With the quarantine looking like it’ll last until May, it’s a good time to stock up on some new beer releases. In part, because you’re in the mood to take the edge off; but also to support your local brewery. Craft brewers live on the edge of keeping their breweries afloat in good times. This crisis is brutal for them — with high overhead and tight margins.
The eight beers below are regional craft beer releases that we vouch for. Each one offers something unique to savor as you sit indoors this month. Let’s dive in!
PACIFIC NORTHWEST DROP: Elysian Rolling Stone Lager
Brewery Location: Seattle, WA
Elysian’s new year-round brew, Rolling Stone Lager, is a collaboration with the iconic music magazine. The beer has a base of Pilsner alongside CaraFoam and CaraBohemian malts. The medium-bodied lager then builds with a nice dose of Cascade, Crystal, and Mandarina Bavaria hops — giving this can a very West Coast American lager feel.
Malty bread topped with sweet yet bitter orange marmalade lead the way. There’s a real sense of hop spiciness with a nice hint of caramel. A rush of hop florals come in late for a breezy finish.
SOUTHWEST DROP: Russian River Brewing Row 2/Hill 56
Style: Pale Ale
Brewery Location: Santa Rosa, CA
Russian River’s brand new pale ale was hopped with 100 percent Simcoe hops. The Yakima Valley hops were grown in a special row specifically for this beer, hence the name. The beer is part of a new series from Russian River called “Hop Grower’s Series” which aims to highlight the work of hop growers the brewery works with.
This is a classic meeting of bright citrus with West Coast pine resin. There’s a clear sense of the oily and dank hop that’s never overpowering. It’s full of hop without being too hoppy, a delicate tightrope if ever there was one.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN DROP: Upslope Experimental India Pale Ale
Brewery Location: Boulder, CO
Upslope’s yearly Experimental IPA is always a treasure worth seeking out if you’re a beer lover. This year’s rendition is brewed with orange blossom honey and hopped with Nelson Sauvin, Strata, and Sabro hops.
There’s a real sense of honey-meets-resin-forward-hops at play. The sweetness feels like an orchard that leads you to an orange tree in full bloom. There’s a citrus base that’s sweetened like an over-ripe orange. It’s sharp and brisk right to the last drop from the can.
SOUTHERN DROP: Cigar City Ikebana Rice Lager
Style: Japanese-style Rice Lager
Brewery Location: Tampa, FL
Ikebana Rice Lager is a fascinating and very drinkable nod to the light Japanese lagers with rice flakes added in for the yeast to eat. The Pilsner malts are emboldened by rice in the mix before classic Saaz hops are added to round out this tasty sip.
Bready malts and flowery hops greet you on this one. That malt carries through as the hops bring about a mild bitterness that leans towards the herbaceous. It’s light and crips until to end with just enough complexity to have you reaching for another can.
MIDWEST DROP: Bell’s Oberon Ale
Style: Wheat Ale
Brewery Location: Kalamazoo, MI
Oberon Ale is a great backyard sipper to get you through isolation. The wheat ale is a straightforward wheat beer that begs for a sunny day, shady tree, and nothing to do — making it kind of perfect for right now.
The wheat adds a nice dimension of spicy notes. There’s a clear sense of orange, more spice, and citrus-y hops. The bright fruit helps the velvet-smooth wheat beer go down with a light touch and deep flavor.
NORTHEAST DROP: Allagash Cascara Saison
Brewery Location: Portland, ME
This saison is an interesting beer. It has a complex malt base that includes oats and honey malts with a classic array of hops. Then the brewers add cascara fruit. That’s the fleshy and slightly bitter fruit that surrounds a coffee bean, also known as a “coffee cherry.”
There’s a clear saison grassy nature in the base. The tartness arrives early with a hint of bitter berry. The hops bring a tropical fruity nature that counterpoints the tartness well. The end is lush, fruity, and just the right amount of lip-puckering tart.
WILD CARD DROP: Revolution Brewing 3rd Year Beer
Style: Aged Barley Wine Ale
Brewery Location: Chicago, IL
Rev Brewing dug deep into its vaults to pull out this bottle to sell this month. 3rd Year Beer is a barley wine that was aged for four months in Appleton rum casks and then squirreled away in the cellars. It’s going to be available while supplies last. It’s also very rare. Each bottle is going for about $80 each as of this writing.
Burnt sugars tempter an almost sour fruitiness. There’s a sense of wood and vanilla but not so much that it overpowers. The bitterness is really the star of the show with wood leading to dark chocolate and espresso next to molasses. This is a bold beer that’ll get you very tipsy with its high ABVs.
INERNATIONAL PICK OF THE MONTH: Brasserie De La Senne Ouden Vat
Style: Barrel-aged Flemish Ale
Brewery Location: Brussels, Belgium
Ouden Vat is a blend of barrel-aged beers that have been fermented with either Brettanomyces yeast or lactic bacteria, bringing the deep sour. This beer will be harder to find in the U.S. — unless you have a great specialty beer shop in your neighborhood. It’s worth the hunting, trust us.
This is a remarkably easy-drinking beer for how complex it is. The beer has a slight grassy nature that leans into the wheat spices and bright citrus before the clear sense of Brett sourness and lacto tart-creaminess washes through the sip. The hops are bitter and measured. The dry end brings it all together with a refreshing feel.