Beer Review: Muckraker Beermaker’s Maple Black & Blue

Name: Maple Black & Blue
Brewing Company: Muckraker Beermaker
Location: Franklin, NJ
Style: Farmhouse Ale – Other
ABV: 7%

A fruity, funky, tasty, and interesting beer that demonstrates flair and inventiveness.

Muckraker_MBBB

From Muckraker’s landing page for the beer:

Farmhouse ale with Pilsner and Wheat malts from our good friends at Rabbit Hill Farms and referemented it on 6lb per gallon of Atlantic County blueberries and blackberries from the amazing people at Pastore Orchards in Hammonton.

While the beer was undergoing an extended refermentation, we drove up to Brattleboro, Vermont, where by happenstance we ran into a just-emptied barrel from the spirit-masters at Saxtons River Distillery.

The American Oak barrel had been first used to age their Sapling maple bourbon, and then to finish a special reserve of their maple liquor of the same name.

We filled a single barrel with the beer and let it age for about nine months in the oak before we keg conditioned it.

Muckraker is one of the more interesting breweries in the State of New Jersey. Owner Tom Troncone (a former journalist, thus the name Muckraker) eschews the standard styles. Sure he has an IPA on draft, but just one of those. Most of his beers are Wild Ales / Spontaneously Fermented Ales. Some of the beers Tom brews blur the lines that typically divide and categorize beer, cider, seltzer, slushie and wine. I’ve been wanting to try some of these beers for a while, especially after hearing Tom on an episode of John Holl’s Drink Beer, Think Beer podcast. Well, I finally stopped in the brewery with some friends since we were in the area on the Sunday before Memorial Day. When I saw a beer made with blueberries and blackberries, I had to give it a try.

The beer I’m given is a blueish purple, which given the quantity of blueberries and blackberries in the beer, is not the least bit surprising. A fruity, funky aroma drifts into my nose and graces my sense of smell. I think I might like this beer.

First sip is all the fruit. Fortunately, I liked the fruits in this one a lot so I like what I’m tasting. I have probably pointed out in the past that blueberry might be my favorite fruit and the blueberries (and blackberries) in this beer are from Hammonton, NJ, the blueberry capital of the world. There’s a slight funk to the beer, more than I’d expect from most Farmhouse ales, but the sweetness and tartness from the blueberries and blackberries balances out the funk nicely. The yeast element is an underlying element that keeps this true to being a beer, particularly a farmhouse ale.

The finish of the beer, for me, is akin to an intriguing journey that began pleasantly and comes to a delightful conclusion. The maple and vanilla come into play in a most welcome fashion. That’s something really nice and unexpected given the fruits, but going back to the description is on point. Hints of maple increase the sweetness and the oak character comes through very nicely. There’s a little bit of vanilla from the barrel which plays extremely well with the copious amounts of berries in the beer. Blueberry and vanilla are a natural combination and while vanilla isn’t in the beer, the way in which oak can evoke hints of vanilla is present and pleasant.

My friend bought me a bottle and the beer from the bottle I drank about a week later seemed quite different. The funk/sour/tart level is amped up considerably and even the color is darker. I don’t get the maple and oak elements quite as much from the bottle, either. One could be forgiven for thinking the beer from the bottle and the beer served on draught are even different beers. The quality is still high, but the flavor profile is different.

Muckraker_MBB_Bottle

Maple Black & Blue is a fascinating, complex, experimental beer that eschews the norm when it comes to beer in general and farmhouse ales in particular. If you are interested in trying really well-made beer outside the normal/standard styles, this one fits the bill as do most of the beers from Muckraker Beermaker. If funky with some fruit is a beer style you like, give this one a try.

Recommended, link to 4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.