Summer has its refreshing brews built to beat the heat, and winter is the time of the bold, boozy stouts and barley wines, but it's spring that’s the beer lover’s favorite season — especially in the embarrassingly pleasant Los Angeles.
While we didn’t have to suffer through shoulder-high snow banks, or ice storms, or temperatures much below 50 degrees, we can still celebrate the end of winter’s (not all that) bitter grip and spring’s promise of renewal with a glass (or three) of seasonally-appropriate brews. And there are a lot to choose from.
Here are three broad categories of styles perfect for a toast on the equinox.
In Germany, the motherland of the lager beer, spring is a time to drink Bockbier, especially the brawny doppelbocks of Munich. Brews like Salvator and the goat-charm adorned Celebrator are strong, malty lagers with a ruddy hue and a sweet body that finishes with a pleasing dryness.
While they're built to chase the chill from those early-spring days — a problem that we Angelenos rarely face — their moderate alcohol content (usually around 7%) and full-flavor mean they are remarkable with food and especially with pork where the subtle sweetness of the meat is highlighted by the beer. Craft versions of bocks and doppelbocks are curiously uncommon, but the examples from the Boston Beer Co., Cismontane Brewing in Orange Co., and Rouge brewing’s take on the maibock style, Dead Guy Ale, all fit the bill.
More suited to L.A.’s idyllic climate are the pale lagers of Europe. Styles such as pilsners, helles and even the rarely-seen Dortmunder balance hops and pale malts to varying degrees, and they're light, refreshing and invigorating.
Thankfully, craft lagers are seeing a surge of popularity with brewers and new options seeming to hit shelves and taps every week. Keep an eye out for Pivo Pils from Firestone Walker, Lux from Oregon’s Ninkasi Brewing or the new Nooner from Sierra Nevada.
The farmhouse ales are another family of European brews that fit with the Southland's brilliant spring. Saisons — the most recognizable of the farmhouse family, which also includes biere de garde and grissette — have become one of the darlings of the craft brewing world.
Historically brewed as refreshments for laborers toiling in the fields of Wallonia, saisons are known for a complex spice flavors provided by unique yeast strains. Saison Dupont is the progenitor of modern interpretations of the style, and American craft brewers have pushed the boundaries of tradition in every direction. It isn’t uncommon to find examples adulterated with spices or fruit, but the best examples are still dominated by the esthery punch from a warm fermentation.
Smog City’s LA Saison is an interpretation of the style that’s particularly fitting for the warm spring evenings, and neighboring Monkish Brewing is planning to release a series of funky takes that feature wild yeasts and oak-bound fermentations.
Agoura Hills brewpub Ladyface Ales also makes La Grisette — a slightly tart and extremely refreshing example of a branch of farmhouse ales that was originally brewed for Belgian miners.
American Pale Ales
While the American pale ale is often overshadowed by its bolder, more popular progeny the IPA, the moderately strong and often hop-forward APA is perhaps even better suited to springtime celebrations.
Pale Ales are less potent and less pungent than the IPA, and this increased drinkability means a lot when you’re settling into a languid evening on the porch (or in the biergarten). The pale ale is versatile with food, and they match wonderfully with salads of spring vegetables, bright citrus dressings and fresh cheese.
There is a staggering variety of flavor profiles available in pale ales, from the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale’s signature pine-and-citrus aroma over an off-dry malt framework to the new-wave “session IPAs” (just a pale ale by another name) that demonstrate a punchy tropical hop character with minimal malt presence like Stone Brewing Co.’s Go To IPA, or Oskar Blues’ Pinner Throwback Ale.