Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

13 October, 2016

The Trouble With the Maples: Maple Dunkel by Leinenkugel Brewing Company

I am taking a break from the Oktoberfest madness before I polish off the remaining ones in my cellar. It's like a 7th inning stretch. Besides, there is a cornucopia of non-Märzen beers out there to enjoy.

One that tried recently was Leinenkukgel's Maple Dunkel. The bier is available only as part of their Autumn Explorer Pack. Well, unless the liquor store you frequent busts the packs open to sell as singles. I was ambivalent about it going in. On the one hand, another of their newish seasonals, Snowdrift Vanilla Porter was simply disgusting to my palate and exemplifies how flavorings bring out the worst in the brewery. On the other, this year's Spring Explorer Pack brought Heart of Oak, an oak aged Vienna lager which was excellent.

But I like dunkels, I like maple syrup. Either this bier would be a cloying train wreck or another justification for my sentimental love of the brewery despite it being a subsidiary of the Omni Corp of brewing.

Having lived up by Eau Claire for a stretch, Leine's has a special place in my heart. It was something of a hometown brewery during the interregnum between the closing of Hibernia and the opening of the Northwoods Brewpub, circa 1997, which was the next brewery to set up shop in Eau Claire, during which many old duffs bemoaned the loss of Walters at taverns across the area. During my college days when money was tight, Leinekugel's (Original) was a welcome respite from countless half-barrels of Old Milwaukee. After college, when money was tight, I couldn't afford to drink Sprecher all day at Summerfest and so I quaffed many a Leine's Honey Weiss.

And so despite having sold out to Miller in 1988 and having run the shandy into the ground, I still indulge in a Leine's every once in a while. Besides, they have a nice tour.

Maple Dunkel pours a lovely deep copper color and is quite clear. I think I need to start pouring every beer like you're supposed to pour bottled nitro brews – turn the bottle upside down into the glass and shake like a maraca. For whatever reason, I was only able to produce a small head. The light tan foam didn't stick around very long. There were some bubbles inside. Aside from my poor pouring, it was a very beautiful bier.

As I was inspecting the appearance, I could smell maple. It was somewhere between maple syrup and maple-flavored syrup although it leaned towards the latter. The aroma was sweet and overpowered the basic bier with just a tiny hit of dark malt roast coming though. At this point I was basically resigned to my fate which was going to be drinking a flavored mess. Another Snowdrift – cloying and awful.

It was no surprise to taste maple. Lots and lots of maple – flavoring. It was cloyingly sweet with an overabundance of vanilla-caramel taste but lacking the woody-earthy flavors and the slight tartness that real maple syrup has. A rather muted dose of roasted grain could not penetrate the treacle while some spicy hops struggled to be tasted.

That maple flavoring lingered a bit at the end until spicy/grassy hops come and add some welcome bitterness and dryness. There was no Schaumhaftvermoegen in sight.

Maple Dunkel is a dreadful bier to my taste. I've had beers brewed with maple syrup and maple sap and some were good and some weren't. I can imagine a tasty dunkel that has been laced with maple flavoring – if the flavoring has been used judiciously. That's not the case here because there's no dunkel here. It's just maple flavoring. Although I will say that I liked the hops quite a bit as they were the only thing that I could taste besides maple.

Junk food pairing: I kept my snacking simple with Maple Dunkel and indulged in plain old Cheez Its.

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|| Palmer, 5:37 AM


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