Fifth up is a unifying beer if ever there was one. If you like beer, but not sure if you like maple, you’ll like this beer; if you like maple but on the fence regarding beer, this will knock you over the fence. Not sure you like blondes, think you’re more of a darker drinker, think again. This is a beer that will defy you to hate it ….
Indeed, if you thought ales were dark beasts of beer, you’re in for a treat here and no ale series would be complete without a blonde in the mix. Enter this beautiful, quintessentially Canadian blonde from Baysville, Ontario (located between Bracebridge and the southern edge of Algonquin Park, it is in the heart of the Muskoka’s … and Ontario’s “lake district”).
So what would this Ales Bells series be without a blonde … and what’s a “blonde ale” anyway? Well, like the name suggests, blonde ales are very pale in colour. While they’re not as popular in North America as they are in Europe, particularly in those countries ringing the English channel (Belgium, France and the UK), they are not without their examples in Canada. What unifies most of them is their colour. Beyond that the rules get a bit more murky. Still, you need something to assess a beer in its class, so what to look for? Crispness would probably be the key attribute since most blondes tend to have less bitters with just a bit more sweetness for the lighter malts. “Honeyed” would be a good word. They drink easy with lower alcohol and with a lighter body overall … and as a result tend to be quite accessible by many beer drinkers.
Lake of the Bays has taken this style and decided to give it a Canadian twist and infusing it with maple syrup. How does it work? Well, this effervescent brew pours a pure, filtered, liquid gold. Pour it hard and you’ll produce a frothy head … and turn your back, and the head will be gone which is consistent with many lighter and paler ales. The aroma is unmistakeable; even before you pour it, you will smell the maple out of the long neck. Indeed, mixed with the roasted barley malts, the aroma is purely reminiscent of maple-walnut ice cream. To add to this comparison, past the bubbles, which dissipate quickly, is a very ‘creamy’ ale. The failure of too many maple and sweetened beers is that they both taste artificial and ‘too’ sweet. Lake of Bays walks this edge carefully and uses a higher amount of alcohol to maintain a level of balance with the maple … so drink this 7% brew responsibly, because even though it is exceptionally easy drinking, it will easily knock you on your ass as well. And if I was to bet, this is the key to why it is “Belgian” in style vs. British: the alcohol content is quite high so that it rings true of maple but still drinks like a true Belgian blonde.
While the beer is brewed and listed as a spring-time, seasonal ale, I think it is actually a better warm weather drink … and better served with something sweet to balance the maple. If you’re a person who likes breakfast for dinner — or if you like to drink with breakfast — well, you’re in luck. I dare say, if you’re sitting around a campfire in the Muskoka’s and flipping some flapjacks for dinner alongside some breakfast sausage links, this is the perfect beer. Another good pairing would be a banana-nut muffin because this beer also has inklings of nuttiness from the malts which mixes well with the sweetness of the maple. Failing that, this would be an awesome pairing with chocolate cake. On it’s own, it might seem a “bit much” in terms of sweetness and flavour — but that would be like criticizing an ice wine for being too sweet and tasting of honey.
My only knock on this beer is that the elements within it are sometimes loosely connected. The beer tells a story, but it’s a simple story moving from plot point to plot point. It’s not complex in the story or the structure. However, I don’t think that is a particularly bad thing — I would just be careful when you drink this, with what you drink it, and how you drink it: and by the last point, I mean, quaff this beer on a warm sunny day with a rather sweet food. Don’t sip it.
Stats: Belgian Blonde Ale. 7% ABV. Baysville, Ontario.
Colour: Golden, almost the colour of apple juice (filtered)
Mouth Feel: Low-medium carbonation, clean and creamy finish.
Pairing Notes: Pancakes and sausage and/or bacon.