Let’s face it. We’ve all had it with the cold, icy roads and being trapped indoors. But we’re seeing the tide turn at local breweries with stout-heavy lineups giving way to lighter, fresher offerings. Some big beers are still around, but they’re infused with things that make us think of tropical places and fresh beginnings. Style sought out a few must-drinks to get you warm-bellied and out of a winter funk.
WRIR XI by Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, 5.3 percent alcohol
As unique as the community radio station it celebrates, WRIR XI is a Belgian-style pale ale that boasts malty overtones and a lighter finish, courtesy of some Azacca dry hops. Citrus and pine are the prominent aromas that’ll crank your senses to 11. One of Hardywood’s self-proclaimed Experimental Beer series, this one is available on draft at the brewery or in bomber bottles to go. Perfect for late nights around the turntable discussing the Faith and Void split release.
Canal Street Coffee Stout by 7 Hills Brewing Co., 6.7 percent alcohol
Wake up and smell your beer. This coffee-forward creation packs a mean punch of local beans. Fifteen pounds of gloriously roasted arabica goodness (two-thirds Blanchard’s Blend and a third Honduran beans to be exact) give this beer a toasty, roasty caramel flavor. Its medium body and creamy mouth feel make it an easy drinker, but beware … it’ll sneak up on you. The brewery reports that it’ll be cranking out at least one new beer a month, so keep an eye on these newbies.
African Head Charge by Final Gravity Brewing Co., 12 percent alcohol
Named after the psych-dub band, it’s no surprise that this complex beer is mind-altering. First, there’s the prominent toasted coconut aroma up front that lets drinkers know they’re getting into something real good. Seriously, it’s kind of like walking into a bakery. Then there’s the first sip that introduces an onslaught of flavors including dark chocolate and fresh-out-of-the oven coconut pie. With its velvety mouth feel, this is an imperial stout that can only be described as decadent and damn near perfect. Brewer Tony Ammendolia is some kind of otherworldly beer wizard.
Earl Grey Brown Ale by Ardent Craft Ales, 5.5 percent alcohol
Leave it to Ardent to come up with a brew unlike any you’ve tried in recent years. A collaboration with Champion Brewery and Potter’s Cider, this northern English brown ale is a light-bodied, caramel-colored concoction that nicely balances toasty malts with subtle fruit notes. At times, a nutty aroma can be detected. As its name suggests, there’s also a bold, earthy tea flavor that makes this one a standout. Good manners and small teacups not required.
Havoc Gold IPA by Strangeways Brewing, 6.5 percent alcohol
Holy hops up in your face. Brewer Mike Hiller nails a perfect IPA with a Mandarina Bavaria, Amarillo, Sorachi Ace juggernaut. It’s so fresh, it’s like eating a salad, folks. Part of the Legalize It series, you’ll be feeling mighty fine after a glass or two. While reportedly the brew was inspired by the all-out death and destruction kind of havoc and not the beloved Virginia Commonwealth University Rams, there’s no denying this would go well with dunks and March Madness.
American IPA (Batch No. 3) by Garden Grove Brewing, 6.5 percent alcohol
A surprisingly chill IPA is sure to delight folks who don’t favor palate wreckers. The British malts give this beer a toasty backbone, verging on biscuity in the best of ways, while El Dorado hops contribute Juicy Fruit aromas. Hints of pineapple and apricot emerge if you swirl it around in your mouth before savoring the semidry finish. For a real treat, enjoy this while checking out the brewery’s open bluegrass jam on Tuesday nights.