10 Spring Beers for the End of a Long Winter
It's weird timing, sure, but this is a weird time of year for beer in general. Drinkers are transitioning away from darker, maltier, boozier brews and into hoppier, more refreshing beers. This creates organized chaos in the beer coolers as space once taken up by winter warmers, strong stouts and caramel, coffee or even chocolate-flavored treats and bold barleywine becomes an awkward mix of winter leftovers and warm-weather arrivals.
It's kind of like that first day of warm weather in a cold corner of the country that tends to hit sometime in February. The sun comes out, the temperature flirts with 60 degrees or more and folks start wondering where their favorite restaurant is hiding its outdoor tables and whether it's too early to start puttering around in the garden. Then five days of temperatures in the 30s and 40s give way to late-season snowfall and any doubt about whether it's still winter has been erased.
So it is with beer. As much as a hoppy, citrusy IPA seems like a great way to shake off the waning days of winter, there's still enough of a chill left to send beer lovers running to the cellar for their last bottles of imperial stout. This is where mellow but potent Scottish ales and light-drinking dry stouts tend to shine and where a slightly amber pilsner can prepare beer fans for the fickle days ahead.
Unfortunately for the beer industry, none of that is consumed in huge quantities around this time of year. According to figures from the Beer Institute and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, February is typically one of the more miserable months on the beer calendar; production falls about 3 million barrels off its midsummer peak and hits its lowest point until the November-December holiday season.
While St. Patrick's Day gives those numbers a boost, it's not until Memorial Day hits in May that beer really finds its stride again. Despite this, there are still some great seasonal offerings out there for folks who had their fill of holiday beers in December and January and are looking forward to warmer days ahead. The following 10 offerings are just a sample of what brewers put out around this time of year and are a decent representation of just what a mixed bag the slumping spring beer season really is: