A few years ago, in a fit of insanity mixed with naivete, my wife and I attempted the Master Cleanse diet. I linked to it, but for the lazy, here's the rundown: you survive on nothing but a mixture of maple syrup, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and water for a number of days. You also take a daily salt enema, where you drink a salt solution designed to scrub your insides and clean you out. We lasted 4 days, and it was absolute hell. Additionally, it permanently moved the flavor of “maple syrup” into the unpleasant category, right next to old milk and the breath of a rabid dog. All that posed a problem for me as I look at Short's new brown ale. . .brewed with maple syrup.
Before we discuss how the beer tastes, I think it's prudent, after bringing The Wizard's kitsch goth theme to light, that we spend a minute talking about what is on the label for the Woodmaster. I understand that it takes a certain special type of person to make a living by screwing holes into maple trees and letting their
lifeblood sap trickle out. But does he have have to be staring at me with those dark, cavernous eyes and grinning, toothy smile while pushing the screw deep into the flesh of the maple tree? Blond Vermont guy is creepy.
Luckily, this beer is anything but creepy. It pours like any brown would, with perhaps a bit less head than I'd like (about half a finger that dissipates quickly and leaves a nice lacing on the glass). It smells sweet – thick, cloying flavors of maple ride over a light nuttiness that really doesn't develop in the nose.
This beer really comes together once it's tasted. It has a velvety smoothness, unusual for a brown ale but not unexpected as this heavyweight brings 9.5% alcohol by volume to the table. The alcohol really mutes the sweetness of the maple syrup without masking it, and lets the roasted malt play with the toasted pecans in the foreground. Hops are all but nonexistent in this aggressive brown ale, letting the balance come from the juxtaposition of sweet maple syrup and hearty nut flavor from the pecans. This won't replace Good Humans for my favorite winter beer, but that could be because of my previous traumatic experience with maple syrup.