Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Golden Maple Root Beer - at least they didn't add cheese.

Golden Maple Root Beer by appearance is the one root beer that would not have what we mental health folks call “face validity”. It looks less like a root beer and more like that “other” beer. I spotted it out amongst the many other brews at Jungle Jim's. Yes by its looks alone one would swear that the guys at Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee had simply placed one of their beers in a plastic bottle. Although I have never seen beer in plastic, I am sure it has been done. In this case however these guys jumped out of the box (or bottle so to speak) in a much different way. Not only did they make a root beer look like a pilsner beer but they also sweetened it with Wisconsin Maple Syrup. Now Wisconsin might be known for many things, cheese, the Packers, and the Dells but maple syrup is not typically on that list. In fact I did some quick digging around and as I suspected Vermont is by far the greatest producer of maple syrup in America. Behind Vermont, Maine comes in a very distant second place. So why Wisconsin syrup instead of Vermont syrup? A better question is why put it in root beer?

I remember this guy back in high school who painted his nails black, wore makeup, dressed in all dark clothes, and used white colored contacts. Nobody liked that guy, then he started dressing like that and they liked him even less. I mention this example because as I look back to that experience I can appreciate that this guy was simply trying to be noticed out of the crowd of so many other kids that nobody liked. Instead of just being another guy that no one knew he became the guy everyone knew, he was that guy with weird eyes that painted his nails and dressed in black. Although he never got a name he certainly got mentioned in every crowd. The jocks talked about him in terms of how far they could kick him across the football field. The geeks created theories about how he may have been a clone of some musician. The preppy kids started rumors that he was only passing because he had used the black arts to seduce the teachers into granting him perfect grades. The cheerleaders dared each other to ask him where he got his nails done. The stoners began asking around if they could score whatever he was “on”. And us other no named kids that no one liked watched in awe as one amongst us changed his stars and made it to the big leagues. Even if he didn’t get a name at least he got noticed. I had a clinical supervisor that once told me that the only thing worse than being talked about was to not be talked about at all. Us no named kids knew this very well. So what does this have to do with Golden Maple? This root beer is the painted nail, weird eyed, dressed in black brew of the root beer world.

If it looked like all other root beer and was sweetened like other brews I would have never noticed it. There is much that can be said about being easily identifiable from among your peers. I am very confident that if you lined up a dozen brews in clear glasses that I would easily be able to select Golden Maple without even a sniff much less a taste. “Yup, that one, the one that looks more like pee.” Not to say that it tastes like pee, but in looks it has all other brews beat in looking like fresh warm urine. So now that I have set the stage {chuckle, chuckle} let’s talk about how it tastes. First it is better than what I would expect urine to taste like. In fact it is quite good, smooth, foamy, and very sweet. The carbonation is very light and in many ways so too is the traditional root beer flavor. When compared to the standard I was hard pressed to identify the root beer extract amongst the very distinct flavor of maple syrup. Now this brew is also sweetened with cane sugar so with that double shot of sweetness you are certain to be over taken by all of this first. Eventually however, you will be introduced to the subtle and certain familiar flavor of our beloved American brew. Yes this is a root beer but yes this is like no other root beer you will ever enjoy and yes you will enjoy this root beer.

The reality is that despite being so different, that kid back in high school was one of the most courageous kids we had the privilege of passing in the halls. We made fun of him for his differences but in so doing we validated his presence, even his place amongst those whom we would never forget. Golden Maple may not be the best root beer you will ever taste but you will remember it long after you have tried the other hundreds of brews out there. For its courage to be different and for the smooth and gentle approach to reach root beer status, I grant 4 Frosty Mugs to Golden Maple, truly a brew I will never forget!!!


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