We tested three very different new arrivals this week, all in large format, 22-oz. bombers: a Belgian-style flavored ale, a local IPA and a richly textured double alt. The first two are definitely warm-weather refreshers--the last one you'll want to save for the cool of the evening.
New Belgium Brewing, Lips of Faith Biere de Mars Ale
It's been three years since the last release of this spring seasonal from the Lips of Faith specialty brew program. I'm not a big fan of altered beers (this one has added lemon peel, lemon verbena and a wild yeast strain), but New Belgium pulls it off. It's fairly neutral on the nose with the citrusy, light hop and grain aromas that could be typical of most any ale. Definitely on the tangy side in the mouth, it has a nice hit of citrus and tropical fruit up front, backed by lovely layers of apricot, papaya and mango. This is just the thing to slake your thirst on a hot spring or summer afternoon, and a great food brew. Pair it with pulled pork or barbecued chicken.
Sockeye Brewing WidowMaker IPA
This beer pours a translucent copper with a light, lacy head. The aromas are marked by a freshly baked, multi-grain bread quality, with soft, floral hops and citrus. Seven different varieties of hops add complexity more than bite in this well-balanced, nicely integrated India pale ale. Lots of smooth malt marks the palate with a sweet, roasted grain quality that comes through right before the hops kick in. The fruit-laced finish is dry with a little tartness and a very nice, lingering bitterness. This is a very worthy effort from this Boise-based brewery.
Widmer Brothers 84/09 25th
Anniversary Double Alt
This is a dark, ruby-tinted brew with very sweet, candied fruit aromas dominating the nose. Both do a nice job of foreshadowing the flavors that follow. It's a full-bodied, warming brew with smooth caramel, sweet spice and touches of fruit, hazelnut, mocha, coffee and more. Sweet brews aren't my thing, especially as the weather warms up, but this one had the balance and flavor profile to win me over. There's a nice light hop bite at the finish that works well to even things out, but at almost 10 percent alcohol, sharing is advised.: