What we wanted to do with the Imperial White was to use the very intricate spice, fruit, and floral mixture that we have in our white ale," Koch says. "A traditional white ale is basically a lot of coriander and orange zest. But coriander gets sort of vegetal in very high concentrations. So we brought in a whole different additional set of flavors. There's a little bit of coriander, a decent amount of white zest, but there's also lemon zest and grains of paradise in that citrus family. And then there's red-fruit notes, which come from powdered plum, hibiscus flowers, and rose hips."
Add to that intriguing mélange additional hints of flavor, ranging from vanilla to anise. "You get the softness of the vanilla and a hint of licorice," says Koch. "And then the earthiness from that coriander. And tamarind. There's, like, 10 different spices. You can smell it. It's a really fascinating smell."
If the dark, warming Double Bock and Imperial Stout are well-suited for the "in like a lion" portion of March," in other words, the airy Imperial White is perfect for "out like a lamb."
"For me, one of the elements of spring is surprise," says Koch. "It's that moment where you first see a crocus coming up. It's at the end of February, and it's winter, and the weather's sucked for three months, and you kind of go, 'Oh!' You haven't seen anything purple coming out of the Earth for six months, and when you see the daffodils coming up in a garden when there's still snow around.
"To me, spring has this element of surprise, and Imperial White Ale has that same element of surprise: you pour it out, it looks like a basic wheat beer, it's slightly cloudy, it's got a big head with tight bubbles, and then you get it to your nose, and you're like, 'Oh, wow. That's not like anything I'd expect in a beer. But I like it.'"
The beers in the Samuel Adams Imperial Series sell for $9.99 per four-pack at better area liquor stores.