• Don McSwiney

St-Ambroise Érable, McAusland Brewing Inc.

Distinctly rich maple flavour riding on nice toasted caramel notes. Not too sweet and lightly hopped.

While I’m a long-time fan of the German Purity Law, I’m also a fan of beer that tastes good, so when I spotted this seasonal offering from venerable Quebec brewer McAuslan, I felt compelled to try it.

Maple is one of those cilanatro-esque flavours that people either love, or (feel compelled to tell everyone at your table, the waitress, the busboys and several people at adjacent tables that they absolutely-freakin’) hate … So it’s kind of a dicey call as to whether a maple beer will be a pleasant change up, or another disappointing venture into a Starbucks-esque orgy of cloying, sweet pumpkin-spice flavours more suited to cookie dough than beer.

I digress. “If anyone is going to do this well,” I thought, “McAuslan probably will.” They were at the forefront of micro brewing and among the very first in North America to bottle their product for distribution. Also the beer culture in Quebec has produced some nice adjunct products. Adjunct is the ugly word to describe beer with flavouring additions. (According to the Germans and their aforementioned purity law any product brewed with anything but malt, water and hops is not technically a beer but rather a malt beverage.)

Purity law aside, I wasn’t disappointed. The first mouthful gives distinct, rich maple flavour that rides on nice complex, toasted caramel notes. The maple syrup gives it considerable sweetness, which is balanced by the toasted malt. The malt provides black coffee, toasted notes on the finish, and the overall effect is a beer with rich, dark maple flavours – not too sweet and lightly hopped.

Not sure if this is really “sessionable” (don’t get me started on that) but it’s a nice change of pace and makes a delightful hockey-night-in-Canada-after-dinner beer when you might just want one or two. The luscious caramel malts would complement the richness of variety of foods including roasts, spicy chilli or even Mexican or South American cuisine. It would also make a great dessert beer, and would bring out the caramel flavours in a crème brûlée. About $2.90 for a 473-mL can.