10 seasonal craft beers to kick off spring

After a rough winter, spring (and, naturally, its accompanying lighter, fruitier beers) couldn’t come soon enough. We put together a panel of informal beer experts to try some of the season's most unique brews. It was a tough job, but here are 10 spring craft beers that are worthy of an afternoon brew out on the patio.

1. Breckenridge Brewery's Agave Wheat

Breckenridge Brewery's Agave Wheat begins with a sweet nose. Unlike some other beers sweetened with agave that are a bit weak on flavor, this one has just the right amount. We tasted honey, apricot, and peach notes, than ended with a noticeably bready finish.

2. Blue Mountain Brewery Blue Reserve

Blue Mountain's Blue Reserve smells of lemons and tastes like lemon and orange -- with a bitterness that almost approaches that of a sour beer.  It finishes nicely with some spice notes.

3. Cigar City Brewing's Humidor Series - India Pale Ale

Cigar City's Humidor Series IPA has a floral, grapefruit nose.  Of note is its incredibly silky mouthfeel, which is always nice in an IPA. We detected rosemary and evergreen flavors that balanced well with some grapefruit bitterness.

4. Anchor Brewing's Saison Spring Ale

Anchor Brewing's Saison Spring Ale starts with a refreshing, outdoorsy nose, rich with lemongrass and ginger.  We got a pretty substantial lemon-tart flavor, that complements the spice character of ginger and cloves.  It’s balanced by some sweetness as well.  The Saison Spring Ale has a malty, sweet, dry finish that echoes with a bit of a spicy bite.  Here's also where you can taste its 7.2 percent ABV.

5. Shorts Brewing Company's Soft Parade

Shorts Brew's Soft Parade has a gorgeous strawberry-blonde color. Its sweet-yet-tart flavor of mixed berries reminded us of childhood fruit snacks and dip, but also had a more adult-like champagne profile to it. Soft Parade ends with a very clean, dry finish.

6. Founders Brewing's Curmudgeon

Founders Curmudgeon Old Ale was among the richer spring seasonals we sampled. Its strong, malty molasses flavor balanced very well with its whiskey notes, alongside a clove-like spice profile. Curmudgen's silky almost syrupy body also really stood out.

7. Great Lakes Brewing Co.'s Rye of the Tiger IPA

Great Lakes Rye of the Tiger has a nose that's of the winning determination its name implies. This is a strong IPA whose bitterness digs its cat claws at the back of your tongue. But this is offset by its bready finish. An intriguing journey to say the least.

8. Flat Branch Brewing Green Chili

It's not surprising that Flat Branch Brewing's Green Chili has a bit of heat to it. One member of our panel quipped, "I would like to put a tortilla chip in it and eat it like salsa." This was more like a mild salsa, though, with a chili bite that gets you just a bit on the back of your tongue.  It's got an herbal, grassy taste that ends with a smooth, clean finish. No itch in your throat after.

9. Deschutes Brewery's Red Chair NWPA

Deschutes Brewery’s Red Chair North West Pale Ale (NWPA) starts with a welcoming citrus nose.  It’s a bit sweeter than most IPAs we’ve tried.  Red Chair has some lemon and orange flavors and a hint of malt, adding some depth.  Its gentle hop profile makes it very drinkable.  Red Chair has a dry finish, with slight grapefruit notes.

10. Magic Hat Brewing Company's Dream Machine IPL

Magic Hat's Dream Machine IPL (India Pale Lager) has a sweet, citrus nose.  There are some subtle notes of fruit, but it’s dominated by its hoppiness from start to finish.  Dream Machine has an airy, delicate feel on your tongue and ends with a lingering dry finish, alongside some nuttiness.