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Not Your Mother’s May Day Party
May Day, which falls on May 1st, is an ancient pagan holiday that’s been watered down to a mere stripper pole festooned with crepe ribbon these days. But the original celebrations tended to be a lot more raucous. As a spring festival, May Day is associated with fertility, vitality and general lust, and is filled with dancing, bonfires, lots of spring flowers and the naming of a May Queen. These themes are accented by the image of the maypole, and by riding the wooden stick toy known as a hobby horse. Yee-haw!
If dancing around a maypole isn’t exactly your idea of a good time, you can still celebrate the holiday in its true intent by drinking and feasting amid spring bouquets to usher in the new season. And actually, flowers are a prominent tasting note in many of the great spring seasonal beers to flow this month. April’s showers have brought many a May floral beer. So be the May King or Queen and throw a cookout amidst the powdery blossoms.
Stock your party with a few of these flowery-tasting beers:
Flower Power IPA // Ithaca Beer Co., New York
This groovy beer is a solid IPA to savor during any season. Although its name refers to hop cones, or “flowers,” rather than some other type of flora, it’s still a thirst-quenching blend of citrus and spring bouquet, all the way.
Rosée d’Hibiscus // Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel, Quebec
This crisp “bière” gets its pastel pink tint from the vibrant hibiscus flower, which also lends tart-tasting notes. Bright and bubbly, the brew should go down smoothly with any of spring’s light, herbal fare.
Le Fleur Misseur // New Belgium, Colorado
Dry-hopped and bottle-conditioned with Brettanomyces, this seasonal bottle comes from the brewery’s Lips of Faith series. Lots of honey and clove blend with the tartness of the wild yeast strain for a bold spring ale.
Red Tulip Ale // New Holland, Michigan
This Red Ale was named after the brewery’s local tulip festival, Tulip Time, which takes place during one of the first weeks of May. Malty and rich, it’s a good brew to wash down red meats and roasty flavors.
Daisy Cutter Pale Ale // Half Acre Beer Co., Illinois
A Pale Ale that piles on the hops, Daisy Cutter has gone on to inspire Double IPA varieties from the Chicago-based brewery. The daisy-emblazoned can design might tip you off to its floral aroma and crisp flavor.
Golden State Ale // Uncommon Brewers, California
This sunny and sessionable Pale Ale is brewed with toasted poppy seeds as a nod to the signature flower of the Golden State. The poppy seeds give this brew its distinct touch of sweetness and slight tang.
Decorating and party tips:
• Make May baskets—another throwback to the ancient spring rites—filled with beers as goody-bags.
• Ask everyone to wear floral attire—unpack that Hawaiian shirt that’s been in a storage box all winter, or wear a dress decked with real flower rosettes.
• Have everyone participate in making some floral crowns, brooches, necklaces and other spring gear while you imbibe.
• Make a maypole-esque centerpiece by wrapping your bong with colorful, twisted ribbons.
• Pick a bunch of dandelion blossoms to kill two birds with one stone: weeding your garden, and gathering natural décor.
Perfect spring fare to serve up al fresco:
• Grilled asparagus
• Chive dip
• Roast spring chicken with baby carrots
• Risotto with mint and peas
• Grilled lamb meatballs with mint and feta
• Rhubarb pie (with mint leaves!) ■