Thursday, November 24, 2011

King of the Case: Saranac Beers

Wherein I will buy a variety case and decide what the best beer in it is.

Saranac Beers (Matt Brewing Company)

Big Moose Ale
A fairly refreshing amber. The hops jump out to a decent extent, but so does the malt. The two elements come off almost equally, resulting in a character that falls short of distinction. There is a little bit of a harsh aftertaste. In the end, it is enjoyable, but not outstanding.

India Style Copper Ale
Doesn't have the feel you would expect from an IPA, but then again I think its recipe looks to fall a little heavier on the malty side. I believe they are going for an IPA/brown mixture. As a result, the mostly aroma-free beer falls more into the hoppiness of a pale ale than an IPA.

Vanilla Stout
I'm not a big stout person at all, but this one had an immediate coffee kick and hints of vanilla bubbling up from beneath. It's neither overly hefty nor undersized, and features a very agreeable scent to go along with a surprisingly smooth finish. It is extremely layered and rewards slow, focused sipping.

Lake Effect Lager
While most lagers are restricted in the flavor department, this one succeeds with a balanced malty punch. It's extremely crisp and could work as a session beer. Could be a nice, simple starter for someone who is interested in getting into craft beer.

Bohemian Pilsener
This one features a wonderful golden color and pleasing floral scent. Super-refreshing with subtle, yet effective hop flavor.

Chocolate Lager
The name of this one tells you all you need to know. A light beer with potent hints of chocolate. Was expecting an overload of chocolate, but it works its magic a lot more under the surface. Falling satisfyingly between a lager and a stout, it is much more than a mere novelty. Still, not one I would want to drink a bunch of in a row due to my stated aversion to stouts.

The Labels
I have never had a Saranac beer before this case, and I believe the reason is because the labels have never appealed to me. When I look at the labels, they seem old-fashioned, as if the beer is one that only a very old man could truly enjoy. If I'm being honest, the fact that I have now bought a case and enjoyed all of their selections to a degree does not change this opinion. The bottle art is understated and quite classic, yes. But it is also a bit boring for my taste. This being said, if I were to pick a label-art winner among the six beers I sampled, I would give it to Big Moose Ale. The red, green, and white Christmas-themed decor calls out to me and sets it apart from its companion. Plus, the shot of the lonely moose is cool. The moose just seems like a fairly bad-azz animal as long as it isn't putting those antlers to work on your car's paint job.

The Winner
It comes down to the Bohemian Pilsener and the Vanilla Stout. The Pilsener with its ideal scent-color-taste combo would seem like the perfect pick. It is just an all-around jewel of a suds experience. However, I'm giving the nod to the Vanilla Stout. While I am not a fan of the genre, even a stout novice can tell when a job is this well done. The drink is just a wonder to savor. It is so complex with the way the chocolate notes hit you right from the start and the vanilla jumps out during the finish. It's one you will want to sip just to bear witness to the physics of it all. If I were going to drink six, I'd go with the Pilsener. But if I were only allowed to drink one, Vanilla Stout is the pick by a nose.

The Pizza Project
Just a nibble:
Single slice:
The full pie:

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