The change of the seasons is upon us once again here in Massachusetts. The record breaking snowfall and miserably cold Winter is finally loosening its grasp to make way for Spring. As the seasons shift, so do almost everyone’s attitude towards the world.
People seem happier just by nature of not having to shovel for a couple weeks — but I am sure actually having a moment to enjoy the sun helps, too.
I took some time the other day to reflect on how the changing seasons affect what kind of beer I want the most. I was inspired by my enjoyment of Harpoon’s The Long Thaw white IPA while grilling for the first time. It’s an excellent beer, and the way it tasted just felt right for Spring.
This led me to consider the other seasons, and lo and behold there is a specific type of beer I mentally connect with each season. This winds up being my beer of preference during this time — the one that just fits.
For example: there is nothing I love more than a strong IPA in the Summer months.
The hoppy flavor just makes me feel like being outdoors, enjoying nature and spending leisurely time with my friends. Some of my fondest memories of the summer of 2014 are sitting on the porch, crisp Flower Power by my side while I grilled up some burgers and dogs. Camping trips and cookouts are the perfect time for a session IPA like All Day IPA.You get all of the hop taste without the heavy abv.
When Fall is upon us, the IPAs that I loved so much just don’t move me the same way. Everything around me becomes an homage to fall spices. Cinnamon and cardamom, clove and apple; these are the tastes I connect with the Fall season.
This is when Oktoberfest beers start emerging, with their spicy ale taste. Seasonal offerings like Pumpking from Southern Tier dominates my Fall beer landscape. Some beers take the fall flavor thing to the extreme and wind up tasting like a candied mess. I like to think I have found the standout examples though, and rarely venture from them unless I am truly moved to engage my curiosity.
Honorable mention goes out to ciders as well. I am not a huge cider guy, but when Future-wife and I go to the Big E I need me some McKenzie’s Seasonal cider. I mistook it for a beer in a crowded bar, and when presented with a cider my English genes activated and I simply said, “thanks!” and tipped the woman $2.00. Thankfully, it was the best cider I have ever had — it literally tasted like apple pie, and the addition of a couple splashes of dark spiced rum made us both very happy.
This is now a mandatory sampling in the Fall season for us.
Of course the big evil bastard following Fall is Winter, and it always goes the same way.
I milk the spiced beers for awhile, mainly before the temperature drops too much. Then the first snow fall triggers me. Suddenly I want everything to be as dark of a beer as you can possibly get. And I want a beard too. These things keep me sane during my most disliked season.
Porters, Stouts, and Scotch Ales rule the dark and cold days. They are as numerous in style as the potholes are after the plow guys do their best to break both my back and my car’s suspension.
Atwater Decadent Dark Chocolate Stout, Ballast Point Victory At Sea, Tree House That’s What She Said, Oskar Blues Old Chub. All of these are go-to beers to forget how damned awful my face feels when it’s 3 degrees outside.
Of course there are days when the weather isn’t so terrible. The sun may actually come out, and if you’re lucky it hasn’t snowed in a week or two. Those days a nice black IPA works best. I have a fondness for Broad Brook’s Dark Star IPA (wish they would can that one).
The cycle concludes where we are right now. The snow stops, it’s cold but manageable, and everyone is driving with the windows down and all their attention focused on dodging the now craters in the roads from those damned plow guys.
These days a white IPA is wonderful. It’s light, it’s crisp — it has a little bit of spice to it — and best of all it promises the sun coming back around to heat up the day. I can’t say enough about how good Harpoon’s Long Thaw is for that. Harpoon doesn’t get enough credit for that one.
Barring access to those, a pale ale is a nice alternative. I am still exploring pale ales as a subset of beers, though. I don’t have a standby yet and welcome suggestions from you, dear readers.
If I liked Belgians I would definitely consider them a spring time beer, but they present too much spice and not enough substance for my taste.
This probably seems like a very obvious thing.
I mean, these are the exact beers you see breweries do seasonal releases of. That’s kind of what I am getting at though in reflecting on this. We all just seem to agree that each season provides a great beer shift. There is history at work here, I am sure of it, and a more dedicated individual would take the next step to research the origins of these differing beer styles and their production.
For me though, I am just happy to sit back and think about it while waiting for Winter to give up its spot to Spring. There’s a garden to be planted, wood to be chopped and an archery target to be shot at. The research will have to wait until the inevitable dark days of the next Winter.