is described on the Iron Hill website as “a copper-colored French farmhouse-style ale. Brewed with wheat, aromatic malts and a touch of orange peels for a smooth ale with complex flavors and aromas.” Bier De Mars is a nice transition from the darker, winter beers to the spicy, summery farmhouse ales; this brew captures the essence of Spring that we have not seen this year — a gradual warm-up from frigid Winter to sultry Summer.
Similar to the buds of flowers that will be pushing up out of the ground soon, South Burlington, Vermont-based Magic Hat Brewing Co. is pushing out several IPAs this Spring. Their new release, “Low Key Session IPA”, at 4.5 percent ABV, was designed for enjoying in warm weather. According to a press release, Chris Rockwood, Magic Hat’s Head Brewer, explained, “When we brewed Low Key, we chose a variety of hops for particular reasons. We picked El Dorado for its candied, tropical bitterness, CTZ to add a note of pine, and finished it off with Chinook to give the beer a citrus aroma. Our goal was to create an easy-drinking IPA that craft beer drinkers could enjoy all-day long. So, whether they’re heading to a music festival, hanging out at a barbecue or taking a camping trip, Low Key is a great choice.” For a limited time, Magic Hat will be distributing Low Key in a variety of pack called “IPA Playlist” that also includes “Electric Peel,” an IPA made with pink grapefruit; “hi.P.A”, a 6.7 percent ABV IPA that has a label designed by Stanley Mouse, known for his concert posters and album covers for the Grateful Dead and other bands; and “S.M.A.S.H. Hits IPA,” a single hop (Delta hops) and single malt (Goldpils Vienna Malt) IPA.
While we have been lucky to have such an unseasonably warm March this year, the announcement of Spring beer releases is further confirmation that sunnier days lie ahead. So here’s to the return of enjoying beer outdoors in the sunlight — and cheers to the brewers who make them.