Delmarva Craft Brewers Think Spring
Spring is here, lighten up!
This year’s seasonal crop of craft beer, like spring itself, is all about freshness. The cutting-edge breweries in the region have prepared fresh takes on beers, packaging and pairings to help us all appreciate the break in the weather.
Creative juices are flowing at Evolution Craft Brewing
Before he made his name as a brewer at Evolution Craft Brewing Company, Mike Piorunski was a Cicerone (certified beer server) and an all-around taste guy. Speaking with him about pairings and releases at the brewery this spring he started slowly and then, as more ideas came, you could see him getting excited, lighting up at the possibilities. Piorunski isn’t atypical. Brewers get excited by season changes for lots of reasons, including access to new ingredients, but the best part about a seasonal shift is the ability to make something different. They’ve all been doing their best to avoid falling into a rut and the seasonal shakeup gets their creative juices flowing. Just like the rest of us, except with beer.
Piorunski began swirling Pine’hop’le, Evo’s pineapple IPA (India Pale Ale), in the taster and wondering aloud about the different ways to serve and enjoy it over the coming months. I mimicked him and took a sip. The pineapple flavors in this IPA really pop when you’ve aerated them just a bit, although there’s nothing wrong with trying one just out of the bottle.
We moved to the Delmarva Pure Pils, which is one of the two of what I call “beer-flavored beers” that certainly will be a hit this year. It is a great entry for people who are interested in, but wary of, craft beer. If Budweiser is a flat McDonald’s burger, this is one you’ve ground and grilled yourself, though they’re both technically burgers, I guess.
“Spring is a great time for oysters,” Piorunski said. It also will pair well with any grilled fish, but he leaned toward swordfish.
Among the most interesting is the special release Nouveau Rouge, a tart Flanders red that is barrel blended making it both tart and roast-y. It pairs as well with fruits as it does with meats.
3rd Wave: New tastes and look, same beachy attitude
Seasonal is a state of mind at 3rd Wave in Delmar, which tends to have lighter beers on all the time. Even their Big Reef porter is a sessionable alternative to the bigger beers they offer. The biggest news out of 3rd Wave this spring, though, is that their canning line is up, which means it’s easy to bring their beers to the beach or pool or wherever.
3rd Wave was built for the beach and the first local brewery to can a pale ale. Shorebreak is a great go-to beer, as are pale ales generally, if you’re bringing something to a party. It’s a beer everyone can like and drink. Until this spring, though, they had someone come in with a canning truck. Now that they have their own, the sky’s the limit. One of the most exciting developments is that Beach Juice, their Berliner Wisse, will be available with different fruit accents. A Berliner Wisse is a traditional German beer. It’s anywhere from somewhat to pretty sour and, in the German tradition, some places served it with a flavored syrup to add sweetness.
Beach Juice isn’t quite so pucker-y as to require sweetening. It’s a refreshing beer that is just sour enough to make you want another, but at a very sessionable 3-percent ABV there’s no problem with that.
“It complements scallops in a way that is surprising and delightful,” said brewer John Panasiewicz. “It’s great with anything you might use lemons on.”
Another of their spring releases, Beachbreak Apricot Wheat, is incredibly drinkable. Paired with barbecue, the sweet and tangy flavors support one another and enhance the flavors of each.
The Fordham and Dominion Brewing Company (FoDo) reboot is in no way gritty
If you’ve been in a beer aisle in the last few years, you’ve probably noticed the Dominion brand “pinup” beers. This spring, the Fordham brand gets a reboot. Since the beer companies merged just about a decade ago, they’ve been working on reimagining both the beers they make and the way those beers look. Pinups got people to try Dominion beers and the taste kept them coming back. This year they expect to do the same for Fordham beers.
“We gave them all new threads,” said Ryan Telle, director of marketing and label designer at FoDo, “2017 is going to be the year for Fordham.”
This spring they’re debuting new duds on their Crash Zone and IPL (India Pale Lager), which takes the bite out of spicy foods but enhances the flavors of sharp cheeses. Since they use oak chips in the brewing process, there’s a smokiness that complements the bitterness.
Fordham also has a beer-flavored beer this spring. Dilated Pupilz is a golden pilsner that cruises in at a sessionable 5-percent ABV and goes great with more complicated flavors like Thai food, and whenever you prefer a nice cool beer.
Fordham’s newest beer and first foray into the sour game is The 11th Sour, a Berliner Wisse aged on Concord grapes that give it a “super pucker,” according to Telle. It’s great with a fruit salad, and a light enough beer that you can have a few.
Cans of Dogfish Head beer? Yes, please.
As spring comes on, Dogfish Head, which is now one of the largest craft breweries in the country, is making itself even more accessible by offering three of its most popular beers in cans all year long. The iconic 60 Minute IPA debuted in cans earlier this year, which is exciting unto itself. But what has so many beer people excited is the choice to also can the Flesh and Blood blood orange IPA, which is orange-zesty and fresh, as well as releasing the barely-year-old Seaquench in a can.
Seaquench is the Dogfish Head sour marked by limes and sea salt for a really interesting taste experience. Upon its release it rose to distinction by attracting both craft beer enthusiasts and novices alike because it can taste as complex as you want it to.
Traditionally, spring is Saison season as well and this year it is Dogfish Head’s turn to produce Saison Du Buff, a collaborative recipe with Stone and Victory brewing. Brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, it’s billed as herbaceous. Saison’s are possibly my favorite beer style because they’re easy drinking and spicy at the same time. Dan Ryan, the region’s Dogfish rep, actually uses it in his shrimp boil to bring out all those great flavors.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he said. “It’s good to drink as well, so don’t use all the beer on the shrimp.”
Craft Beer Crib Notes
If you’re new to the craft beer culture, the industry breaks down very generally into “main line” beers, which are made all year, “seasonals” and “special releases.” Broadly speaking, special releases can be anything from a new take on an old favorite that is released in a test batch that only is available in the brewery. Of these, some will be “big beers” which tend to be higher in alcohol by volume as a percentage (ABV) and some will be “sessionable,” which means they’re lower in alcohol so can be enjoyed over a session of beer drinking without getting you full or drunk.
Learn more at shorecraftbeer.com