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In the beer world, spring has sprung early

Steve Greenlee/Globe Staff

Spring has a new seasonal from Sam.

Introduced as a spring seasonal just two years ago, Samuel Adams Noble Pils has quickly become one of the most popular beers to come out of the Boston Beer Co. So what did Sam do this year? Replace Noble Pils with another beer.

Continue reading below

OK, settle down. Noble Pils is not going away. Far from it. Because of the widespread love for the Czech pilsner, it is now a year-round brew. To fill its slot as a spring seasonal, Sam Adams has released Alpine Spring.

Alpine Spring is a Munich Helles lager, a golden German beer that is less hoppy and marginally maltier than Noble Pils. Hazy golden with a frothy head that looks like it belongs on a cappuccino, Alpine Spring is well carbonated with a crisp aroma containing lemon accents. It smells German.

Indeed, Alpine Spring is a refreshing light lager with a lemony zing and a creamy mouthfeel. There is no confusing this with a macrobrewed light lager, though; this has way more body. It’s not quite as interesting or unexpected as Noble Pils, but it’s a solid (if safe) addition to the Sam stable. It may not stand out among a crowded tap lineup in a craft beer bar, but no one’s going to order one and say, “Yuck, what the heck is this?’’

If I have one gripe, it’s this: Brewers are releasing their seasonal ales too early. This one was on the shelves in January. Really, Sam? A spring beer when winter is barely a month old? Alpine Spring would be a good beer to have in late spring, even summer. Alas, it’ll be gone by then.

Alpine Spring, which is 5.5 percent alcohol by volume, is available in six-packs for about $8 to $9 and in the new Brewer’s Choice 12-pack for around $14. That variety pack also contains two other new beers that are not quite as successful: Mighty Oak (5.7 percent ABV) is an amber ale dominated by caramel and biscuity malts, but it’s a few turns too sweet. Whitewater IPA (5.8 percent ABV), a hybrid of a white wheat ale and an India pale ale, is an unbalanced, astringently bitter beer that reeks of lemons, grapefruits, and flowers. I love bitter beers, but the two styles in this one don’t reconcile; there’s too much going on, and it all clashes.

Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. has also introduced a new spring seasonal.

Ruthless Rye IPA, a hoppy rye beer, replaces Glissade, a maibock. Word is that Glissade sold well its first year but didn’t do so hot last year. (I thought I saw a few too many 12-packs piled up in the stores heading into last summer.)

I doubt that Ruthless Rye IPA will have any such problems. This beer is a winner.

In a rye beer, malted rye subs for a portion of the malted barley, giving the beer a spicy kick. Add a big dose of hops, and you’ve got yourself a rye IPA.

Ruthless Rye pours clear copper with two fingers of foam. The aroma is spicy and grassy - the hops in this beer run more toward earth and pine than citrus, though hints of orange peel come through in the taste. The beer has a strong malt profile, so this is a well-balanced beer, one that’s not very bitter despite its IPA status.

All around, this is a perfect spring beer - not too heavy, not too aggressive, not too bitter, but full of flavor and easy to drink. Ruthless Rye IPA is 6.6 percent alcohol by volume. A six-pack costs about $10.

Kona Koko Brown Ale

Kona Brewing Co. in Hawaii has introduced its first new beer to the mainland since 2007.

Koko Brown Ale, brewed with toasted coconut, looks and smells like your basic brown ale - cola brown with a short creamy head, boasting an aroma of dark roasted malts, molasses, and nuts.

Take in a sip, and the coconut accents are right up front. But once they clear, the beer finishes as a middle-of-the-road brown ale - notes of molasses, caramel, and roasted nuts - with a slight medicinal character in the aftertaste. Koko Brown Ale is 5.5 percent alcohol by volume.

Steve Greenlee can be reached at greenlee@globe.com.
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