Friday Froth: Scattershot Spring

James Gribbon

Spring in New England is pretty unreliable. A foggy morning can burn off into a sweltering afternoon and then plummet right on down to a cold evening. It's like a cat that doesn't know whether it wants to be inside or out. The scattershot nature of the season is still an absolutely joy as the plants reach out once again for the sun's warmth the same way we escape the confines of our homes to take advantage of the longer days and newly multi-hued outdoors. We're going to look into an equally haphazard selection of beers this week and see what we can see.

Weihenstepan has been brewing beers atop the Bavarian hill which gives the brewery its name for almost a thousand years. The oldest brewery in the world still in existence, it was originally a Benedictine monastery before turning pro in as the Royal Bavarian State Brewery. If the name rings a bell, it's probably because they recently partnered with Sam Adams to create a gourmet beer called Infinium.  

I had the Weihenstepan Hefe Weissbier, still swelling up with a thick, foamy head giving off a sweet, spicy aroma with a slight citrus waft. The head fizzled down to a nice film as I drank. Richer than other examples I've had of the style, this beer remains very light drinking, and would make a fantastic summer brew. "Kaiser" is the German word for Emperor, and Weihenstepan has indeed been the brewery of royals. This beer, however, is more Kaiser Soze, as it's gone before you know it. 

Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball is an American strong ale from the Petaluma, California brewery whose beers have been turning heads back East, as they say, for a few years now. You may have had their IPA at BSF. I've gotten the hairy eyeball a few times in my day, but this was the first time I genuinely enjoyed it. Deep red with a thick head, the aroma reminded me of black cherries. The first two flavors to hit you in this beer are roasted barley and alcohol. At 9%, the evaporating hooch fumes can be enough to sting your nose, but that just wakes up your sense of taste. There is a slight bitterness, but the prevalent taste is from that crystal malt. It is a strong beer, but it's not mighty or intimidating to the palette. Hairy Eyeball is actually quite approachable for a craft brew of its style and punch. Like a new Corvette, anyone can jump right in, but they better watch out: make an injudicious input and things'll get sideways on you in a hurry.

Clipper City Brewing in Maryland makes the Heavy Seas brand of beers. They group their beers by strength into fleets called Clipper, Mutiny and Pyrate. Dig down into the swashbuckling end of that spectrum and you'll find Peg Leg Imperial Stout. Nautical themes are particularly relevant to this style, as it was developed in high alcohol form so the kegs wouldn't freeze on burst on their way through the frigid Baltic on their way to the court of the considerably less frigid Catherine the Great. Like an 18th century great hall, this beer is dark in appearance and smokey in aroma, but can presumably be relied on to be tuberculosis-free. It has a mild, toasty taste - not the heavyweight you'd expect it to be as an imperial. "The beer's heavy, but the taste is not," according to my friendly neighborhood bartender. It's not a mild-blowing brew, but it is most definitely a solid effort, and if the 8%ABV doesn't get your attention, the jolly roger tap handle will. Check out the recipe page [] on their site if you're looking for a few ideas on other methods of beer consumption. (Ha! "Consumption" - get it? That's two TB jokes in one paragraph, aaaand I'm definitely going to hell.) 

Three beers: one bright and golden, one deep and red, one black - like an April day fading into darkness. Spring may have sprung, but it's not yet in full swing. Here's to hoping these three help smooth out the transition.