7 East End beers perfect for spring, according to pros who brew and serve them

Spring marks a season of renewal and growth as we welcome longer days and warmer weather. Yet, like many things in life, the weather forecast is not linear.

“Some days it’s warm and sunny, and you want to throw on shorts, and some days it’s damp, chilly, gray and a little rainy,” says Greg Doroski, the head of brewing at Greenport Brewing Company.

Unlike the other transitional season — fall — when people roll up to apple orchards in sweaters and boots and start consuming all things pumpkin in mid-August, choosing a spring sipper feels more complicated.

“When you think about the beers you want to drink outside while sitting on the lawn, they may be a little different than kind of hunkering down on a gray day,” Doroski reasons.

Still, it’s fun to try to find a beer that, like a good cardigan, takes you through the highs and lows (temperature-wise) of spring. 

“The changing of seasons has a big impact on our sensory experience, and certain beers complement those sensations,” says Rich Pisacano, the tasting room manager of Shelter Island Craft Brewery. “As a lifelong North Forker, I know the impact that the changing of the seasons can bring to the East End — some are better than others — the best, however, is the optimism and energy of a beautiful spring day.”

Toast to that with one of these seven East End spring-forward beers. 

Bent by Nature, Springs Brewery, East Hampton

SPRINGS BREWERY’S BENT BY NATURE WAS INSPIRED BY A RECENT FACT-FINDING TREK TO GERMANY BY OWNER/BREWERS LINDSAY REICHART AND GUNNAR BURKE. (PHOTO COURTESY OF SPRINGS BREWERY)

Lindsay Reichart says that a recent trip to Germany inspired this new release. She and Springs Brewery co-founder Gunnar Burke were inspired by the rustic flavors they found in lagers and a process that leaned into seasons — hops grown in the summer and harvested in the fall. Barley goes through a malting process in the winter, and a beer is ready for spring. Bent by Nature is an East End team effort of sorts, too, with hops sourced from Amagansett-grown Teamaker hops from The Hoppy Acre and the barley malt grown by Foster Farms in Sagaponack. 

“We love this story of the harvest in the fall — another transitionary season,” Burke said. “Then, it goes through this long process over the winter, and it reemerged in the spring, which is this new kind of synthesis of the things that were harvested last fall.” 

But the flavor is squarely spring.

“There’s this unique jasmine flavor, which is very much part of the bright, floral theme and spring vibe,” Reichart says.

Pair with: Heartier spring foods, like pierogi — a favorite of Burke’s, who lived in a very Polish community in Buffalo. Reichart agrees. “It has a lightness and brightness to it that I think pairs well with heartier spring foods, and I think also everyone’s slightly over the heavy fruit of winter and ready to move on.”

Squid Vicious, Kidd Squid Brewing Co., Sag Harbor

KIDD SQUID’S CHEEKY SQUID VICIOUS IPA ISN’T FOR PUNKS ONLY. (IMAGE COURTESY OF KIDD SQUID BREWING CO.)

If this new release from Sag Harbor-based Kidd Squid sounds like a play on words honoring a punk rock icon, it’s because it is.

“The name is a riff off Sid Vicious from the Sex Pistols,” confirms Kidd Squid Brewing Co. owner and brewmaster Rory McEvoy.

Unlike Mr. Vicious, this brew doesn’t go hard.

“It’s a lighter-bodied IPA with mango in it,” McEvoy says. “The light mango reference is meant to be an aspirational note to get everyone excited about a great summer coming. This is our first spring beer this year and only our second spring in existence…If it goes well, it might become an offering each spring.”

The can colors — yellows and pink — are certainly brimming with optimism.

Pair with: The sky is the limit, really. “Squid Vicious is robust enough to hold its own with pastrami but delicate enough to go along with weakfish,” McEvoy says.

Pith n’ Peel, Greenport Harbor Brewing Co., Greenport

Citrus may be on its way out seasonally, but keeping some notes of it can ease the transition from winter to spring (and allow the beer to pair perfectly with all the elements Mother Nature throws our way). Greenport Harbor Brewing Co.’s Pith n’ Peel fills that bill.

“We brew it with fresh citrus juice and zest,” Doroski says. “It’s a good example of a spring beer because it incorporates the citrus fruit and adds the sunshine and brightness that everyone’s looking for in the summer.”

The brewery team gets excited about brewing it, too — Doroski says they look forward to squeezing the juice and soaking up all the spring vibes of the process.

Pair with: Pith n’ Peel is another versatile brew. “It can go with a hamburger on the grill, but I also think IPA goes well with raw shellfish,” Doroski says. 

Sir Franklin Meowington, North Fork Brewing Co., Riverhead

NORTH FORK BREWING CO.’S OWNER AND HEAD BREWER PETER BARRAUD. (PHOTO CREDIT: MICHELLE DEMETILLO)

As a farm brewery, North Fork Brewing Co. can use the land to explore different styles—something macro-breweries may hesitate to introduce to the masses. One of them? A Scotch Wee Heavy.

“As per tradition, this beer boasts a mahogany color thanks to its malt bill, with a pop of esters from the Scottish yeast and a sweet backbone boasting notes of caramel and peat to smooth out the 8 percent alcohol by volume,” says Peter Barraud, North Fork Brewing Co.’s co-founder and brewer.

Speaking of tradition, Barraud fell in love with this style of beer early on during his days learning to brew in New Hampshire, where his mentors focused on local ingredients.

“Sir Franklin is a nod to tradition and focuses on truly hand-crafting a superior beverage in small batches,” he says. 

Pair with: The flavor profile is unique and underutilized, says Barraud. The versatility refrain is familiar, though. “When I think of spring, I think of more time outside enjoying the ever-growing length of daylight and cooking,” he says. “For me, smoking a brisket with a dry rub of brown sugar, onion powder and smoked paprika is an epic pairing. The benefit is the time it takes to truly smoke the meat to tenderness gives [someone] ample opportunity to enjoy a few pints.”

Raspberry Wheat, Long Ireland Beer Company, Riverhead

As the head brewer at Long Ireland Beer Company, Kevin Leonard constantly gets asked, “What’s your favorite beer?”

“The truth is that it always depends,” Leonard says. “Who I am with, my mood and the meal I’m having will all factor into what beer I want to drink.”

The weather and seasons also play into Leonard’s preferences. For spring, he loves a beer not currently in Long Ireland’s rotation but could make its way back — “Wink, wink,” Leonard says.

“Our Raspberry Wheat Ale matches a soft wheat body with delicate raspberry fruit flavor,” Leonard he says. “The label is also a mosaic of bright red and green colors that remind me of the changing of the season.” 

Need a sure thing sooner? Opt for Beach, Please, which Leonard shares is slated to return early to mid-spring (it’s been rebranded from its OG name of “Summer Ale” and Leonard adores to pour it during the spring).

“With the anticipation of summer right around the corner, the burst of fresh lemon and the dry crushable finish is the perfect beer to help you put cold weather behind you and look forward to sunshine and flowers,” he says.

Pair with: Leonard loves the Raspberry Wheat Ale with tacos. Surprised? People often are. “The subtle fruity sweetness of the beer pairs perfectly with the spicy seasoned meats and can either complement the crunch of the hard shell with the beer’s smooth mouthfeel or match the impression of the soft tortilla,” Leonard says.

SHELTER ISLAND CRAFT BREWERY’S BILLY MARTIN WAS INSPIRED TO PUMP HIS LATEST SPRING BREW UP WITH NOTES OF JUICY APRICOT. (PHOTO CREDIT: ELEANOR P. LABROZZI)

Strike Zone, Shelter Island Craft Brewery

Opening Day is a rite of spring, and a pint of the spring-training-inspired Strike Zone is a home run. 

“When discussing an idea for a spring-themed beer, we couldn’t get our minds away from baseball,” Pisacano says. “It is a huge part of many of our lives and the epitome of spring. As a high school baseball coach, it is very cool to have a beer with a theme that is so special to me — many of my former players are in their mid-20s now — so this is one that I hope to share with them while catching up this spring.”

What’ll he taste in this blonde brew? An ode to the first warm days of the year, which reminds Pisacano of the uniqueness of the East End.

“It is sweetened with apricots and is a great preview of our summer lineup,” Pisacano says.

Pair with: What goes with baseball and brews? Barbecues, of course. “I know it will be appreciated on a warm day,” he says. “It would pair best with a lighter menu, grilled chicken or a fresh salad, but I’ll definitely be having one with my first hotdog and burger of the season.”

I Didn’t Come This Far to Come This Far, Übergeek Brewing Company, Riverhead

Spring is the favorite season of Übergeek Brewing Company owner Rob Raffa.

“The transitional nature of it brings life, hope and levity,” Raffa says. “We wanted to distill these features into our spring seasonal beer so that the drinker can imbibe its essence.”

So, the brewery is bringing this new beer to life.

“It’s a beautiful Witbier playfully fused with yuzu,” Raffa says. “The best word to describe this beer is bright.”

For the unfamiliar, yuzu is a citrus plant commonly used in Japanese cuisine — and it’s a perfect add-in to this brew.

 “The yuzu pours through every sip in compliment to the light creamy semi-dry mouthfeel,” he says.

Pair with: In a plot twist, Raffa is going off the protein-beaten path here and suggesting something you’ll find plenty of at East End roadside farm stands come April. “This beer pairs well with spring vegetables, notably asparagus, as well as goat cheese and crustaceans,” Raffa says.


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