Arts & Culture / Mosaic / November 4, 2010

Weekly Brew: Southern Tier

Southern Tier Brewing Company is located in Lakewood, New York, and has achieved national recognition for some of their more flavorful beers. Two of its more popular — and talked about —beers are Pumking, which I reviewed and thoroughly enjoyed last week, and Crème Brulée, an imperial milk stout that actually tastes like you are consuming liquefied crème brulée, although it is on the sweet side. Here are some other examples of their beers.

Southern Tier Porter (American Porter, 5.2 percent abv): A dark beer, even for the style, that only lets light through on the edges of the beer. The light sand colored head quickly evaporates to the edges but leaves adequate lacing down the sides of the glass. It smells like sweet and roasted malts, a little bit of coffee and a surprisingly amount of licorice, which is not typically a major component in porters. The licorice is even more present in the taste of the beer but is balanced by a roasted malt backbone and quite a bit of coffee. There is a hint of piney, earthy hops, which seems to go very well with the licorice. Not only is this medium-bodied beer complex and flavorful but it is almost too drinkable — as I could drink this all night. This is probably one of the better porters that I have had, and I really appreciate the licorice flavor, as it is something a little unique for the style.

Southern Tier IPA (American IPA, 6.9 percent abv): Before I start this review, I should say I cannot guarantee the freshness of this beer as I purchased it in an unrefrigerated ‘mix a six’ along with a horribly old and oxidized pale ale. IPAs (and nearly all hoppy beers) should be consumed as fresh as possible. That being said, it pours an extremely clear copper with another quickly dissipating head. I do not pick up much in the nose, only some faint piney hops. The taste makes up for it though. Initially the sweet caramel and crystal malts come through but then the piney, grapefruit hops take over. It is fairly hoppy towards the end, but not too bitter. In the middle, the malt and hops converge at an ultra addictive point, where the malt perfectly balances the hops. Again, I’m not sure how fresh the bottle I tasted was, but I can say it was fresh enough to conclude that Southern Tier makes one of my favorite East Coast IPAs.

Southern Tier Oaked Aged Unearthy IPA (Imperial IPA, 11 percent abv): My first oak aged IPA (which refers to an IPA that has either been aged in oak barrels or fermented with oak chips) is a dark, orangish red. I can only pick up a hint of citrus hops in the smell. The taste picks up where the smell left off with some initial bitter citrus flavor from the hops. I then pick up some sweet malts that almost remind me of a barely wine-type sweetness. The taste finishes with a burned, boozy oak flavor. It is a pretty interesting beer, but I have to say I’m a little disappointed. I suspect oak-aged IPAs are not my forte. I love a citrusy hop bomb and the oaky vanilla flavor oak aging provides to stouts and other malty beers, but I feel these two flavors may not work well together. I also feel this smooth, medium-bodied beer is a tad on the malty side, too.

Although the Oaked Aged Unearthy was a disappointment, I think Southern Tier has shown me they can do more than just create some impressive specialty beers. All of the beers that I have had from them have been finely crafted, flavorful and deviated just enough from the style guidelines to keep things interesting.

John Christiansen

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