We loved the beers so much at our last Southern Tier tasting that we weren't content to stop with the seven fine imperial beers we tried the first time around, so the big brewery from that little town upstate is back on the 2 O'Clock Tasting table for round two.
This time, we turned our attention to Southern Tier's Cuvée Series, a lineup of once-brewed American Strong Ales that were each aged on different kinds of oak. We tasted the first two entries in the series, and while we heard that Cuvée 3 was made from a blend of its predecessors, we thought it just wouldn't be the same if we tried to recreate it in our glasses on the spot.
Aged on French oak, the original Cuvée was the color of dark honey, a perfectly clear gold delicately tinged with orange and brown that poured with a fleeting head. The soothing aromas of honey, lemon, tea and subtle spices were a gentler counterpart to boozier side of the nose. While we detected the expected oak influence, we found it was secondary to honey and stronger spice flavors that meshed neatly with the gently tingling carbonation. While the beer is powerful enough to leave behind a lingering mild alcohol burn, it remains strikingly dry and light-bodied for its strength.
The quickly emerging consensus concluded that the second Cuvée was a dead ringer for iced tea in appearance, pouring with no head and only the tiniest carbonation bubbles. The most prominent aromas were the still-subtle hints of caramel and dark fruit, but the American oak used to age Cuvée 2 left a much stronger impression on the palate than its French forbearer. The obvious woodiness joined fruity flavors of cherry and figs in this slightly thicker brew that deemphasized the alcohol content in favor of a notably sweeter finish.
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