The Spectacle Blog

The Beer Spectator: Spring Seasonals From the Top Ten Craft Brewers

By on 4.25.14 | 3:27PM

The Boston Beer Company, owner of Sam Adams, tops the list of the largest craft brewers in the United States.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company sits solidly in second place. It is currently expanding its operations to North Carolina.

Many argue about the validity of the largest brands being truly “craft”—the definition means “small, traditional, and independent.” Obviously, most arguments arise over the size prerequisite. Small means producing less than six million barrels a year.

I won't argue over such trivialities; I care more about the quality and essence of the beers.

To finish my series on spring seasonals, I purchased from three craft brewers in the top ten: Sierra Nevada, New Belgium Brewing Company, and Bell’s Brewery.

It’s important to analyze the big players because more people drink their beer nationally and regionally. We can’t isolate ourselves to beers available only in our states or counties. I also do this due to popular demand; some of the commenters couldn’t find the beers I was reviewing.

It also helps that Sierra Nevada is my favorite craft brand. Let’s go to the beer. I listed them in the order that I drank.

Technically this is Sierra’s summer seasonal, but since they released it in the middle of spring, I’ll count it as a transitional spring-to-summer rotation. 

Hefeweizen fans should buy this beer. This should be a staple. 

If not, well, this is the most German beer out of the three. Banana and clove dominate the aroma. Drink the other two if you wish to learn more about American wheats, rather than their Bavarian influencers.

Kellerweis is fermented openly, which means it’s exposed to the air during production. This gives the bubbles a tighter and more packed appearance, as well as creating an expanding texture.  

Kellerweis is a session beer at 4.8 percent. The hops give the banana fruit a lemony kick at the finish. One can’t even taste the carbonation. It’s an efficient one-two step from wheat-ish banana to lemon crisp refreshment.

Drink this beer on a roof during a summer sunset.

Oberon outsells every other Bell’s beer, including the Two Hearted Ale. This one is sweet and plain, similar to other traditional American wheats.

In the aroma and the taste, I detected pineapple juice. It’s consistent throughout the drinking. At 5.8 percent ABV, it’s incredible that it tastes this way.

There’s a bit of a drying astringency after swallowing, but it’s not overpowering. I’ve never had a beer like this, but I could have put a small umbrella in it.

Taste it because everything Bell’s Brewery creates is unique.  

First, New Belgium brewed this in dedication to their spring bike trips through Belgium. I would not drink this during exercise; it’s for celebrating the effort afterwards.

At 6 percent, it’s the most powerful of the three, though it isn't noticeable. As the only filtered beer on this list, it looks like a cheap yellow lager. But don’t let the appearance fool you.

I smell vanilla and wheat. Throughout the sip I can taste wheat grains. Carbonation dominates, with the result being a lemon-wheat combination. I couldn’t identify the final flavor. I would describe it as lemongrass, but I’ve only ever tasted that once.

As the only official spring seasonal in the mix, I say drink this, as it’s way too early for summer beers.

That means Sam Adams and its Summer Ale especially!

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