Framingham's Jack's Abby Brewing and Warren, Vermont's Lawson's Finest Liquids are two of the most respected breweries in New England. Jack's Abby puts hoppy twists on traditional German lagers. Founded by the three Hendler brothers, it's a much larger operation than Sean Lawson's Vermont nanobrewery, which is "tucked in the woods, on the east flank of Lincoln Mountain" about 90 minutes from Burlington. Among Lawson's most famous beers are an aromatic double-IPA, "Double Sunshine", and several award-winning beers brewed with maple.
The two breweries collaborated recently on a beer they called "Smoked Maple Lager", which fits snugly into the wheelhouses of both. One of Jack's Abby's flagship beers is "Smoke & Dagger", a traditional Rauchbier. Maple is a primary ingredient for Lawson. It seems like a perfect match. This beer is brewed with hand-sourced wood from Vermont and one gallon of maple syrup per barrel of beer. It's rounded out with lactose sugar and brown malt.
The collaboration pours a translucent dark amber with ample carbonation. One whiff produces charred wood smoke and brown bread. It's hard to smell the sweet.
A couple sips in and the mouthfeel is delicate. There's plenty of burnt wood up front, but it's subtle. Maple lingers in the aftertaste, leaving a sweet sensation on my tongue. Like everything these two great brewers do this beer is restrained. It's important to remember that this is still a lager, more a Rauchbier with a touch of maple sweetness than some kind of syrupy, after-dinner sipper.
Lawson's Finest Liquids has a very limited distribution area, but the collaboration is available wherever Jack's Abby products are sold. I picked up three bottles (I like it, OK?) for $4.99 each.