Brews to Break the Cold Snap 

On any given spring day, you never know if you’ll get the lion or the lamb. It’s a time of change, when the soporific heaviness of winter subsides and brighter, airier things come to mind. In turn, dark, robust winter beers fade into memory as the palate recalibrates, seeking crisper, thirst-quenching libations.

Though this is traditionally the time of the little-known maibock and doppelbock (beers brewed with the purpose of sustaining monks throughout the Lenten fast), springtime does not have the set cast of anticipated beer as the other seasons do. But local craft brewers have their own ideas of what folks might like to drink once the cold thaws.

I’m Really Not O.K.
Barrage Brewing Company, Farmingdale
American Lager (6% ABV)

Known for a wide-range of styles and eccentrically-named beers, Barrage Brewing will be introducing a new beer to the lineup this spring. I’m Really Not O.K. is an American Lager that promises to be brisk and refreshing.

Brewed with Vienna malts and pale wheat, head brewer/owner Steve Pominski chose to use American hops instead of the German variety traditionally associated with the lager style to “add something special,” he said. There is also a secret ingredient that provides “not a sweet aroma per se, but [something like] molasses, brown sugar. It’s an elusive note that sometimes doesn’t come through.”

The crisp, dry beer will have “a little punch at six percent ABV.” Pominski noted that it’s a work-in-progress but trusts that it will be an easy-drinking, tasty example of what a good lager can be, especially when compared to the mass-produced versions on the market today. Have a pint as your thoughts wander to cookouts, picnics and baseball games to come.

Passionate Freak
Sand City Brewing Company, Northport
Belgian Tripel (11% ABV)

Belgian ales span a wide range of hues, flavors and strengths. There are pale, light and easy drinking abbey ales known as singels. Dubbels tend to be a darker nut-brown with an increase in booziness. For the spring, Sand City decided upon a tripel.

Belgian tripels are complex. Some spiciness is created by the use of special yeast strains. Released to celebrate  Valentine’s Day, Passionate Freak is brewed with pilsner malts and Belgian candi sugar, which creates a smooth, dry finish and insidiously masks the strong alcohol bite.

According to co-owner/brewer Kevin Sihler, “240 pounds of passion fruit are added to the fermenters, creating tropical notes. The addition of cherries lends a tartness.” And if the ingredients aren’t exotic enough for one’s taste, the 11 percent ABV is sure to instill an amorous mood! Don’t be cheap. Skip the drugstore box of chocolates and pair this with truffles or marzipan. Or a rack of lamb you cooked yourself, you romantic devil!

Zero 2 Sixty
Two Roads Brewing Company, Stratford, CT
Tart IPA (6% ABV)

For 15 years, Phil Markowski was head brewer at Southampton Publick House. He left in 2011 and co-founded Two Roads Brewing Company, which will be releasing Zero 2 Sixty, a “tart” IPA, this spring. The craft beer culture is one where norms are challenged and new styles emerge, it should be no surprise to find that Markowski put his creative twist on things.

“Zero 2 Sixty is a kettle-soured IPA. In order to not overwhelm the hops and stay true to the ‘IPA’ moniker we stopped the souring process short of where we would go for a gose [which is much sharper], for example,” Markowski explained. “In the nose, the tart character is subtle but impossible to miss. The hop aroma follows with a bang and the beer finishes tart on the palate…makes one want to take another sip right away.”

Traditional gose and sour ales can be puckering. The abbreviated souring process coupled with the use of Chinook and Comet hops provides a balanced and highly quaffable beer. Markowski said this beer “is great as an aperitif. It is a perfect ‘welcome beer’ at a beer dinner as the tart finish and hoppy character stimulate the appetite!”

Spider Bite Beer Company, Holbrook
French Saison (7%ish ABV)

Saisons were traditionally made in the winter for summer consumption so that farm workers would have something refreshing to drink when they finished working the fields. As seasonal creep becomes more prevalent, it’s no surprise to find a saison in the spring.

Belgian-style saisons are often described as being funky and earthy, but French-style saisons are much clearer and sharply distinct. Araignée, French for “spider,” is made in the French-style and promises to be effervescent and Chardonnay-like. “I use a French saison yeast, which is a much cleaner, brighter yeast so there’s no farmhouse funk or anything like that,” said co-owner/head brewer Larry Goldstein. “It’s crisp and dry and bright…I [used to use] Nelson hops but they’re getting harder to get so there’s a good chance I’ll use a German hop that has a similar profile. The [combination of that yeast and hop is the] whole reason it has a Chardonnay-like aroma and flavor.” When asked what he would pair this with Goldstein sardonically replied, “Pair it with anything that goes well with a chardonnay.” A boatload of oysters for me, please.

Doppel Trouble
Destination Unknown Beer Company, Bay Shore
Doppelbock (7.5%ish ABV)

Bocks are a type of German lager typically stronger and sweeter than their paler cousins. Several styles exist such as the eisbock and maibock, but doppelbocks are most readily associated with the lenten season. These dark copper-colored beers with strong, sweet, malty character are what monks turned to for sustenance during Lent. Beer is “bread-in-a-glass” after all.

As the head of one of the few craft breweries in the area producing the traditional style doppelbock, co-owner/head brewer Chris Candiano will be brewing Doppel Trouble this spring. Munich and Vienna malts give Doppel Trouble a big, hefty malt backbone. Candiano anticipates a soothing “toasted bread and toffee aroma.”

When asked if  he was going to put his unique stamp on the brew, he paused. “There are some things that are so good you just have to stick with the original.” He recommended pairing the doppelbock with a good cheese board, one loaded with sharp funky things.