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Top 10 spring beers

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 (iStock)

While we depend on malty ales and smooth porters to comfort us on cold winter nights, the longer days and warmer weather of spring call for brighter flavors and sharper textures to awaken slumbering taste buds. Ranging from crisp saisons to American IPAs, Gayot's top 10 spring beers won't last till summer, so grab these fan favorites now while there's still time.

1.) Stochasticity Project Grapefruit Slam IPA
Koochenvagner Brewing Company - Escondido, California

Released on February 10, 2014, this over-the-top IPA hails from Stone Brewing, even though it's cleverly disguised as a creation by Koochenvagner's Brewing Company (which is the actual DBA of Stone, named after co-founders Greg Koch and Steve Wagner). This hop monster logs in at 95 IBUs, just shy of the 100 maximum that the human palate is believed to be capable of tasting. It's hopped with Centennial, Chinook and Magnum, known for their citrus-y character. The word "stochastic" means involving a random variable, but in this case, the variable is not that random. Instead, for good measure, the brew is dry hopped with more Centennial and an immense dose of hand-zested fresh grapefruit peel providing intense citrus fruit. It's the ultimate citrus-hop bomb, but you may be surprised to find the bitterness is balanced and does not overwhelm, lingering long after you've swallowed.

Style: American Double IPA
ABV: 8.2 percent
Price: $6.99 for 22 oz

2.) Samuel Adams Alpine Spring
The Boston Beer Company - Boston, MA

The Boston Beer Company prides itself on offering beers for every season. The Alpine Spring name and label (with images of trees in bloom beside a shimmering lake) work together to evoke a vision of spring. Part of the brewery's small-batch series, this hazy, golden-hued brew is a cross between a bock and a Helles — with the slightly higher alcohol of a bock and the hoppiness of a Helles. A citrus aroma is joined with a slight spiciness and crisp flavors of lemon and orange, as well as citrus rind, courtesy of the 100 percent German Tettnang-Tettnanger Noble hops it's brewed and dry-hopped with. The blend of pale malts backing up the hops consists of a two-row pale malt blend, Honey malt and Ida Pils malt, providing a moderately sweet body reminiscent of honey and caramel. Unlike most lagers, this one is unfiltered, cloudy and bottled or kegged after it's only a few weeks old. This and its resulting fruity esters give the impression that it came straight from the fermentation tank!

Style: Helles
ABV: 5.5 percent
Price: $6.99 for 22 oz

3.) Uinta Brewing Tinder Rauchbier
Uinta Brewing Company - Salt Lake City, Utah

This recent release is part of Uinta's Crooked Line series, i.e. the company's more experimental recipes, brewed "outside the lines" of traditional beer styles. This rauchbier (smoked beer) was inspired by owner Will Hamill and headbrewer Kevin Ely's recent trip to Germany, the country where this style originates, and it is brewed with German Bamberg beechwood-smoked malt. Your first whiff will be that of a smoldering campfire, eliciting thoughts of BBQ or bacon. The aroma resonates into the flavor as well, and while quite noticeable, it's not overpowering, with moderate malty sweetness balancing the smokiness. In keeping with Uinta's Crooked Line tradition of supporting local art talent, Tinder's label depicting two lovers smooching by a fire was produced by Leia Bell, a Salt Lake City print artist.

Style: Rauchbier (Smoked Lager)
ABV: 6.5 percent
Price: $8.49 for 750 ml

4.) The Lost Abbey Carnevale
Port Brewing Company - San Marcos, California

Lost Abbey Carnevale Ale, a spring seasonal release from the Belgian-style division of Port Brewing Company, celebrates the Lenten and Easter season and the arrival of spring, complete with Venetian artwork on the label. At only 6.5 percent ABV (low for most Belgian styles), this Saison is un-spiced — its spiciness comes solely from the American Amarillo and Simcoe hops it's brewed with. Well-carbonated, it delivers a large pillowy head when poured. If you drink one right after it arrives on the shelf you'll enjoy a slight wild yeast note from the added brettanomyces, which will increase over months if you can resist the urge to drink it. Co-founder/Director of Brewing Operations Tomme Arthur describes it as a brewer's beer, for it's his brewers' beer of choice that they often reach for when they end their shift.

Style: Saison / Farmhouse Ale
ABV: 6.5 percent
Price: $8.99 for 750 ml

5.) The Bruery Saison De Lente
The Bruery - Placentia, CA

This spring seasonal, with its bold flavors and label depicting a pink and green Easter egg, shouts out "Lent." Upon pouring, you'll notice a pure white, frothy head that lingers long after entering your glass. Aromas of green apple, lemon and wild funk are compliments of the brettanomyces yeast it's brewed with. As you sip this highly effervescent, pale golden ale you'll encounter loads of fizz in your mouth, along with tart flavors of clove and citrus peel, which are also a result of the yeast. After swallowing, the aftertaste delivers a fresh citrusy hop character that is joined with a dry, crisp finish. As with all of The Bruery's beers, this one is unfiltered and bottle conditioned, meaning it's naturally carbonated through a secondary fermentation that occurs in the bottle. If you have to give up something for Lent, choose anything but beer so you can enjoy this Belgian-style gem.

Style: Saison / Farmhouse Ale
ABV: 6.5 percent
Price: $8.99 for 750 ml

6.) Widmer Columbia Common Spring Ale
Widmer Brothers Brewing Company - Portland, OR

Widmer Brothers Brewing is situated in Oregon's Willamette Valley, the second largest hop growing region in the country. In 2013 they released this new spring seasonal, Columbia Common Spring Ale. It's named for both the style ("common") and for one of the three hops it's brewed with. The common beer style is unique in that it is fermented with both ale and lager yeast strains, resulting in characteristics of both. The lager yeast lends a crisp, clean and dry finish, and the hefeweizen ale yeast adds fruity esters. The Columbia hop varietal, which imparts a refreshing lemon citrus note, was originally bred in the 1970s but was never used until Widmer revived it by working with a farmer to grow it for them. This dark, amber-hued hybrid delivers a floral aroma, with grassy and spicy hop characteristics backed up by a malty and bready backbone.

Style: Common / Steam
ABV: 4.7 percent
Price: $8.99 for a six-pack

7.) Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company - Chico, CA

The Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is known for using only fresh full-cone hops, so what's a brewery to do when hops are only harvested in late summer? This ale features freshly picked hops from New Zealand, the only location on the planet that harvests hops in March and April. The company was the first American brewery to source hops from the southern hemisphere. The hops are dried right after being picked, flown immediately to Chico, and used for brewing the week after they were picked so that they retain peak aromatics and flavors. This copper-hued beer is a fusion of north and south, as the southern hops impart a piney and pungent aroma and a spicy flavor that's balanced with maltiness from North American grown malts.

Style: American IPA
ABV: 6.7 percent
Price: $8 for 22 oz

8.) Gouden Carolus Easter Beer
Brouwerij Het Anker - Mechelen, Belgium

Don't be fooled by the cute bunny and colored Easter eggs on the label. This is one seriously strong and potent brew. This rich, dark brown ale is brewed yearly to be enjoyed during Easter dinner, and its robust 10 percent alcohol comes across as malty sweetness that will pair well with a salty spring holiday ham. While the brewery admits to using herbs in the recipe, it's up to us to guess what they are. A variety of spicy notes can be detected, most predominantly anise, as well as cinnamon, citrus peel and nutmeg, making for an intriguing convergence of flavors. The richness of dark fruits such as figs and plums is thrown in for even more complexity. If you have the patience, consider following the suggestion of the brewery, which states, "This special brew may be laid down (cellared). It will increase in complexity and balance as the years pass."

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale
ABV: 10 percent
Price: $10.99 for 750 ml

9.) Shipyard Brewing Applehead
Shipyard Brewing Company - Portland, Maine

Fans of Shipyard Brewing's popular Pumpkinhead will want to meet its sibling, Applehead, which is the same base beer, but infused with apple juice instead of pumpkin. Not to be confused with a cider (fruit has been a seasoning for beer far longer than hops has), this wheat ale is made with real beer ingredients — 2-row British Pale Ale Malt, Light Munich Malt and Malted Wheat, and hopped with Willamette and Hallertau. Its aroma recalls apple pie, joined by nutmeg and cinnamon. It pours an orange amber color with a frothy white head that dissipates quickly. A zesty carbonation remains to enliven your taste buds with a crisp finish and dominant apple that is more tart than sweet, with cinnamon in the background. As the days warm with springtime temps, this wheat ale will refresh while delivering ample flavor.

Style: Herbed / Spiced Beer
ABV: 4.5 percent
Price: $8.99 for a six-pack

10.) Selkirk Abbey Infidel
Selkirk Abbey - Post Falls, Idaho

Located at the southern edge of the Selkirk Mountains in Northern Idaho near Coeur d'Alene, this brewery is the first in the area to produce Belgian-style ales. With a motto of "It's not for the masses. It's for you," this creation merges the popular IPA style with Belgian yeast, making it a hybrid of an American and Belgian style. It pours an orange hue with an off-white head and delivers a piney, citrusy aroma. The flavor is in character of a hoppy American IPA, but in the background there's also a dry spiciness that's derived from the Belgian yeast strain it's brewed with. As the beer warms, more of the maltiness and Belgian-style spice notes come through, with the hops continuing to hang around on the back of your palate. Its name and label depicting a fallen angel being cast out of heaven suggest something sinister, but this beer is proof the Selkirk Abbey brewers are doing the Lord's work.

Style: Belgian IPA
ABV: 8.2 percent
Price: $8.99 for 22 oz

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