We’re going to be honest, February is a pretty slow month for beer releases. Winter is in full effect and spring is waiting around the corner. Most everyone in the beer world spends the month gearing up for March — when releases start hitting fast and heavy.
Still, there are a handful of quality craft beers dropping and some holdovers from the last month that are definitely worth tracking down. This month’s list of eight craft beers touches on some winter warmers, some one-off special releases, and a few beers that are looking ahead to next season.
Hopefully, the eight beers we’re giving love to this month will pique your interest and inspire you to explore exciting brews made near you or sold at your closest bottle shops. These picks represent regional craft beer releases from breweries that we vouch for (with tasting notes from the brewers themselves if we didn’t get to taste the beer yet because of the pandemic), along with some seasonally released bottles that we’ve been looking forward to trying again.
PACIFIC NORTHWEST DROP: pFriem Citrus Zest IPA
Style: American IPA
This late winter seasonal from Oregon’s pFriem Family can brighten up the darkest winter day. The beer is made with fruit and citrus-forward hops. Then the beer gets a dose of grapefruit and tangelo zest, adding to the brightness of this beloved IPA.
Yes, you get a great sense of orange and grapefruit zest. But there’s also a mild tropical fruit underbelly with an almost savory papaya edge. The sip ends fairly dry and almost grassy but still holds onto all that bright citrus and tropical fruit at its core.
This is a real eye-opener — in the sense that it’ll wake you up from your winter hibernation.
SOUTHWEST DROP: Stone Features & Benefits IPA
Style: American IPA
This low-ABV and low-calorie IPA from Stone was released late last year. The brew goes through a special fermentation process that helps break down the gluten in the grains further, classifying this one as a “gluten reduced” beer as well. All of that aside, the beer is crafted with plenty of Cashmere, Vic Secret, Azacca, and Mosaic hops to keep that classic IPA vibe alive in every sip.
Tasting Notes (from the brewer):
“Orange peel, lemon, spice, and light grain character. Light-bodied, crisp, and refreshing with a pleasant short finish.”
This clocks in at 100 calories and is in a sessionable range of ABVs. With a couple of heavy winter months of drinking behind us, something so light sounds pretty good right about now.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN DROP: New Belgium Mountain Time Premium Lager
Style: American Lager
Sticking with the low-cal and sessionable craft, New Belgium’s Mountain Time is also a great option to counterpoint those hefty winter stouts dominating everything right now. The beer has a Pilsner malt base and is amped up by Nugget, Willamette, and Cascade hops, giving it a nice bite.
A mix of straw and honey greet you with a slight sense of pear. The body of the beer is medium-light (this isn’t Coors Light) while still holding onto slight notes of sweet malts and mildly bitter hops in the background.
This is a very easy-drinking beer with enough depth to pique your interest — even if you’re just sitting at home over the next month binging old TV shows.
SOUTHERN DROP: Jester King Munich-Style Helles Lagerbier
Style: German Lager
This beer from Jester King is offering you a chance to drink Munich beer hall beer without traveling to Munich, which we can’t do for the foreseeable future. The suds are crafted with Texas Pilsner malts and then spiked with Hallertauer Magnum, Hallertauer Mittelfrueh, and Czech Saaz hops to give it that authentic Euro feel.
The beer is then lagered for five long weeks before being bottled and sold.
This just dropped (on January 25th). All we know is that if Jester King is making a real-deal Munich beer hall helles, it’s probably going to be the closest thing to going to Munich you’ll get in the U.S. until beyond summer. If you’re in Austin, get your ass over to Jester King and pick up one of 200 cases available.
MIDWEST DROP: Great Lakes Conway’s Irish Ale
Style: Irish Red Ale
Conway’s Irish Ale is dropped in late January in anticipation of March and St. Patrick’s Day. The beer is a solid Irish ale with well-roasted malts at the base, providing an inviting sweetness and texture that makes this beer very quaffable.
The malts really are the star of the show. There’s an almost buttery toffee sweetness and mouthfeel that leads towards a hint of yeasty dinner rolls that are nicely toasted. The sip leans more towards the sweet roasted malts as the hint of bitter hops lurks far in the background.
You can kill a six-pack of this beer pretty damn easily.
NORTHEAST DROP: Allagash Kurkuma
Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale
This brand new drop from Allagash (coming out later this month) is adding a little spice to the usual line up. The beer aims to really hit when spring does with big notes of turmeric spice built into the subtler features of the saison grassiness and slight tartness.
Tasting Notes (from the brewer):
“Turmeric, or ‘kurkuma,’ adds a hint of spice to this tropically crisp, saison-style ale. Brewing with the whole root lends all of the subtle aspects of fresh turmeric—its earthy notes and color—to Kurkuma’s dry and refreshing profile.”
With the added spice, we’re intrigued. As in, we’re intrigued is to actually drink this one, but we also want to cook with it since the turmeric is already layered into the beer.
WILD CARD DROP: Fremont/New Belgium Collab Action-Reaction
Style: Sour Stout (Strong Ale/Flanders Red Ale)
This is the meeting of two really fine bottles of beer that are then taken up a notch. The beers involved are Fremont’s much-loved Seattle mainstay Barrel-Aged B-Bomb (a strong ale) and New Belgium’s equally adored La Folie (a Flanders red ale). The blended brews are then barrel-aged, creating a sour and nitro’d stout.
Tasting Notes (from the brewers):
“The aromas completely engulf you in toffee, chocolate, vanilla, bourbon, and barrel char. Add to that our Oscar dark sour lager, and boom: A beer that starts intensely sweet and thick, warm and boozy with a perfect balance of sourness and does not let up.”
Sure, this sounds like a hyper-craft brew that some will roll their eyes at. But, come on! These are two really great beers in one bottle — this has got to be the most exciting drop the whole month.
INTERNATIONAL PICK OF THE MONTH: Cantillon Lambic d’Aunis 2020/2021
Style: Fruited Lambic
This Belgian lambic is fruited with Pineau d’Aunis grapes from the Loire region of France. The grapes are added to the beer to create a bridge between the funky world of Belgian lambic and the rose Pinot Noir-like juice used for sparkling wines in France.
There’s a real marriage of the barnyard/wet hay funk up top that mingles with the subtler spiciness of the wine with light citrus and plum edge. The palate veers from all of that towards an almost blackberry-next-to-peach fruitiness, with hints of pepper, tart cream, and one more touch of earthy funk.
The end is somewhat dry but very rosy, fruity, spicy, and, again, interestingly funky.
This definitely isn’t a beginner’s beer. Still, the new season just dropped. And every year over the last ten years, this beer has hit high marks of greatness. It’s 100% worth checking out if you can find it.