PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- This is not spring. It's not even nearly spring. It's just a gray, cold, snowy month that beer brewers with calendars to keep want to pass off as spring.
It doesn't matter baseball considers February "spring" and that pitchers and catchers have reported to "spring training." It doesn't matter what a Pennsylvania rodent that once starred in a Bill Murray film had to say about it a few weeks ago. It's winter, and it's going to be tough to convince us otherwise.
It's a season of dispute for beer lovers and brewers, but it's also just an odd time for beer in general. Drinkers are transitioning away from darker, maltier, boozier brews and into hoppier, more refreshing beers. That makes it a tumultuous time in taprooms and a period of chaos in the beer coolers, as space once taken up by winter warmers, strong stouts and carmel, coffee or even chocolate-flavored treats and bold barleywine becomes an awkward mix of winter leftovers and early spring wheats, pale ales, blondes and fruit beers.
But that's February for you. You'll hit a warm spell in the beginning of the month that makes you want to trim hedges, plant vegetables and roll out the grill, but then those last storms roll in and you're wondering if that bag of rock salt from December is still around and where you put your shovel. Beer during this month is no different. A hoppy, citrusy IPA will remind you that the sun is out and the worst is almost over, but that brisk breeze that comes in when you open the door and the sun blatantly lies to you sends you racing for the nearest mperial stout. This is where mellow but potent Scottish ales and light-drinking dry stouts tend to shine and where a slightly amber pilsner makes an adequate seasonal filler.
Unfortunately for brewers, resolution-bound drinkers aren't having any of it. According to figures from the Beer Institute and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, February is typically one of the more miserable months on the beer calendar when production falls about 3 million barrels off its midsummer peak to its lowest point until the November-December holiday season.
While St. Patrick's Day gives those numbers a boost, it's not until Memorial Day hits in May that beer starts to sell again. Despite this, there are still some great seasonal offerings out there for the optimists among us. The following 10 offerings are just a sample of what brewers put out around this time of year and are as scattershot and unpredictable as the season itself: