Tap This: Hop into spring

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Now that spring is firmly nestled and green has returned to the landscape, it is a great time to examine some green in our beer. Not the disgusting green, food-colored beer that some unfortunate souls consume for St. Patrick’s Day. Instead, this green is the wonderful plant known as Humulus lupulus, or more commonly known as hops.

Hops impart the wonderful bitterness and balance we love in our beers. It is the highlight within our favorite IPAs that make for a great way to welcome the palate to warmer weather.

The IPA style has taken off like a speeding rocket ship, with nearly every craft brewery in the nation brewing some variation of the style. So the question is, which are the best to enjoy during the spring months?

This short list of delicious IPA’s make the perfect welcome mat for your palate as you usher in the spring:

1. Lagunitas Brewing Company– Lagunitas IPA: The incredibly smooth and easy drinking characteristics of this beer make it world class. The wonderful citrus hop notes with subtle touches of pine add just the right amounts of bitterness. The creamy body and dry finish make this a beer you may never want to put down, no matter what season.

2. Ballast Point Brewing Company– Grapefruit Sculpin: Sculpin, from Ballast Point, has a loyal following itself as a perfect American IPA, so how do you improve on perfection? By adding a hefty dose of grapefruits and making it available in a can just in time for spring. The wonderful addition of grapefruit enhances the natural flavor profile from the hops while still maintaining a solid malt backbone and dry finish. Packaging it in a can makes it even more portable and perfect for outdoor spring activities.

3. Bear Republic Brewing Co. – Racer 5 India Pale Ale: Racer 5 has long led the way in the IPA category, winning gold at GABF in the IPA category way back in 1999. While the beer certainly has a past filled with accolades, it holds up today as one of the best IPA’s offered. Racer 5 features a wonderful hop kick up front, with citrus and tropical fruits leading the way, balanced against a wonderfully sweet malt backbone. This is yet another IPA that can be enjoyed throughout the year, but is especially pleasing in the spring.

4. Smuttynose Brewing Company– Finest Kind IPA: Let’s be honest, Smuttynose does not get enough respect. The brewery has solidly brewed beers since 1994 and Finest Kind is a staple beer for them. This assertive East Coast IPA has strong hop notes of oranges, lemons, grapefruits and even hints of pineapples settled into a semi-sweet malt bill. Highly drinkable and beyond refreshing, the brewery has also just started releasing this world class beer in cans too. The good news never ends!

5. Uinta Brewing Company– Hop Nosh IPA: Uinta has built a solid reputation over the years and, with beers this good, it is easy to see why. Hops Nosh has strong hop notes of pine and citrus that will awaken the senses while the 7.3% ABV will help you to unwind after a long day of yardwork. The solid malt backbone gives way to an invigoratingly dry finish. Another delicious beer from a phenomenal brewery!

6. Dogfish Head Brewery– 60 Minute IPA: This is a beer that needs no discussion. 60 Minute IPA has long been established as the quintessential East Coast IPA, and helped push the IPA style into the mass market. Despite its long lineage, it is still a great go-to beer, outranking many of the others that have come to market since its initial release. The balance within the beer is what makes it truly great, with a wonderful dosing of hops, but never overly bitter. Easy drinking, smooth, refreshing and just all around delicious, this is a must try beer for all!