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HOOPS ON HOPS: Spring beers to try

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Dave Hoops is the head brewer at Fitger's Brewhouse in Duluth. Clint Austin / Forum News Service2 / 2

I like change-of-season beers to innovate and create approachable beers. Many breweries embrace the transitions of the season to showcase their talents.

First, let's talk style. Some of my favorite styles of beer are dubbed "spring beers." Of course, we'll start with bock — the quintessential spring brew. The bock style is more than 800 years old and originating in Germany. With many different variations, bocks are typically strong lagers brewed in late winter, stored cold and ready to drink right about spring. They're malty and truly refreshing to drink.

Light lagers are also nice choices for spring. Take a look at all the great selections of Helles, Pilsner and great American lagers. There are so many delicious offerings out there to enjoy.

Fruit-based beers are great selections for welcoming spring. Citrus fruits are best; more and more breweries are infusing beer styles with fruit.

Hop-centric brews are definitely some of my favorites. You can't beat a great pale ale in springtime.

Ciders are always a good choice. They can be sweet and mouth-filling or tart and dry. You can find some excellent cider-y choices at your local bottle shop.

Now let's talk specifics. I like start with some local choices from our many, fine area breweries.

• Blacklist Brewery's Rhubarb Wit. The all new formulation of this super tasty, forward-thinking beer features a lower alcohol percentage down from 8% to a spring appropriate 6%. Massive additions of rhubarb in fermentation makes for a sweet and tart bonanza of flavor. A must-try beer, Blacklist also features many one-offs and small batch trails at their tap room to sample.

• Castle Danger Brewery's Nordic (Juniper Rye Lager) and Summer Crush are releasing in May. I love the Summer Crush — brewed with spicy Sorachi Ace hops.

• Bent Paddle Brewery's Paddle Break Blonde. Bent Paddle is also releasing their Botanical Blonde in 750 ML bottles for the first time (Very limited quantities) the first week of May.

• Borealis Fermentery's seasonal White Throated Wit with kaffir lime and lemongrass and also the Vinegoblin Pale with 100% centennial hops.

Make sure to visit our great local brewpubs as well. They constantly offer new seasonals.

A little further out on the map:

• Insight Brewery's East/West IPA is an interesting half and half IPA mix of very different IPA expressions.

• Fulton Brewery's Standard Lager is a tasty, clean and light German style lager, perfect for a springtime grill session.

• Summit Brewery's Hefeweizen is brewed by one of my favorite brewers since the mid-'80s. Summit first introduced Summit Hefeweizen in 2002. With its toasted breadcrumb base, gentle hop spice and characteristic aromas of banana and clove, this classic German wheat beer was always a favorite of mine. In 2011, they stopped brewing it. Now it's back, and lucky us. I highly recommend this one. Another Summit offering, their Wit, has fresh coriander and orange peel making this quaffable beer a go-to for spring nights.

• Wasatch Brewery's Apricot Hefeweizen is big and utterly beautiful. The luscious apricots make this a great weekend brunch beer — just north of orange juice.

• Indeed Brewery has a couple of choices I really like. B-Side Pils is a German style classic pils with nice hop notes. Cherry Dust from Indeed's Wooden Soul program is an instant classic. On tap at some local beer bars. Seek this one out.

• Schell's Brewery Frost Hop Series — four styles hopped with single hop varieties in each style. A cool way to compare and contrast to what sort of hops you like.

• Sierra Nevada — Beer Camp Golden IPA. A wheat-based IPA with huge citrus notes.

Although it's not beer, I really wanted to throw out a nod to our own Vikre Distillery and mention the very tasty Sugarbush Whiskey. If you like whiskey, don't miss this one — if you can find it, buy it!

If you have a favorite spring beer, email me. I love hearing from readers and sharing thoughts on beer. Cheers.