Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, March 18, 2016
Spring is here(ish) and that means that out east, so that means that maple syrup farmers out in Ontario to Nova Scotia are tapping trees to turn liquid gold sap into heavenly maple syrup! After brief stints living in Quebec over the years, I try to avoid faux syrups like Aunt Jemima’s and “table syrup” when having pancakes, crêpes or waffles. Once you’ve had tire sur neige (maple syrup taffy on snow ice-pops), you will never go back to the generic corn syrup pancake syrups ever again! The folks over at Lake of Bays Brewing out of Muskoka, Ontario have just introduced their Spring Maple Belgian Blonde Ale, a Belgian-style Pale Ale brewed with maple syrup sourced by the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association. I find Lake of Bays beers, including their staples such as the Crosswinds Pale Ale and Spark House Red Ale, as well as their seasonal selections such as their 10 Point IPA are simply just average, nothing special - but better alternative than the insane amount of Labatt/Molson products on the shelves today.
Lake of Bays’ Spring Maple Belgian Blonde Ale tops out at 7.0% ABV, which is, in my opinion pretty average alcohol content for a Belgian -style Pale Ale before being classified as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale. The appearance of the Spring Maple is a clear golden, yet caramel body with a hint of haze, minimal amount of carbonation and just a hint of foam on the side of the glass. The aroma intriguing me a bit, the very first thing I’m getting is a bit of a rich nutty aroma that’s reminiscent to a high quality nutty peanut butter sandwich. The maple notes are somewhat sweet, more of a woody scent to it, moderate sweet maple scent to it, but not as mapley as I was expecting and a hint of caramel maltiness. The taste is giving off that peanut butter sandwich flavour again, but as it warms up, I’m beginning to notice those flavours mellow out and turn into a dark maple syrup sweetness. The maple syrup isn’t overpowering or even as syrupy as many maple syrup focused beers out there. The beer is fairly sweet and reminiscent to what a Belgian Pale Ale should taste like with notes of bubble gum, rich bready yeast, bit of a boozey burn and a hint of pepper.
One thing I have to say though is that I’m finding the Belgian yeasts are clashing a bit with the maple syrup, which is why it had that peanut butter vibe to it, but who knows? I’m not someone who is by the book when it comes to beer styles so while a Belgian style Pale Ale with maple syrup doesn’t really make much sense, it’s certainly a great tribute to the French Canadian voyageur traditions of yesteryear that led to the popularity of Cabane à Sucres (Sugar Shacks), so cheers to that!
I like that the pale ale’s maple flavours become more noticeable as it warms up, but I just can’t get over the peanut butter notes.. but as someone who loves Belgian Pale Ales and maple syrup, it’s a nice pale ale that’s not overpowering to the palate, easy to drink and would be best savoured with a tourtière or poutine. You can find Lake of Bays’ Spring Maple Belgian Blonde Ale at the Brandon (Corral Centre and 10th & Victoria) Liquor Mart locations for $9.95 per 750mL bottle.