Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saranac India Brown Ale

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (597) - Albany, New York, USA - APR 15, 2010
India Pale Ales and Brown Ales are probably my two favorite types of beers, but what happens when you make a hybrid of the two styles? Apparently you get Saranac India Brown Ale – a beer with the strong, hoppy, bitter quality of an IPA with the smoothness of a brown ale.


Saranac IBA pours very smoothly and forms a beautiful dark red, slightly copper-colored, crystal-clear body with very little carbonation present. It has a small, white, fizzy head which dissolves quickly, but never completely and leaves constant lacing on the glass – something I’ve never seen before.

The aroma is similar to an IPA with a distinct hop signature, but without the citrusy notes present. Some malty scents are noticeable, but only faintly so. Otherwise the beer’s smell is subdued.


There’s just nothing quite like the experience of drinking a beer and having the flavor give your palate a punch. Saranac India Brown Ale does that with its strong hop character which makes for quite a bitter taste, not unlike an IPA. The difference here is there isn’t much, if any, citrus qualities to the taste.

The beer has only the slightest roasted taste, but not nearly as strong as a typical brown ale. Basically, it’s an Extra Special Bitter but without the dryness. The overall flavor is strong, hoppy and bitter and just the slightest bit dry, but it all adds up to a very enjoyable taste.


Strongly-hopped beers like this have a reputation for being difficult to drink, yet Saranac IBA is quite smooth. Although it’s very similar in taste to an IPA or an ESB, it finishes as smooth as a brown ale so lightweights have to reason to complain abut the finish.


More hops usually equals more alcohol and Saranac IBA is no exception. At 6% ABV it’s pretty potent for a medium-market beer, even if it is of a niche style. I didn’t find the beer to be too overwhelming but I could definitely tell it was potent before I looked it up.

The body is somewhere between heavy and medium. You won’t be able to just breeze through two of these back-to-back as if it were nothing. But because the taste is so good, this is a beer you’ll want to savor anyway.


If I read the label on the bottle right, it seems that Saranac intended for this beer to be an IPA/brown ale hybrid. I would have preferred a darker, roastier flavor, but because it follows the style of an IPA so well, it’s still a good beer worthy of recommendation.

Grade: 8/10

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