Most of us can summon the image of “fall beers”: Oktoberfests, malty brown ales, etc. Likewise with summer—perhaps refreshing lagers and goses—and winter—brooding stouts and porters and barrel-aged goodies. But what would a spring beer look like?
Historically, Germans have associated maibocks with that spring transition out of the cold, wintry depths, but what about us, American drinkers in 2018?
Boston Beer Company’s newly debuted Sam ’76 makes its case as a spring beer, despite its distribution year-round. It’s a hybrid lager-ale style with a crisp finish but plenty of fancy aromatic hops that land delicately on the palate, suggesting tropical and floral flavors without a bitter wallop.
Maybe you haven’t tried anything new from Boston Beer Company, the folks behind Sam Adams, in a while, and would overlook this on a shelf. I might have myself, until the hops caught my eye: Cascade, Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe. Tropical fruit from the Sam Adams folks? I was intrigued.
The Mosaic and Citra pairing lends the beer’s aroma an orange flesh and tropical white flower duality, like orange blossom water, jasmine, and sweet limes. There’s an earthiness, too—likely Cascade’s doing—that evokes a soaked garden after a rain. Quiet cereal-like grains just support the hops’ showcase. Overall, the beer’s nose is pleasant, fresh, and inviting, but not at all veering into pale ale-levels of hoppiness.
The same floral and earthy hops carry through to the sip, but the malt sweetness is slightly more present than the aroma suggested. It’s all the flavor of a floral and tropical pale ale—papaya, tangerine, lilies, vanilla—but clipped crisply like a lager at the swallow. The beer begins its life as two separate base beers, Boston Beer Co. brewer Rich Farrell tells me, but they’re combined during fermentation so ale and lager yeast are both present. It results in a beer that, to my palate, is like a more flavorful cream ale or a more tropically hopped kölsch.
I’d love to taste this beer alongside dishes made up of my favorite ingredients from the spring farmers market: fresh peas, asparagus, tender greens. It’s definitely not anywhere near spring weather here in Missoula—a fresh blanket of snow is currently piling up outside my window—but Sam ’76 gives me hope that eventually, a thaw will come. When it does, I know what I’ll be drinking.
Sam ’76 is distributed nationally year-round; find a retailer near you via the Sam Adams website.
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