Saturday, 6 March 2010

A Saranac Trilogy

While on a Flying Dog shopping frenzy a few weeks ago, I also ordered a few Saranac beers from Matt Brewing Company, Utica, New York. I'd never heard of them, so as usual, I'm on for having a new beer experience.

Their Black Forest "Bavarian Style Black Beer" caught my attention, and of course, being in Germany had to be the first to be opened. My wife pointed out that the Black Forest is actually in her home state of Baden-Württemberg, but then the neck label really refers to the Adirondacks, and a dark place in there, so it's really just using a cool, recognisable German name. Besides, with the addition of caramel syrup, it can only be said to be influenced by German dark beers, as in lagerbiers here at least that'd be verboten! Not that I care, really.

The aroma is sweet, in a berry kind of way, with chocolate-caramel notes. All quite subdued, but pleasant. First impression on taking a mouthful is it's very smooth and soft. That vaguely chocolate-caramel element comes though here, too, but with a slight roasted edge and while as malt driven as many dark German beers, it feels a tad hoppier, not that I'd complain about that. The finish provides a lasting impression of blackcurrants, pine and a touch of cardboard that grates after a while. This started off as a lovely beer to sink into, but that almost oxidised note left me a little disappointed.

I decided I'd be saved by the Saranac Pale Ale, what with American pale ales being one of my favourite beer types, with my expectations increasing as it looked decidedly rich and thick during the pour, with a solid amber colour and dense, creamy-looking head. It gives off a faintly chocolate-orange aroma, with a pinch of sulphur thrown in. Interesting. Flavour-wise, it has a light, sweetish, caramel malt profile with a touch of mandarin orange and a pithiness down the middle, finishing with a touch of spice and a carbonic sizzle on the tongue. As it settles a bit, this carbonic note becomes less pronounced, and more fruity, toffee notes emerge, along with that sulphurous kick suggested in the aroma. It's nicely, certainly not aggressively, bittered but perhaps a bit thin in the malt body department which, I felt, left the hops floating about and ending p leaving a slight detergent note to the finish.

The Saranac India Pale Ale is similarly richly amber-hued and, if anything, turns up the volume on that sulphuric nose. First thoughts on tasting are 'Juicy!', with a freshly squeezed orange juice hop character sitting on soft caramel. It's pleasant on the tongue with a decent malt-hop balance, thankfully. The finish is slightly minty-feeling, with pithy undertones and, again like it's sister, a bit of a detergent wash to the finish that, from my perspective, spoils the enjoyment. Shame, as it started so good.

I won't give up on them yet, so if I see more from their range I'll be giving them a test drive. I think it was just one of those nights were the beer gods were not smiling down on me.


BeerReviewsAndy said...

I had one of those nights last night, was a bit gutted about a couple of the beers I had as I was expecting good things..

Velky Al said...

I recently had the IPA whilst at my wife's cousin's place in North Carolina. It was ok, best drunk quick though.

Barry M said...

I hate those nights, Andy. Had six beers and it wasn't till the last one that I went Ahhh, nice. Then again, after six beers it could have been anything!

Good assessment, Al. I think while drinking they were fine, it's just the finish did them in for me.

Leigh said...

Although a bit down on the beers - don't you love finding beers you've never had? Like a child in a sweet shop, me. On balance, I think we can all handle a bad beer once in a while.