It's something I look for whenever my travels take me eastward. I never know quite where to find it, but with a little diligence, I usually locate it. I'm talking about the many excellent beers from Southern Tier Brewing. And yes, drinking it from a plastic cup in a hotel room does not seem to be giving this beer the respect it deserves. But sometimes when travelling, I just have to improvise. It's also difficult to hold off opening the beer until I bring it home.
Southern Tier was founded by Phineas DeMink and Allen ("Skip") Yahn, who purchased the defunct Old Saddleback Brewing Co. in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 2003. All the equipment was removed, brought back to Lakewood, NY, located in the far west corner of New York state. (It's close to Jamestown, NY, where 10,000 Maniacs are from.) The Brewery began distributing regionally in February 2004. Southern Tier has grown steadily since then, and according to their website, distributes to over 34% of the United States. (Sadly, California does not seem to be part of that 34%.) The good news for Southern Tier fans is that they are currently moving to a larger brewery.
All this growth does not surprise me at all, as I read a lot of god things about their beers, and of the few I've tried, not one was worse than excellent. Here's a brief run down of those I've tried and have notes for.
The bitter chocolate flavors from the roasted malt blend well with the tart, raspberry fruit, with no real sweetness to speak of. Porters are one of my favorite styles and this is nice little twist on the style without seeming gimmicky.
Creme Brulee Imperial Stout
This reconstruction of Creme Brulee in an Imperial Stout was one of my 2009 Bay Area Beer Runner Award Winners for "Best Desert Beer" . It starts out with a strong vanilla flavor with lactose sugar providing a custard-like character, roasted malt playing the role of the caramelized sugar, and just a whisper of Columbus and Horizon hops giving it balance. You know it's going to be good just from the aroma, and it just goes down silky smooth. This could have been easily been sickening sweet, but hits all the right notes for just an excellent beer drinking experience.
Mokah Imperial Stout
Mokah is another great dessert beer from Southern Tier. It comes across as a sweet, creamy beer milk shake with plenty of rich and well blended chocolate and coffee flavors.
Imperial Cherry Saison
Very restrained cherry tartness and a light woody flavor from the oak barrel aging really add a lot of depth to the strong, zippy, yeasty spiciness going on here. Very smooth for all those strong flavors, and just seems so artfully blended.
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