Beers in bloom

Three brews to welcome in the season of change

Photo courtesy of Spike’s Bottle Shop

Old Chico Pale Bock—Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Helles bock is the quintessential spring beer style. The German-born creation is a hoppier and paler (“helles” means “light” or “pale”) version of the sweet and malty centuries-old bock style, making it a more quaffable rendition to enjoy during spring celebrations. Sierra Nevada’s Pale Bock is part of its Old Chico series, a lineup of resurrected versions of some of the brewery’s classic yet discontinued beers beloved by locals and re-released only in Chico and its surrounding areas. Crystal Wheat is the flagship and the only Old Chico brand on shelves year round. In addition to Pale Bock, other seasonal or one-off varieties have included Brown Ale, ESB and Session IPA. After much clamoring from local enthusiasts, Pale Bock was revived in 2014, and comes out each year just before spring. The 2018 is on local shelves now, and it is outstanding. The golden-hued, medium-hopped lager is indeed very easy to drink on a sunny, spring day, yet it has tons of flavor, with a nice, mildly sweet, bready malt backbone pairing well with the floral hops. It also has a sneaky alcohol content (6.8 percent) that, if you don’t pace yourself, can feel like a “bock” (“billy goat”) kicked you over.

-Jason Cassidy

Enjoy By 04.20.18—Stone Brewing

Stone Brewing’s ongoing Enjoy By series of IPAs is a stroke of marketing genius. If you don’t drink it by the date on the label, they say, you can expect a diminished experience as hop flavors fade. Having been brewed specifically not to last, there’s a compelling incentive to buy now. The San Diego brewery’s latest concoction—Enjoy By 04.20.18—is a big, citrusy and floral double IPA brewed with 10 different hops and weighing in at a hefty 9.4 percent alcohol. That’s definitely on the stronger side, and this iteration has a sharp alcoholic bite, especially on the first few sips, but it’s surprisingly light-bodied for a double. If one were attracted to pretty labels (and one certainly is), this is particularly eye-catching and also makes overt references to reefer. The “enjoy by” date is April 20, after all, and it professes to be “devastatingly dank.” Disappointingly, it doesn’t taste like somebody squeezed a fat bag of weed and bottled the juice; it’s more just like a super-stiff IPA with a spritz of citrus. If that’s your thing, you’d better get some while it lasts.

-Howard Hardee

Pfriem Saison—Pfriem Family Brewers

One could make a (very) compelling argument that Pfriem is making the best beer in the state of Oregon. It’s great for those who live there, but a real bummer for those who don’t (Pfriem rarely finds its way into Northern California beer shops and bars). The Hood River-based brewery’s beers stand out for the choice of hops and the always clean finish, and the saison is no exception. It’s a relatively traditional version, but the flavors explode—tropical fruits, and the (sometimes divisive) funkiness that saisons (or farmhouses) typically include. Pfriem unleashes this particular saison (the brewery also makes a kumquat farmhouse ale, a super saison at 9.5 percent ABV, and a black saison) in the spring—just in time to imbibe in the sun—and it typically doesn’t last much past April. Worth a trip up to Oregon for serious beer geeks, or some old-fashioned bartering for a few good California brews.

-Mark Lore