The Class of 2012 (Part I)

Five of the best new releases of the year

various_beers.These days, new craft brewed libations are coming out faster than the average person can keep up, what with so many seasonals, one-offs, and new year-round beers joining the ranks of Samuel Adams, Sierra Nevada, and Dogfish Head in the craft brew canon. But we at Weekly Pint have been keeping up—hey, someone has to do it—tasting, testing, and high-five-ing our way through some of the most incredible beers ever brewed. Here, in no particular order, are our picks for five of the best beer releases of the year so far. And in case you thought all craft beers tended to be syrupy, strong, or overly bitter, think again. American craft brewers have been remaking the British tradition of “session beers” for years now with flavorful but sociable brews that pair well with food and long evenings among friends.

Read on for our list of five new releases that are light in body but abundant in character.

21st Amendment Bitter American
Technically, this is not a brand-new beer per se, but rather a 2011 seasonal-turned-year-round offering for 2012. Good thing. This crisp, bright, and light palate-smacker of just 4.4%ABV is fresh and rounded, brewed with British barley malt called Golden Promise and four different hops. In a word? Delicious.

Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA
Named for a legendary mountain bike race in Central Oregon where Deschutes Brewery is based, this cloudy-gold 5.6%ABV ale is a hybrid of the Belgian wit or orange peel and coriander-spiced white style of beer and I.P.A., or India Pale Ale, the assertively hopped British style being reimagined in American kettles with increasingly tasty results. What might have been a mess in lesser brewers’ hands is complex and satisfying here.

New Belgium Dig Pale Ale
This lush-tasting, easy drinking spring seasonal bursts with the flavors of four hops, from Sorachi Ace (calling the taste of lemongrass to mind) to Nelson Sauvin (passion fruit, mango, peach) and finally Cascade and Centennial (pine, grapefruit). It’s also sociably light at 5.6%ABV.

Samuel Adams Belgian Session
We just got our mitts on a taster of this spring seasonal brew included in the Samuel Adams Summer Styles Variety 12-pack hitting shelves in April. At a feather-light 4.3%ABV, it would be easy to underestimate this beer. Don’t. It’s admirably complex for such a light brew, with a dash of delicate Hersbrucker and Ahtanum hops for bittering, and citrus-y Strisselspalt hops for a floral finish.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
A new release? Hardly. But for the first time ever this classic brew—the beer that changed everything, brewed since 1980 with whole Magnum, Perle, and pungent Cascade hop flowers, giving it a satisfying bite and grassy, floral nose—is available in cans, which are lighter, quicker to cool, more effective in blocking out beer-spoiling light, easier to recycle, and fit nicely in coolers for camping trips.

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