I hope you’ve started getting your gardens planted, herbs potted or hops in the ground, because spring is fully upon us.
And in these warmer months, after hard, hot hours of work in the garden, what better way to reward yourself than with a great beer?
Luckily, seasonal spring beers are turning up on tap and in bottles all over the neighborhood.
Generally, spring beers are lighter than the winter ales you’ll see during the colder months. Light, refreshing styles like saison, pilsner and kolsch are good examples of springtime beers.
Of course, porters, stouts and strong Belgian beers don’t disappear entirely. One of my favorite things about Philadelphia is that even in the middle of the summer, I can always get a Russian Imperial Stout on draft.
Now, I’m always a fan of keeping it local, and all of the Philly breweries offer something for the spring season.
The Fleur de Lehigh from Philadelphia Brewing Co. is as certain a sign of the coming of spring as the budding trees.
Spiced with ginger, chamomile, lemon grass and more, this unfiltered Belgian is one of my favorites. Yards Brewing Co. has its own seasonal beer, simply called “Saison.”
This farmhouse-inspired ale is brewed traditionally, with no spices or seasonings, just Belgian malt and candi sugar.
The sugar gives it a lighter body, and the saison yeast can give it overtones ranging from fruity to peppery.
I haven’t tried this year’s batch, but it varies a bit each year, and previous years have gone from very saison-like to closer to a Belgian Triple.
Manayunk Brewing Co. offers its own seasonal farmhouse ale, the Biere de Mars. This is a slightly darker and much maltier beer than most saisons; it is like a lighter dubbel. Manayunk’s description mentions wild yeast in the recipe, but I mostly taste the malt in this one.
Delaware’s Dogfish Head has two seasonal beers out this spring. The Aprihop is a mild IPA that is brewed with apricots.
The flavor of the fruit is noticeable but pleasant, and not overpowering. This year they also have a beer offering called the Tweason’ale, which is a rare find — it’s a gluten-free beer that actually tastes good.
Brewed with sorghum, buckwheat honey and strawberries, the fact that it is sour is why I think this gluten-free beer works. The sourness covers the inherent sweetness of sorghum.
Victory Brewing Co., out of Downingtown, has a few seasonal beers, such as the Whirlwind Wit and the St. Boisterous bock.
For spring drinking though, I feel their year-round lager is underrated. A simple, light lager, this beer is refreshing and flavorful without being overwhelmingly hopped or too strong.
Hop-heads (i.e. beer fanatics like myself) eagerly anticipate the release of Troegs Nugget Nectar in the winter, and luckily we still have some of this highly hopped amber ale turning up on tap.
The Flying Mouflan, Troegs’ spring release, is described as “pushing Nugget Nectar off the side of a cliff.”
A 9.3 percent ABV barleywine, expect this to turn up in April.
Another highly anticipated spring beer comes from Bell’s in Michigan. Their Oberon wheat beer is so well-regarded that I’ve seen bars announcing its release on their Internet pages.
Keep an eye out for this one, since it will probably go quickly. While this isn’t a seasonal, Ithaca Beer’s Flower Power always makes me think of the season.
This IPA is hoppy, but not too hoppy, with a citrus-y and grapefruit flavor coming from the hops.
It finishes very clean, without too much lingering malt flavor.
Event Alert: Two great events coming up on April 7.
First is the 17th annual “Split Thy Skull” barleywine festival at Tattooed Mom (530 South St.) from 1 to 5 p.m. It’s pay-as-you-go, and beers are served only in sample-size flights, which is good since last year the beers were all 9.5 percent ABV and up. This is consistently one of my favorite beer events in the city.
Note the location, because previous years have been at Sugar Moms.
Also that day is the “Gospel, Soul and Rhythm-n-Blues Review” at Johnny Brenda’s (1201 Frankford Ave.) at 8 p.m.
A celebration of DJ DNA’s 20 years spinning roots music on the show Gospel Train and the Roots of Rhythm and Blues on WRDV (tune to 107.3 FM), the event features R&B artist Carlton Lewis and Philly’s own York Street Hustle and God’s Grace.
V.I.P. tickets include a meet-and-greet with the bands and an hour of free Kenzinger and Walt Wit from 7 to 8 p.m.
All of the rest of the great local beer at Johnny Brenda’s will be on tap as well. ••
Tim Patton is a Fishtown resident, beer aficionado and brewer. His column is dedicated to showcasing everything that is great about enjoying beer in the riverwards. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org