Southern Tier Grand Arbor 8% ABV
I’ve always been a fan of maple syrup. I mean who doesn’t like pancakes, waffles, or French toast with some good old maple syrup. When I saw a new Southern Tier beer brewed with maple syrup I pounced and immediately bought a bottle. Who would pass up an opportunity to try a maple syrup flavored beer? On second thought, don’t answer that. Though not everyone would be interested I sure was, it wasn’t until a few months later, when I finally cracked open the bottle to review it, that I learned of my novice error.
I’ve been writing beer reviews for 6 months now and occasionally I start to think of myself as a beer connoisseur. A beer like this one is a good humbler, helping me realize how little I truly know about beer. The maple syrup used in the brewing of this beer, isn’t meant to provide a maple syrup flavor, it is just a substitute for sugar used in the making of a Belgian Style Saison or as it’s also know, a Farmhouse Ale. The first sentence at the top of this beer’s webpage clearly explains this fact. “Flemish brewers add sugar as an adjunct during fermentation. We add real maple syrup from our friends at Big Tree Maple, a farm literally across the road from the brewery.” With my new found knowledge and an excited if humbled palate I proceeded to taste the brew before me.
The beer has a nice thick foamy head. As I bring the glass to my nose I immediately notice the signature Belgian style aroma. The first observation that strikes my palate as I take a drink is the high carbonation level, which produces the strong white foamy head. This head persists and lingers much longer than with a normal brew, making it virtually impossible to avoid beer foam getting on one’s beard or moustache while drinking. Taking a sip through the foam creates a unique taste and texture in one’s mouth, which is well worth the danger to one’s facial hair. The beer is incredibly light and crisp, the front of which has some spicy notes to it. It is a fairly refreshing brew. It has a dry finish and I’m able to pick up on a tartness to the finish after multiple draughts and some helpful “hints” that are listed on the Southern Tier website. This is a mid winter seasonal beer that is better suited to be consumed during the spring.
One side effect of the high carbonation level is the auditory pleasure it brings. Half way through the bottle as I was refilling my glass, something barely perceptible occurred. I held the glass up to my ear and in disbelief, a childish joy overcame me. As the foam formed and dissolved I could make out the “snap, crackle, and pop” that I associate with milk being poured over Rice Krispies. This new discovery now made every consecutive pour even more enjoyable. It’s great when you can enjoy a beer on as many sensory levels as possible.