September 30th, 2012 8:13 pm | by JOHN LOCANTHI Food & Drink | Posted In: The President of Beers

President of Beers: #13

#9: Magic Hat Brewing, South Burlington, Vermont

We're drinking the flagship craft beer from every state in the Union, counting down from 50-1, to find which is home to the President of Beers.

#13 #9: Magic Hat Brewing, South Burlington, Vermont

State: Vermont and its neighbor New Hampshire are frustratingly similar-looking, but it turns out there’s more to the state than costing people points on geography quizzes. Vermont is the second-least populous state in the union. It is also the only member of New England that is not bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. Montpelier is the smallest capital city in the country. Vermont does, however, have more breweries per capita than any other state and is the nation's leading producer of maple syrup.

Brewery: Magic Hat began in 1994 and has since grown to become the sixth largest craft brewery in the country. Along the way it purchased Pyramid in 2008—which is why Pyramid did not represent Washington in the President of Beers—and was purchased by the purveyors of Genessee Cream Ale in 2010.

Beer: #9, dubbed a “not quite pale ale,” is the most popular beer from Magic Hat. It finished with a remarkably high score in the election for an ale with a 48 on RateBeer and a 78 on Beer Advocate.

Difficulty of Obtaining in Oregon: Moderate. Magic Hat mostly only distributes east of the Rockies, but it can be found in a few stores in California or ordered online.

Rating: 71.5

PHOTO: Cameron Browne
Magic Hat describes #9 as “an ale whose mysterious and unusual palate will swirl across your tongue and ask more questions than it answers.” And it’s not far off. It pours a light golden amber with a light, short-lasting head. The sickly sweet aroma of canned pears floats out of the open bottle. Then you get the sweet, remarkably bland flavor of the beer which is gone almost as soon as it arrives. Unless you are drinking an entire six-pack of #9, you might question whether or not you’re actually drinking beer. The other question this beer leaves me with is “how did this unremarkable fruity beer finish so highly in the taste off?”

Many of my previous posts in the President of Beers have discussed states with young or underdeveloped brewing cultures or bizarre brewing laws, but Vermont falls into neither category. Homebrewing is not only legal here, but they have their own guru for it. Vermont raised the cap on alcohol content in beer to 16 percent, and it can be sold in supermarkets. There used to be a silly growler law—growlers could only be filled by brewers at the breweries where the beer was brewed—but that was fixed two years ago.

Vermont is an advanced beer state, and we salute that.

The state is also home to an antiquated style of beer utilizing the state’s most famous product: maple syrup. Or the sap of the maple tree, to be more specific. While we’re used to the light brown sugary sweet sap that makes our waffles and pancakes so orgasmically delicious, the sap at the end of the harvesting season is a different matter. It’s much thicker, darker, and has a stronger maple taste to it. In the olden days, Vermont farmers—never wont to let anything go to waste—boiled this down and turned it into sap ale.

Sap beer has been making a comeback, starting with Fiddlehead Brewing’s Frog Run Sap Beer. The lack of written recipes for it has led to an interesting learning experience with results ranging from undrinkable to maple-flavored moonshine. But, hey, it couldn’t be any worse than Rogue’s Bacon Maple Ale.

Musician John Cassel even made a song about this very Vermontian brew in the ‘70s.

Old man with the sugarin' through 
What can you be lookin' for here 
Well, son we're gonna start brewin' 
Sap beer!

(The entire horrible song can be found here)

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