3.7AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 15/20
I try not to get too hung up on beer styles since some of the best beers are those that deviate from their "style." Olde Saratoga IPA is definitely a beer that does not conform entirely to the American India pale ale style - which isn’t to say it’s a great beer nor is it a bad one. This is the kind of beer a craft beer geek can appreciate for its uniqueness alone.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
I poured a 12oz bottle into a Irish tulip pint glass. This beer has the standard appearance of an American IPA: clear orange body with plenty of bubbles and a perfectly-proportioned, frothy, eggshell-colored head (which leaves some lacing and never completely evaporates).
The first thing that indicates this isn’t your usual IPA is the aroma: it’s neither pine, citrus or floral but surprisingly malty. Caramel and toffee seem present in the nose along with a straight dry, bitter scent. There’s also a candy-like sweetness, but nothing that indicates this is going to taste like candy.
The label for Olde Saratoga IPA mentions the beer is brewed in a traditional West Coast style, but upon my first sip I didn’t find this to be true. In fact, this beer tastes more like something from much further away than California - England. Made with Cascade and Fuggles hops, Olde Saratoga imparts a rich, but dry, sweetness find in many British pale ales, bitters, and ESBs.
Up front this beer has a robust, dry bitterness. The hops are powerful and linger around the tongue briefly before fading away to a general dry and bitter aftertaste. Upon further inspection I begin to notice a lollipop-like sweetness of butterscotch and toffee. In fact, this beer is almost like an Oktoberfest with extreme bitterness.
This isn’t the kind of palate I expect or prefer in an IPA, but because it’s so different I appreciate its originality. I probably would’ve prefer something more citrusy (which is what West Coast-style IPAs are known for), but the rich piney sweetness and strong hop bite make for a good combination.
While the palate to Olde Saratoga IPA is quite robust, what knocks the beer down a notch is the fact it’s so dry and bitter in the finish that it’s actually a bit of a challenge to drink. The body itself is soft, but thick so it’s definitely not flat but it doesn’t dance on your palate either. Still, it’s rare a beer is so noticeably dry in the mouth as it’s going down. I think this would scare away a lot of novice drinkers, which is a shame since I think the Mendocino Brewery (the makers of this beer) markets their beers for more pedestrian drinkers.
I wasn’t able to get confirmation on the alcohol percentage of this beer, but sources tell me it’s around 7% ABV. That would seem to be about right since this beer definitely has noticeable weight to it, but nothing that would overwhelm the average drinker. I probably wouldn’t session it due to the dryness although it probably would pair well with a very spicy and/or salty meal or snack.
There are a lot of beers I can drink and appreciate once and be satisfied with it and Olde Saratoga IPA is such a brew. I liked what it had to offer but I don’t feel the need to put it into regular rotation in my fridge. I’d recommend it mostly to hopheads or drinkers that like to try something other than the same old beer.