Fearful Symmetries

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03 November, 2015

Feeling Sappy: Maple Surple from Lake Louie Brewing



Last year Lake Louie revamped their line-up, introducing a slew of new beers and renaming one as well. I reviewed one of those new brews, the fine Dortmunder Export Blue Peter, previously and it's time to taste another. Looking at the brace of Lake Louie Prairie Moon growlers in my kitchen, I can't help but think of how far the brewery has come since it began back in 1999.

While Wisconsin doesn't have a strategic maple syrup reserve like Quebec does I think of maple syrup as a quintessential part of Wisconsin culture. This is likely due in large part to the time I spent up north making the stuff with my father as the snow fell. I would empty the buckets from the trees into a holding barrel as my father added the sap into his custom made sap boiler. It was a labyrinth of stainless steel. A coffee can with a small hole near the bottom was setup at one end. The sap leaked from it into the boiler where it made its way around the steel walls of the maze. By the time it arrived at the opposite end, it was syrup and could be drawn away into gallon jugs.

Lake Louie debuted Maple Surple last spring but this year's batch was released in September. It's a brown ale with maple syrup added. (The name comes from the Roger Miller song "Dang Me" which contains the classic couplet "Roses are red and violets are purple, you are sweeter than maple surple".) I've not drank many brown ales in recent years and have no good explanation for this. They got lost in the shuffle, I suppose. Back in the 90s I had many a Pete's Wicked Ale and enjoy the malt emphasis of the style which is rather unassuming in contrast to the more brash pale ales which are all the rage these days.

Maple Surple has a beautiful amber hue and is quite clear. My glass was appealingly coiffured with a big, foamy ecru head that did a good job of sticking around for as long as it could. There was a goodly number of bubbles making their way up the glass. I presume that the maple syrup was added rather late in the brewing process because the aroma was rife with that woody, toothsome smell of maple syrup. There was a bit of sweet malt that was like raisin in the background but it was the pungent maple smell that stood out.

I was shocked – SHOCKED – that the maple syrup flavor was also king on the tongue. It was strong and sweet, though not cloyingly so. That raisin-like malt sweetness was here too as was a more savory roasted grain flavor. Some herbal hoppiness and the carbonation tried to temper the sucrose soiree. The beer's body was medium-light but veered towards the latter. And the maple syrup really gave it a very smooth mouthfeel.

On the finish I found that the maple flavor trailed off as the carbonation and more of that herbal hop bitterness took the edge off of the sweetness for a surprising dryness.

My glass was not left with a lot of lacing but there were a few nice strands around the glass.

I think Tom Porter of Lake Louie got the maple in Maple Surple just right. It's up front but won't put you into diabetic shock after one sip. There are 22 I.B.U.s of bitterness here which lend a nice herbal dryness on the finish and a minimal amount of contrast to the maple flavor. The beer would have benefited from more roasted grain flavor. Although the maple was applied in moderation, I still feel that more toasted grain flavor would have helped to keep Maple Surple from being close to a one trick pony.

While I liked Maple Surple, I can't drink many bottles of it. It's not extremely sweet but sweet enough to be filling after one. It comes in at 5.8% A.B.V. which means it can help ease the transition into autumn. The maple flavor also provides a nice alternative to the all of the fest biers and brews flavored with cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg that line store shelves at this time of year.

Junk food pairing: Pair Maple Surple with Biscuits and Gravy potato chips to kick the faux breakfast thing into overdrive.

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|| Palmer, 12:07 PM

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