Norm and I are officially sick of winter. In order to get our minds in a better place, we've decided to drink some beers that remind us of summer. I chose a Belgian farmhouse with maple syrup to remind me of a time when the trees actually had leaves on them and Norm decided to do a lager that reminds him of time spent chilling by the waterfront.
This second beer, and the first non-holiday beer, we're reviewing by Southern Tier. They hail from Lakewood, New York and have been bringing us beer since 2002. Most of the U.S. can find their beers, including every state east of the Mississippi River (minus South Carolina and Mississippi...suckers!), the three states that make up the West Coast, and a few others. To see if you're in that wonderful zone, here's their beer finder map.
Grand Arbor is a Belgian farmhouse ale brewed with maple syrup, so in theory it's a great breakfast beer. It pours golden-yellow color and is topped with nearly two fingers of head. It has that distinct farmhouse smell to it and the maple syrup seems hidden in the aroma. When drinking Grand Arbor, the maple syrup still remained hidden. It's very smooth and slightly fruity with a honey-like sweetness to it in the beginning and then ends with a spicy/peppery note. There is constant lacing around the glass and some mild carbonation to it, but as far as farmhouse ales go, this is rather light on carbonation. And while an official number for its IBU isn't given, I imagine it would be around 30-40 as there is some slight bitterness but nothing too strong.
It's quite a good beer. And that could be a problem if you're not sharing. Grand Arbor is sold in 750 mL bottles (25.4 ounces) and is 8% ABV, so good luck being sober after one of these bottles. This one will set you back $8.99 for the 750 ml, but that's not terrible in terms of what you're getting.
The first two Southern Tier beers I tried I was not a fan of, so I was hesitant to try more of their beers. However, I was wrong. Since my initial encounter, I have really enjoyed every single Southern Tier beer I have tried (about five or six at this point). This one is no different. 8/10
With the temperatures still below freezing outside, winter has over stayed its welcome like a bad guest at a party. The cold is usually synonymous with bad things. You catch a cold. You get cold feet. You receive the cold shoulder. You get left out in the cold. The cold is also responsible for me gaining weight. I blame the cold for watching too much TV. I blame the cold for the dog peeing in the house. What good comes from cold? Well, there is Lagers!
Fermented at around 10 degrees Celsius, lagers ferment around 10 - 20 degrees colder than ales. So for the sake of finding something redeeming about the cold, lagers will have to do.
The lager I'll be giving a go is named Lager of the Lakes, from the very well respected Bell's Brewery in Kalamazoo, Michigan. This runs around $9.99 a six pack, is fairly available and has a modest 5.0% ABV.
Lager of the Lakes pours to a hazy, light golden tone. Sediment was present as I could not see clear though to the other side. The head was minimal and the finger or so of lacing lasted for but a couple minutes. Carbonation was average.
The nose lends to malt and floral notes, but not in large doses. Very mild and sweet. Leaves the impression that this will be very easy to drink.
The taste was even sweeter than I expected. It's also very light and drinkable, and that I did expect. A decent balance between the bready malts and bittering hops. But the malts have their dominance on the back end. Light citrus flavors are present as well. Possibly lemon.
Over all this is a nice beer. I wouldn't run out to get it. But if I had a sixer easily available, I could see throwing these down with some salty snacks. Refreshing and simple. 6.5/10.