Spring Brews? 

Is it me, or does spring seem a little reluctant this year? The sun, mostly hidden behind clouds, doesn't offer much warmth when it does show. The nastily persistent winds are blowing from the northwest and are layered with an arctic chill. Most mornings, my car windows still have frost. Fortunately, we have a few new brews that might make things better. The first has the body and bite to hold up to the unrelenting cold; the second has a refreshing lightness that makes you believe spring is really here. Last, but not least, a new favorite from an Idaho brewer returns.

Uerige Sticke

Every beer lover knows about (or should know about) Uerige Alt. This revered brewery located in the heart of Dusseldorf received four stars from the late Michael Jackson for their Altbier (at the time, it was one of only five German brews to capture that honor). If anything, their Sticke is even more sought-after. Brewed only twice a year, it is only around for a very short time. Even richer than their fabulous Alt, it's intensely aromatic and absolutely delicious, with dark malt and a nice hop bitterness that builds slowly but persistently until it dominates the palate in a pleasant way. There's a minerality to the finish that gives way to spicy, fruit-laced malt. Don't miss out on this one.

Einbecker Brauherren Premium Pils

Einbecker's brews have earned praise from everyone from the aforementioned Michael Jackson to Martin Luther (yeah, that one, the 16th century Protestant reformer—they've been around a long time). Their Ur-Bok is a German classic, so it comes as no surprise that they craft a pilsner of distinction. Fresh citrus, smooth grain and light yeast aromas mark this transparently golden brew. A bit lighter than their Ur-Bok, one sip and you'll swear it's warm enough for T-shirts and shorts. Clean and crisp with light, smooth malt and just the right kiss of hops, it has a little more stuffing than you'd expect from a pilsner, but in a good way.

Laughing Dog Devil Dog Imperial India Pale Ale

When I first tried this last year, I was blown away. This Sandpoint brewery does a very credible job with their regular lineup, but this one takes things to another level. Surprisingly well-balanced considering it weighs in at 10 percent alcohol with 98 International Bitterness Units, it took a much deserved double gold and best of show at one beer competition in 2007. It pours a dark amber with a thick and creamy tan head that is very persistent. Try it with dark chocolate for an amazing taste combo. it goes down a little too easily for such a rich, full-bodied brew, and since it comes in a big 22-ounce bottle, consider sharing with a friend.

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