Saturday, January 26, 2008

Premature fermentation? Spring ales hit too soon

I walked into Food Lion on the Martin Luther King Junior holiday weekend and my general disgust at the free-market's exploitation of the seasons hit a new high.

There, in the beer cooler, was Blue Moon's Rising Moon Spring Ale - six bottles for $7.29.

I was standing there with my Kangol toboggan on, with my two-year-old snuggled up against me for warmth. We haven't even taken the Christmas tree down yet. Back at the house, ice covered the fish pond out our back door.

And I was looking at a spring seasonal.

This just didn't seem right, but then again, it's never seemed right to find Halloween goodies in the drug stores beginning on something like July 5.

I thought a good way to contrast this early spring - premature fermentation? - would be to contact our local brewers.

It turns out they don't have any spring brews on tap yet - imagine that - and in a sense, they will eventually have two spring seasons - first Saint Patrick's Day, then the later spring.

"That's early!" said head brewer Eric Lamb of Liberty Steakhouse and Brewery at Broadway at the Beach, when I told him about Rising Moon. He added that he doesn't even start worrying about spring until after Saint Patrick's Day.

Lamb said he will put out the Oatmeal Stout sometime between late January and mid February. In March, he'll have the Irish Red on tap, around the Saint Patty's holiday. Although he's considering a change-up in his beer menu - which we'll talk about in the weeks to come - the Golden Ale is usually a good choice for late spring.

Over at Myrtle Beach's New South Brewing Co., which supplies beer to numerous Grand Strand bars and restaurants, owner Dave Epstein was talking about his plan for area T-Bonz restaurants, for which he brews signature beers. He'll run the current Winterfest until just about mid-March, then he'll put out an Irish Stout a week before Saint Patty's Day. Then the Blonde Bombshell will appear probably in late spring at T-Bonz locations.

As for New South's own label, the White Ale started out as a spring and summer brew, and but now it's year-round, so Epstein won't have a spring seasonal per se.

Josh Quigley, owner of Quigley's Pint & Plate in Pawleys Island, said he'll tap a stout around St. Patty's Day, and the spring boch from last year, Billy Boch, will return around mid-March.

Back at New South, Epstein was saying that we might start seeing Samuel Adams get its spring seasonal on the shelves. Ol' Sam usually starts pretty early, he said.

For the record, I have not tried Rising Moon, and Blue Moon's regular white ale and its winter brew are both fine beers. So maybe we're all getting an early shot at something good.

But come on. We haven't even survived the onslaught of Valentine's Day marketing.

-from my column in the Weekly Surge. Visit http://www.weeklysurge.com/beer.html to see more.

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