Lawson’s Finest Liquids – Spring Fever Session IPA
My journey to acquire Lawson’s Finest Liquids put all of my beer-hunting skills to the test. Rural roads, quaint stores, and rare beers combined to make my search for Lawson’s a Vermont adventure of the highest order. Luckily, it was well worth it.
From my preview post, you can probably tell that I tried to research every little aspect of my Vermont trip. But road trips will throw curveballs at you, which is part of what makes them exciting. Finding a good, fresh bottle of Lawson’s Finest Liquids beer proved a much more challenging expedition than I expected. I would have liked to visit this brewery, taste a full lineup of beers, and bring a bunch of growlers home, but none of that was happening with Lawson’s.
My best hope would be the Vermont liquor store with the largest allotment of Lawson’s. I found where those precious bottles were sold, but timing was just as important because they sell out very fast. That’s when things got really challenging. Bottles arrive every Thursday morning at the Warren Store, a funky general store in Warren, VT that sells everything from t-shirts to baked goods to great beer. We were spending one night in Stowe and leaving Thursday morning to catch the delivery. Warren is south of Stowe and so was our route home, so everything worked out—except that I had miraculously scheduled an interview with one of the biggest names in the beer industry north of Stowe, for 1PM that Thursday. I had to wake up, drive an hour south to (hopefully) buy bottles, then drive back to Warren and then some and be mentally ready for an interview I was freaking out about. FUN!
Remember curveballs? Vermont threw a nice 12-6 one my way by deciding it would rebuild every road between Stowe and Warren that morning. Construction delays made the trip significantly longer and required a lot more off-roading than I anticipated.
I can’t tell you how glad I was to find that Lawson’s Spring Fever Session IPA was at the Warren store. I snagged 3 of the last 4 bottles, took this picture, and headed back north. When I finally poured my first bottle of Spring Fever, back in the comfort of my apartment, I realized that I would gladly go through all that hassle again for more Lawson’s beer. It’s phenomenal.
I’ve been drinking a lot of session beer lately. Some of it is great beer, period. A lot of it needs to be couched with “for a low ABV…” Lawson’s Session IPA is definitely in the former category. Of course it’s light and refreshing as all sessions should be. But it packs more satisfying hop flavors than your not-excellent 8.0% ABV IPA and none of that irksome, sharp, unpleasant, nearly chemical taste you get with poorly executed O’Douls variants. Somehow, Sean Lawson, that most mysterious and elusive brewer, managed to brew an incredibly light beer that smells, pours and tastes like a top-tier IPA.
Look at it! It’s a beautiful dark golden beer, with an unexpected amount of head, and medium body that leaves a good amount of lacing. And that smell! I’ve looked everywhere for information on what hops were used in brewing this because it smells like a “Now That’s What I Call Music: Hop Aroma” compilation. Some grass, some fruit, and even a little bit of resin. A little bit of malt sweetness comes through but not nearly as much as it does in the taste, which, admittedly, is my least favorite aspect of it. That initial sip also has a little bit of a bread flavor, I just wish that it had more of a sour yeast flavor upfront. Malt and I are not the closest of friends.
After that malt taste washes out I get a mouth full of delicious citrus and that’s what kept me coming back to this beer. If this beer were mass produced, I could see – although I could never endorse such a thing – bars adding slices of citrus to these pints to accentuate this incredible note. I didn’t get much of a tropical fruit note, and honestly, I didn’t miss that in what’s supposed to be a refreshing, summery drink. On its way out, Lawson’s Spring Fever revealed its biggest surprise: a distinct resin note! What? How? I don’t know. I love that flavor, and I know you probably do too, but it usually comes accompanied by a lot of alcohol and other aggressive, tiring flavors. I honestly did not even know this was possible. Thanks to that feat, Lawson’s has a pleasantly sweet, herbal grass aftertaste.
Ideally, I would have also drunk Lawson’s Double Sunshine IPA, Spring Fever’s big brother, to be able to tell you how these very hoppy, resiny flavors compare. I imagine Spring Fever’s are comparably watered down and muted, but that’s kind of irrelevant given how vibrant they are when drunk on its own. Ultimately, it all comes down to a question of what’s possible, doesn’t it? As challenging as it may have been to acquire this beer, I doubt that’s even comparable to how challenging it is to brew something so delicate but with so much flavor. I wish more brewers would step up to this challenge and brew great beers with great flavors that just happen to be low ABV. And I encourage you to take this journey. It probably won’t be an easy one, but you’ll appreciate it at the end.
 I knew that before I left: their beer might as well be brewed in a different dimension given its quality and the inaccessibility of its brewery. So I settled for the next best thing, trying to find as many different Lawson’s “out in the wild bottles” as possible. That was no easy task
 As I feared, all the bars were pouring Lawson’s collaboration with Jack’s Abby. This is by all accounts very good, and if you are into smoked beers, you should try it. I am not, so a review of the Smoked Maple Lager would be somewhat unfair and uneducated. I had to find a something that I could write a worthwhile review of, so a difficult task got a little more difficult.
 It also forced me to practice my interview questions while driving as my girlfriend fiercely took notes in the passenger seat. Somehow I got to the interview on time but that’s a story for a later post.
 Maybe that’s a function of two local breweries focusing on them, maybe it’s that I’ve been going to more beer events lately and need to pace myself, maybe it’s the summer and alcohol makes you hot, or, maybe that’s just where beer is heading in the post-hop landscape. I still think yeast and sour are safer bets but what do I know?
 I recently attended a fundraiser for a documentary focusing on Vermont brewers and I wish I had the video of the Director jumping up and down with excitement and screaming “yes” when I asked him if they got Sean Lawson on camera.