Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Maple Bourbon Adam Tasting

Maple imperial stouts... so hot right now. Like coconut last year, mole a few years ago, and whiskey-barrel-aged before that (not that any of those have gone anywhere). Maple syrup is a comparatively mild flavor, difficult to showcase in a flavorful style without resorting to "natural" flavorings or fenugreek.

Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout was the first to really get beer nerds excited about maple-stout. I aged a Breakfast Stout inspired recipe on maple syrup-soaked bourbon oak cubes to replicate the contribution of bourbon barrels that subsequently held maple syrup, but only got a hint of flavor.

More recently Tree House has Good Morning sitting at #1 on BeerAdvocate. I was amazed how intense the maple flavor was, really jumped out of the growler (although I’ve talked to other people who had growlers from later in the same batch with only a hint of maple, not sure if it was palate or beer differences). Toppling Goliath’s Mornin’ Delight is #2 on BA (although I’ve yet to get a chance to sample it).

Rumor is that some well-thought-of maple beers are brewed with 10% or more by volume (e.g., a half gallon of maple syrup in a five gallon batch!). That seemed like too much simple sugar, so for this batch of Adam I added only a quart (5%) of Grade B as fermentation slowed. Some brewers suggest dosing the syrup into cold beer to prevent refermentation, but I didn't want that much sweetness in the finished beer. Others suggest adding it early in the boil to encourage the Maillard reaction between the sugars and proteins, but I worried that the fermentation would scrub out volatile aromatics. I wasn't worried about boiling them off though, as maple syrup is created by boiling for many hours.

A glass of Adam with maple syrup and bourbon.Usually I bottle big beers to space out my enjoyment, but not 13% ABV big! I didn't want to risk two cases of uncarbonated beer (like my first Adam clone) so I kegged and force carbonated. Nice to have the option to pour a few ounces without committing to a whole 12 oz bottle, but tough to tie-up a tap long-term. After a few months I disconnected the keg to put the Saphir Pilsner on. Doubt I'll tap it again until next fall. I actually dusted off the last bottle of my original Adam clone to share while brewing a more traditional adambier with a group of homebrewers in Fargo, ND a few months ago: still delicious, and Hoppy Halloween was a blast!

Maple Bourbon Adam

Appearance – Brunette body with a tan head. Dark enough to be nearly opaque, but clear edges when held at an angle. Decent retention for a liquor-infused strong ale.

Smell – Light woodsy smoke, caramel, vanilla, and hints of clean ethanol. Varied aroma, but given everything that is in there not especially intense. Not too phenolic as I’ve heard complaints about Briess cherry wood smoked malt.

Taste – Sticky-intense caramel maltiness. Bourbon notes come through in the finish (vanilla with a hint of butterscotch), about the right intensity. Mellow maple syrup contribution despite accounting for 12% of the fermentables. Finish is a nice blend of oak and hardwood smoke. The cherry wood malt melds well with the bourbon and maple, but none of them are bold. How some of those commercial maple beers get such an assertive aroma/flavor is beyond me!

Mouthfeel – Full and luscious. Despite being on the same PSI as my other kegs this one never seems quite as carbonated, not that I’m complaining!

Drinkability & Notes – The blend of smoke, booze, and maple evokes my trip to Montreal and dinner at Au Pied de Cochon, which was the goal. A hulking 13% ABV beer in a relatively drinkable cloak. That is good and bad – for that much alcohol I want a WOW beer and this is a pleasant sipper. I’m not an “It hides its alcohol well” fan, I’d much rather a 9% beer drank like 13% than vice versa (not hot or boozy, but rich, full, complex, intense etc.)! Should age beautifully!


  1. I just added 8-10 oz of Vermont maple liqueur (not your cheapest hard liquor out there) to a 5.5 gallon batch of oak-aged barleywine. Didn't have to worry about adding fermentables, but I get all the joy of the flavor. I added about half of that to an oak-aged dark sour stout I made two years ago, and while I've yet to bottle it off, samples have firmly set that sour as my favorite creation to date.

  2. I'm wondering if you were to overly dry the beer out, but use extra amounts of something like oats to provide extra viscosity, then pasteurize and add maple syrup to bring the final gravity up to a more normal finish for a big stout.

    I've got a coffee stout that was 20% flaked oats, but finished at 1.014, instead of my target of 1.020. I'm wondering if I add maple syrup to bring my gravity up to my target, what the effects would be to flavor, mouthfeel, and aroma.

  3. I use maple syrup left over from pancakes on regular basis. I used as much as 18 ounces in a 5-gallon saison batch with no noticeable maple. It would an interesting experiment to determine when it acts as just a simple sugar and when it will impart some maple character.

  4. Maple liquor is an interesting idea, is it just fermented/distilled maple syrup, or is it "flavored?"

    There is a big different flavor-wise between the dextrins that are usually left after fermentation is complete, and the simple sugars that maple syrup provides. The gravity might make sense, but the flavor would be much sweeter than you were used to for the same FG. It's easy enough to dose a sample and taste for yourself!

  5. As far as I can tell, according to the bottle I have (Green Mountain Organic Liqueur), it appears to be all natural fermented and distilled maple syrup. Didn't think about it until I heard of another homebrewer using it, but it seems kinda like a "duh!" drink to have. If we have distilled molasses, distilled barley, and distilled grapes, how could we not have distilled maple syrup?

    Oh, and I forgot to mention, this stuff is so insanely delicious, I'd be perfectly fine with pouring this over some pancakes. Doesn't even have the sharp alcohol bite like you get from Bourbon (do NOT get maple infused bourbon, it isn't the same). Just a little warmth on the back of the throat with a smooth maple finish to calm everything down.

  6. From their website: "At our distillery, the maple is blended with our six times distilled organic base in a meticulous, crafted by hand process."

    To me it sounds like the base isn't maple syrup, they just blend maple syrup into a vodka-like base alcohol. It sounds like there are "eau de vie d'érable" that are distilled and aged fermented maple syrup/sap.

  7. I fermented maple syrup from my friend who makes syrup. He gave me 5 gallons of syrup and i went at it as making mead. I used 3 gallons of syrup and topped of 2 gallons water. It started out 1.135 and it finished 1.040. It has a very maple flavor with some burbon notes. I would be more than happy to send you a bottle if your interested.

  8. I wouldn't say no to something that sounds that delicious, send me an email!

  9. I enjoy this beer, however I'm finding it more challenging every day to get it, seems as if it's wii seller for whichever reason but the certainly better than a lot of the common commercial brand names, try it and also educate your palette, cheers!

  10. What part of the season and what part of the boil also contribute. The dark, thick grade b stuff you get at the end of boils and more often end of season have a much more concentrated flavor and have less fermentable sugar than the thinner syrup that is more commonly put on shelves. It definitely gives you a better maple flavor.

  11. I'm using maple liqueur that I've aged on oak chips & vanilla as a primer. I used 100% maple sap, a variety of dark malts, syrup, and espresso in the brewing process. Should be bottled this week!

  12. Have you done another maple version yet? I have a 10% abv stout that I'm thinking of adding maple syrup to, I've been reading that a good way to keep the flavor is to cold crash before adding the maple syrup, thoughts? I was able to taste morning delight for the first time a couple weeks ago, and I live 2 hours from Toppling Goliath...

  13. This beer is still on tap, considering infusing toasted maple bark to boost the maple flavor. Cold crashing will preserve the simple sugar, so it may or may not achieve the flavor you are looking for. Recently had Beyond Good and Evil from Hill Farmstead, and it sounds like it wasn't bottled for this batch because of the (obvious) residual sweetness.