Ah spring! Flowers finally bloom without fear of frost, and the new crop of seasonal beers lines the shelves at local stores. And what a bumper crop it is.
I had the opportunity to sample many of the new brews earlier this month at Durty Nellie's Spring Beer Fest (the event traditionally falls on the first Saturday in May and it sells out, so plan now for 2012). With more than 90 handcrafted beers on tap from breweries coast to coast, I tried to keep my focus on warm-weather beers and I walked away quite impressed by the season's freshest quaffs.
Here are some of my favorites:
Daisy Cutter, Half Acre Brewery, Chicago: A pale ale with a nice balance of floral and citrus notes. Lightly carbonated and easy on the intake.
A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale, Petaluma, Calif: Crispy wheat, juicy finish; Little Sumpin' is a whole lotta sumpin' good.
Pursuit of Hoppiness, Grand Teton Brewing Co., Victor, Id. First off, I'm absolutely giddy that Grand Teton beers are available in the Midwest. My husband and I honeymooned in Jackson Hole, Wy., and sought out the brewery when the only way to buy beer from the truly micro facility was in a growler. Just seeing the bottles on the shelves brings back great memories.
Anyway, Pursuit of Hoppiness isn't Grand Teton's summer beer (that's the Farmhouse Ale, which should be available June 1), yet this rich red ale is the perfect complement to grilled meat and barbecue.
Gumball Head, Three Floyds, Munster, Ind: This American wheat beer started as the brewery's summer offering but became so popular it is now available year-round. Still, its strong notes of citrus (grapefruit, lemon) and just a bit of bitter make it perfect for beach-side barbecues and baseball watching.
Week in the knees: If this talk about beer sends chills down your spine, you're a prime candidate to celebrate American Craft Beer Week.
Breweries, brew pubs and beer-centric restaurants around the suburbs and Chicago have planned events from limited-edition keg tappings and dinners paired with beer to meet-the-brewer evenings.
In the Chicago area, the celebration will stretch past the official May 22 close through May 27.
And if you happen to be heading to New York today, stop into the Rattle N Hum, a mid-Manhattan bar, to sample George Washington's home-brew.
Yep, one of our founding father's beer recipes has been re-created by the Coney Island Brewing Company in Brooklyn. The brewers there have made just 25 gallons of "Fortitude's Founding Father Brew."
Tastings also will be offered at the library's 100th birthday gala on May 23. The brew will not be sold commercially.
We're chillin': Palatine-based Weber Grills and Better Homes and Gardens magazine have joined forces for a glorious weekend of chillin' and grillin' at the aptly named Chill and Grill.
On Saturday and Sunday, May 21 and 22, celebrity chefs including Weber's chef Jamie Purviance and award-wining chef and James Beard nominee Stephanie Izard (of Chicago's Girl and the Goat) will demonstrate recipes and restaurants across the area will offer up char-cooked bites in Lincoln Park. There will also be hands-on classes, contests, book signings, live music and a kids' activity area.
Events take place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission to the fest is free, but tastings and classes cost extra. Check out bhgchillandgrill.com for details and the full schedule of events.
Tramonto talks: Celebrity chef Rick Tramonto will talk about his autobiography, "Scars of a Chef," with interviewer Rick Kogan during a taping of Chicago Live! at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 19, at the Chicago Theater, 175 N. State St., Chicago.
Tickets to the event, which will also include segments with WGN Radio's Garry Meier and Chicago Sifonietta Director Mei-Ann Chen, cost $20 (with cash bar) and include a meet and mingle after the show. Tickets available through Ticketmaster.
• Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at firstname.lastname@example.org or (847) 427-4524. Be her Facebook friend at Deb Pankey Daily Herald.