Saturday, January 10, 2009

Saranac Imperial IPA

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 14/20
Chad9976 (736) - Albany, New York, USA - APR 15, 2010
UPDATED: SEP 30, 2012 If you know me you know I am a huge fan of India Pale Ale but I’m not a fan of imperials beers – so what happens when the two meet? I was curious about this myself, especially considering the beer in question was made by one of my all-time favorite breweries. Saranac Imperial IPA is pretty much exactly what I expected – a very strong IPA in more ways than one.


This beer poured very smoothly to a beautiful, clear shade of medium orange with noticeable carbonation. It formed a small, white, soapy head which dissipated quickly but did leave some lacing on the glass. The aroma was standard for an IPA with a strong scent of hops noticeable, but any kind of citrus or fruity notes were missing (but then again, it didn’t reek of alcohol either).


A beer with a strong hop bite is something I almost always enjoy, but even a connoisseur like me knows when enough is enough. Containing a hop strength of 85 IBUs, Saranac Imperial IPA is definitely one hoppy, bitter beer. But as is the case with such strong beers, they do reach a point where the bitterness no longer matters and all the other elements take over.

This beer is made with 10 different hops and 10 different malts so trying to detect any distinct ingredients is near impossible. What I did taste was a very bitter and yet rather sweet beer that had something of a syrup-like quality to it. I’ve noticed that imperial beers tend to have a thick, supremely rich taste to them and this beer is no exception. Not that it tastes bad, because it still is able to maintain the basic fundamentals of an IPA and beer in general. Still, I would’ve liked a beer with more genuine flavor, rather than something so seemingly gimmicky.


It’s kind of ironic that a strong beer like Saranac Imperial IPA would finish so smooth considering it has such a strong hop bite to its mouthfeel. Although that “bite” is part of the appeal to such a hoppy drink. Still, this beer does make itself known and has a very warming effect on the mouth and throat. It leaves a dry aftertaste on the tongue as well, but it’s tolerable.


At 8.5% ABV, this might actually be rather light for an “imperial” beer since many brews have a tendency to hit double digits in the potency category. Surprisingly, the alcohol content itself is not all that noticeable in the beer’s scent, taste or finish. However, after just one bottle I could definitely feel the effects and after two I was quite buzzed.  I’m sure the beer has at least 200 or even 300 calories per serving, though, as I did feel a little full after drinking it.


Saranac Imperial IPA is a perfect example of what I would label a “your call” type of beer. I can find both good and bad points in it, as will different types of drinkers. I find it’s good in a small serving, but didn’t do a lot to impress me. Experience imperial drinkers are much more likely to enjoy it, and those who just want a really potent beer will find it easy to drink. To me it was adequate – nothing more, nothing less.

Grade: 6/10

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