April 11, 2012 in Food

Brewers spring forward with range of offerings

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Dan Pelle photo

Rick Bonino
(Full-size photo)

By the numbers

Whenever possible, beers discussed in this column will be described in terms of their alcohol by volume and International Bitterness Units.

Alcohol by volume measures a beer’s potency. Regular Budweiser, for example, has an ABV of 5 percent; most microbrews are 5.5 percent and higher.

International Bitterness Units are an indication of relative hoppiness. That Budweiser is about a barely perceptible 10 IBU; the gnarliest craft brews can top 100.

Now that our climate is starting to catch up with the calendar, it’s time to savor some spring seasonal beers.

The offerings from local and regional brewers are as varied in approach as the weather this time of year.

Back for a seventh season is Northern Lights Solar Winds (5.8 percent alcohol by volume, 50 International Bitterness Units), a single-hop pale ale from Spokane’s oldest brewery.

For the sixth straight year, its mellow malt body serves as a canvas for citrusy, floral Amarillo hops. The beer is “dry-hopped,” with raw, whole hops added during fermentation for extra aroma and flavor.

“When we landed on Amarillo, it was so well received that we decided to stick with it,” said brewer/owner Mark Irvin.

The area’s newest brewery, the guitar-themed Twelve String Brewing in Spokane Valley, also uses a single hop – the earthy, spicy Delta, a recent hybrid – in its Spring Reverb (4.9 ABV, 62 IBU).

Brewer/owner Terry Hackler added Delta hops at seven stages of the brewing process, including double dry-hopping. “I tried to get every single layer of flavor out of those hops,” he said.

The industrial-strength Devil Dog Imperial IPA (10, 98) from Laughing Dog Brewing in Ponderay, Idaho, is hoppier than the Easter bunny. Triple dry-hopped, its five hop varieties unfold in citrusy, piney waves that swamp the somewhat syrupy malt backbone.

The hops keep coming

Deschutes’ copper-colored Red Chair (6.2, 60) says it’s intended for those “not up for a full-on hop assault.” But while not particularly bitter, its silky blend of seven malts still yields to big, juicy hop flavors and a dry, resiny finish.

Sierra Nevada’s new Ruthless Rye (6.6, 55) is a complex India pale ale whose creamy mouthfeel dissolves into peppery rye spiciness.

Both Pyramid, with its Discord, and Alaskan are serving up black IPAs for springtime – a style we’ll take a closer look at next month – while Bridgeport brings a black pale dubbed Dark Rain.

Make mine a malted

On the maltier side, Redhook and Hale’s welcomed early spring with more mild-mannered nut brown ales. It’s worth searching out the nuttier Hale’s version (5.3, 15), a bit weaker in alcohol but stronger in flavor than the Redhook (5.8, 30).

C.I. Shenanigans in Spokane is finishing up the last of its seasonal Rabbit Punch Irish Red (7.0, 35) to make way for a rich, malty Maibock lager, due April 20.

Full Sail’s LTD 05 dark lager (5.6, 28), with its caramel and toasted malt flavors, boasts that it’s aimed at converting amber ale lovers to “lagerism.”

Widmer weighs in with a tartly fruity, spicy Dark Saison (5.5, 25), its relatively sweet interpretation of the traditional Belgian farmhouse style.

Spring into summer

Looking for something lighter? The clean, Irish-style Singapore Spring Blond Ale from Bi-Plane Brewing in Post Falls gets its smooth texture from oats and flaked barley.

Spokane’s Steam Plant Grill has been spicing up spring by adding homemade jalapeño pepper extract to its Blonde Ale.

“You have to like jalapeño to have more than one,” said brewer Greg Piller, who’s planning something fruitier for later in the season.

New Belgium’s Dig (5.6, 36) and Ninkaski’s Spring Reign (6.0, 38) start in distinctly different places – lemon, peach and tropical fruit flavors for the former, the latter a light malt sweetness – but share long, intensely earthy aftertastes.

The easy-drinking Samuel Adams Alpine Spring (5.5, 19) is an unfiltered golden lager with citrusy, grassy hop notes. Get it while you can – the Sam Adams Summer is already starting to show up in stores.

Starting to sprout

Looks like local beer buffs will have a few more options this summer.

• Selkirk Abbey has received its final permits from the city of Post Falls and plans to launch a line of Belgian-style beers starting in June.

Also shooting for a June opening is Trickster’s in Coeur d’Alene, which is awaiting permits. For the early lowdown, check out trickstersbrewing.com.

• Missoula’s Big Sky Brewing will be featured in this month’s Brew Master’s Dinner on Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Coeur d’Alene Casino. Tickets are $40; call (800) 523-2464 or see cdacasino.com.

And keep an eye out for Big Sky’s malty, darkly fruity Heavy Horse Scotch Ale (6.7, 20), a limited release that is making one of its occasional rides around the region.

Rick Bonino is a freelance writer and editor in Spokane. Send beer news, comments and questions to boninobeer@comcast.net.

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