Love that Maple!

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I’m a big fan of maple syrup….the smell, the taste, the romanticism about tapping a tree and letting the sap drain into a bucket.  All in all, it’s quite a wonderful nectar of nature.
2018-01-15_14-50-46_783Not surprisingly, maple has become the adjunct du jour in the Stout world, and frankly, I’m thrilled.  The addition of maple syrup to an Imperial Stout adds taste, complexity,  a bit of sweetness and an amazing amount of aroma.  It is very complementary to the traditional flavors you find in a Stout – and even complements the other popular adjuncts out there today – vanilla, coffee, cocoa, cinnamon, and even peppers!

Probably the first real maple Stout was the first release of Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout (affectionately known as CBS).  CBS was first released in 2011 and 2017-12-24_16-59-46_523became a cult classic.  Founder’s released it again in 2014 in a very limited release,  but reintroduced it this past fall worldwide to incredible fanfare.  Another stout that pushed the maple envelope was Toppling Goliath’s Mornin’ Delight.  First introduced in 2013, MD was one of the Stouts that has made Decorah, Iowa (home of Toppling Goliath) a must visit destination for any Stout lover.  Others have quickly followed…can’t name them all, but maple has become a more frequent addition to the Stout world.

My first exposure to maple was with a brewery out of  St. Albans, Vermont named 2015-12-05_210031113_CE10D_iOS14th Star Brewing Co. with their Maple Breakfast Stout using Vermont Maple Syrup.  I was impressed with how the maple syrup added to the complexity of the Stout and was hooked.  Then I was able to pick up a Maple Bacon Coffee Porter from the good people at Funky Buddha in Florida and I was absolutely floored with 2017-03-03_17-10-22_536how much maple was packed into their bottles…not to mention the BA version of MBCP, Morning Wood!  Just wonderful! Add Michgan Maple Jesus from Evil Twin Brewing and I was on a maple mission!  Fast forward to Mikkeller Maple Vanilla Shake and the maple aroma and taste were simply amazing……next came Maple Bourbon Double Negative from Grimm Artisan 2017-10-14_15-40-06_312Ales, then the 2017 vintage of Founders CBS which added to the maple mystique,  and then getting a rare opportunity to enjoy a Mornin’ Delight from Toppling Goliath just took my maple journey to another level!2018-01-13_15-29-19_697 (2018-01-14T17_21_54.834)

What’s next?  My good trading friend from the UK, The Bristolian Stout, sent me an Omnipollo/Buxton collaboration, Original Maple Truffle Ice Cream Waffle Stout and I’m really looking forward to diving into that one!  I hear Parish Brewing has a great one called Maple Shade…hoping to find one in a trade!  And I would really like to taste a Fayston Maple Imperial Stout from Lawson’s Finest Liquids out of Warren, Vermont….and I hear that Jackie O’s has some very tasty maple Stouts!

What’s your favorite Maple Stout?  Let me know…..leave me a comment!  I want to find those incredible off the charts Maple Stouts that I should be tasting!

Something different….

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I’m usually all about Stouts, but my business travels have taken me to Burlington, Vermont over the past couple of years.  Aside from being an incredibly beautiful place, Vermont is also a beer mecca and Burlington is right in the middle of the action.  I was able to visit the hallowed Beverage Warehouse in Winooski, where I spent considerable time roaming the aisles.  Thanks to the Bevvy, I can now proudly state that I have stood in line for Heady Topper there – I was able to buy a case – and proceeded to pack it carefully in my suitcase for the trip home.  Thankfully, my friends at Delta didn’t search my luggage that day!

Thanks to my travels to Burlington, I now have a connection (thanks Darren!).  I recently traded some excellent North Carolina stouts and IPAs for some Heady Topper, Second Fiddle, and a can of the elusive Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine, as well as some local Vermont stouts.  Since I had three of the best IPAs around, I took the opportunity to conduct a blind taste test along with my 2 sons.  My wife was our bartender and she each gave us a small glass of Heady, Second Fiddle, and SoS.   I know our friends at The Alchemist counsel us to drink Heady straight from the can, but that would have compromised the blind part of the test, don’t you think?

I must say that I was surprised at the results.  Out of the three, I had only tasted Heady Topper before, so I was feeling confident that I would be able to pick Heady out of the three.  Boy was I ever wrong!   My sons and I compared and contrasted the three – the aroma, the taste, the aftertaste, the color, the mouthfeel- and each of us wrote down our preferences in order.  Trying to find fault in these three beers is near to impossible – it was more about taste preferences and being closer to perfection than finding fault.  But doing a side by side by side taste test requires you to rate and rank the beers.

To the Fiddlehead team – congrats!  Second Fiddle was the winner, followed closely by Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine and Heady Topper.  Not exactly what I expected!  All three of them are incredible beers.  After sending my boys back to South Carolina and college (respectively) each with a can of Second Fiddle and a can of Heady, I’m looking forward to enjoying my last can of Second Fiddle!    When summer comes, I’m going to find a way to add a bottle of Pliny the Elder to the taste test!

A couple of takeaways from the sampling:

  1. I really enjoyed doing this with my two boys (both of legal drinking age for the record).  I tried to convey the concept of tasting and sampling beer for enjoyment versus drinking beer to drink beer.  That’s one of the reasons I like stout beer so much – more on that in a future post!
  2. Comparing like beers is not an easy task!  It really takes some concentration to consider the all of the tasting parameters.  It was really fun (and eye-opening) to see that my expectations were blown away.

Have you ever been surprised by a blind taste test?  Tell us about your experience!2016-01-01_010027874_B1D53_iOS