4AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 16/20
Stouts are known for having an inherently chocolate-like taste so it’s no surprise that some brewers have tried to enhance that taste by releasing chocolate stouts and other similar styles. But why over-indulge instead of opting for flavor balance? That’s what Saranac Vanilla Stout does quite well – mixing the natural chocolate and caramel malts with vanilla flavoring to make for a rich, robust stout.
POUR, COLOR AND AROMA
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this beer since stouts are often bottled or canned with a nitrogen widget to create an extremely creamy body and head. But Saranac blew my mind by pouring to a similar complexion with a thick, foamy, dark brown head that never dissolved and was quite tasty itself.
The beer is almost completely opaque black, with just the slightest indication of a deep shade of red to its body. There didn’t seem to be much carbonation present, but then again this beer is so dark it’s hard to see anything inside of it.
The aroma was standard for a stout: mostly dry with some indication of deeply roasted ingredients. I didn’t discern any vanilla in the nose, but it’s rare beers of this type ever have a particular sweet scent.
Stouts are one of the most acquired tastes when it comes to niche beer styles due to their dry, bitterness across the board. Saranac Vanilla Stout does not exactly smash this stereotype, at least not at first sip. Up front it’s comparable to Guinness with a taste that’s a mixture of coffee, chocolate and caramel. However, as the beer really saturates your palate the vanilla flavoring becomes more pronounced.
This beer has a more deeply-roasted taste of malts than other stouts, almost to the point of having a burnt flavor, and I mean that as a compliment. Vanilla, much like chocolate, is naturally bitter-tasting without sugar added and that’s apparent here. This beer does have a distinct vanilla finish but it’s not overly-sweetened at all, in fact, the flavoring is very subtle. Overall, the flavor is well balanced to give it more of a “twist” taste rather than straight up vanilla.
I find it quite ironic that so many people are intimidated by stouts because they’re “too thick” and “too hard to drink.” I find these complaints are a matter of semantics since a beer’s viscosity is not necessarily proportional to its drinkability. If that were true, Pabst Blue Ribbon would be easy to drink and Guinness would be difficult.
Regardless, Saranac Vanilla Stout is extremely smooth without any friction on the way down. This is likely due to its low carbonation factor and its high quality ingredients. No drinker should have trouble getting through a bottle of this beer.
Another area this beer excels in is the weight category. Stouts are often thought to be rich, thick and creamy, but Saranac Vanilla Stout has the body of an ale or lager. At only 4.8% ABV it’s not too potent of a drink, either. I was able to drink two bottles within an hour and didn’t feel overwhelmed or full at all.
Saranac Vanilla Stout would be a great introductory stout for those who find this type of brew intimidating. I’ll admit stouts are acquired tastes, but at least this beer has the advantage of being very drinkable.