These are winning pairs
When it comes to beer, spring means shifting away from the dark, spiced lagers, porters, and stouts of winter, to the refreshing, easy-to-drink "session" beers of spring and summer.
In this feature, I'll be profiling the spring/summer staple Oberon Ale by Bell's, the charismatic Bitter American Session Ale by 21st Amendment, and the tricky PranQster (pronounced "prankster") by North Coast.
Beer #1: Oberon Ale, 5.8 percent ABV(alcohol by volume)
Bell's Brewing Inc., Galesburg, Mich., est. 1985
Where to get it: The Tap House, 10 Third St. S.W., Rochester, $5 for 16 oz.
While Bell's technically calls their Oberon Ale the "heart" of their summer lineup, it has all the qualities of a spring seasonal beer.
"This is a great wheat ale and is very popular for this time of year — people wait for this one to come out," said Christine Stahl, co-owner of The Tap House. "It has a citrus hop aroma with a nice fruity notes. This is a very drinkable beer."
This American wheat ale represents "the color and scent of a sunny afternoon." It has a cloudy, golden-honey color and an aroma of lemon citrus followed by a balanced floral hop character that is subtle yet distinct on the senses.
Oberon Ale has a light yet distinctive tang common among wheat beers with the refreshing mix of fruity notes and light bitter after tones.
The texture, or "mouthfeel" is medium-bodied, smooth, and refreshing. Perfect on a spring day.
Try pairing Oberon Ale with fish, salads, sushi and other vegetable dishes. Their delicate nature will enhance the citrus aroma and fruity notes, not overpower them.
Beer #2: Bitter American Session Ale, 4.4 percent ABV
21st Amendment Brewing Co., San Francisco, est. 2000
Where to get it: City Café, 216 First Ave. S.W., Rochester, $5 for 16 oz.
Brewed as a tribute to all the "unsung, unwitting heroes everywhere," Bitter American is a great solution for all you IPA-loving hop-heads looking for a "session" beer — a beer low in ABV but not in taste.
"This is a session-style beer full of character and hop flavor but without the high ABV, which makes it easy to drink," said Aynsley Jones, bar manager at City Café. "It's a hop-forward beer but not overly hoppy, so you can have a few, and then have another!"
At first pour, Bitter American boasts an off-white, creamy head and a clear amber color. Like many IPAs — India Pale Ales — citrus and pine aromas will be the first thing you notice, followed by a sweet, malty aroma.
Your first taste will be clean and citrusy in the front with a comfortable bitter ending. The mouthfeel is light-bodied and drinkable like most session beers, but surprisingly flavorful.
APAs (American Pale Ales) are great because they pair well with a variety of flavor-rich dishes. For starters, pair Bitter American with your favorite burger, pizza, or even some well-dressed tacos.
Beer #3: PranQster Belgian-Style Golden Ale, 7.6 percent ABV
Northern Coast Brewing Co., Fort Bragg, Calif., est. 1988
Where to get it: Söntés, 4 Third St. S.W., Rochester, $6 for 16 oz.
Belgian ales are known for being traditionally less bitter and more fruity due in part to special yeast strains used during the fermentation process. PranQster follows this tradition by using a mixed culture of antique yeasts direct from Belgium.
"This is a great springtime beer because it's light and easy," said Darrell Langdon, bar manager at Söntés restaurant. "There's a citrus nose, and the finish is really smooth and crisp, delivering the nice crisp, clean feel you're looking for in a springtime beer."
PranQster pours with a dark golden, almost orange appearance, building to a solid white head of fine bubbles. This yeast- and malt-heavy beer produces a "nose," or scent, of clove and banana esters, and tart apple.
The flavor is tart and full of fruity character like coriander and banana. Aided by moderate carbonation, PranQster's mouthfeel is thick and smooth.
Pair PranQster with lighter dishes like salad, seafood or pasta.
A word to the wise: PranQster may seem like an easy drinker, but don't be fooled. This joker has an ABV that might end up leaving you "pranked."