My wife and I like to travel as much as our free time and budget will allow. Last summer we managed to get to Ireland, driving all over the southern-half of the island, came home and went on a prairie road trip to Winnipeg to pay my respects to The Tragically Hip, then drove the Jasper Parkway between Banff and Jasper. We traveled many miles and drank many drinks. When the two of us were met with a four-day weekend in November we started looking for somewhere to go that was within driving distance from our home in Calgary, while still being new. Neither of us had ever been to Fernie, but family members had already convinced my wife she needed to go, describing the bagels at Big Bang Bagels (she will travel long distances for the promise of quality breakfast foods). I didn’t need to be convinced to pack up the car because I was familiar with the work of Fernie Brewing Company, and the prospect of seeing the brewery in person was something I was eager to do.
The brewery is on the outskirts of the town and I could see it from the highway as we drive into town late at night. I went to bed with dreams of hops and barley in my head, anticipating what was to come the next day. When my wife and I walked into the taproom the the following afternoon, we were the only ones there. We took a seat at the bar and each ordered a flight of beer, being careful to request complementary samples so we could have the whole lineup represented in front of us. I tend to like darker beer than my wife, which is why I was immediately drawn to the Sap Sucker Maple Porter, and having a taste of it in the flight necessitated bringing a bottle home with me.
Appearance: When Lord Byron wrote about being as “dark as a sullen cloud before the sun,” he might as well have been talking about his beer (Sorry. The English major in me comes out when I’ve had a drink or two. I don’t get invited to a lot of parties, well at least not twice). There is a slight hue of red when you hold the glass up to the light and search for it, but it is mostly dark, dark black. There is a large tan head that quickly raises into three fingers of foam, although it doesn’t stay around for longer than a quick hello.
Aroma: Smelling the beer you get notes of coffee and chocolate, and the aroma of sweetness, but I would be hard pressed to say there is any maple scent coming off this beer. It’s more reminiscent of molasses than maple syrup; it is very welcoming and I want to have that scent waft around me whenever I can, but I wouldn’t be able to say it’s maple without seeing it printed on the side of the bottle.
Taste: Drinking the beer you are confronted first with malt flavours that give the beer a very nice, smooth taste. That’s followed up with a sweetness that, again, reminds me more of molasses than it does of maple syrup. Not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just not what I expect from a maple-monikered beer. The beer is delicious, it just doesn’t have maple at the forefront like I was expecting.
Feel: This is a medium bodied beer that is incredibly smooth. It’s silky on the palate and incredibly easy to drink. My wife, who doesn’t really like porters and stouts, is helping me drink this bomber bottle, which attests to this beer’s drinkability.
Overall: This is a good beer. It’s a well balanced, easy-drinking beer that is substantial enough to have something to curl up with at night, but doesn’t overpower you with any one flavour. It is a very accessible porter that is quite pleasing. I would’ve liked a stronger maple flavour. This beer doesn’t go far enough with the flavour that was promised. I would prefer a rich maple porter that leaves no doubt about what the flavour is.