Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Hops spring eternal

Ah, spring! With the whiplash season change we've had here in the Bay Area, it's worth taking a moment to consider some post-winter, bee-stingin', allergy-sneezin' brews for those moments of repose in the midst of your cleaning. And whereas there are some beers that are eternal and perfect no matter what the time of year (or time of day, for that matter), it's only appropriate - if not reverent - to take a moment for the beers of the new season.

The spring barley harvest has always been the perfect time for brewers to crank out a new batch to highlight the crop. For some, it will be a full, crisp, citrusy ale in the range of 7-8% a.b.v. with a little wheat (or whatever else your harvesting thrown in) and "secret" spices - for others, it will be a simple, provisional ale for your farm workers with low alcohol and no shelf life to speak of. In both cases, you'll likely see it called biere de mars. In the modern world, however, we're stuck with slightly slimmer choices. Most breweries now only make biere de mars as a quickie seasonal specialty snuck in there between their generally more popular winter and summer quaffs, so search them out while they're still on the shelves.
Another classic of the season is the German märzen. If the weather's finally changed in your neck of the woods, the blooms are on the trees, even notorious liquor scribe Michael Jackson is driven to exclaim:

"I love having a pint of Bavarian or Bohemian lager with that sort of double decoction malt characteristic to it, that freshness of malt characteristic, and that very light delicacy of hop characteristic on a springtime afternoon in a beer garden."

How can you argue with that man? You cannot. Go now, find your hammock. The only thing standing between your garden and a beer garden is the beer (although a hop arbor would be nice, too). Enjoy it while it lasts.


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