3.9AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 15/20
Most craft breweries have a “flagship” beer – a beer they use as the face of the franchise. For the F.X. Matt Brewery out of Utica, New York that beer is Saranac Pale Ale, which has held the title for years and years. But what happens when one of their limited seasonals actually out-performs the top dog? That’s how I feel about Saranac Big Moose Ale, an American pale ale that’s so tasty and refreshing I would consider it one of the best APAs I’ve ever had.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
When most people think of what a beer looks like they tend to think of straw-colored fizzy water or jet-black stouts. However, I actually prefer my beer to be orange in color – which is what hoppy beers tend to look like. Big Moose Ale is one of the few beers I can honestly say is orange proper. Technically, it might be closer to amber but it looks orange to me. The body is crystal clear with a generous amount of carbonation action happening. It generates a thick layer of white, foamy/creamy head which is very slow to dissipate and leaves much lacing on the glass.
The aroma is actually quite strong for a Saranac beer. It’s bursting with floral bouquets and has bitterness to the nose. It’s a clean scent as well and is very inviting. This beer really wants you to enjoy it before you even take a swig!
There seems to be a division among beer lovers over just how hoppy and bitter a pale ale should be. Many argue that pale ales should be fairly mild since India pale ales are the go-to style for hops, but why should that be? Saranac seems to feel the same way as they have packed Big Moose Ale with a strong hop bite I’d tend to associate with an IPA rather than an APA.
This beer is crisp and bitter with a prominent citrusy flavor in the aftertaste. The hops linger for quite a while (well, for an APA, that is). The palate here reminds me of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale since its bitterness and flavor is quite intense and very enjoyable. Much like the aroma, it’s a clean, flowery, inviting taste that I think would appeal to the pedestrian drinker (that is Saranac’s target demographic after all).
My only complaint is the palate seems to be a bit watery. Not enough to distract or diminish from the palate as a whole, mind you, but enough that it’s noticeable.
Bitter beers walk a fine line between palatable and acquired tastes and Big Moose Ale is a perfect example of this. As noticeably bitter as the palate is, the fact remains it finishes clean and the flavor is ultimately mild enough to lend itself to quaffing. The body is also perfectly average at 5.3% ABV. This is a beer that would work well on its own or with a meal.
While I can’t say Saranac Big Moose Ale is among the best beers, it is indeed one of the most pleasantly surprising and impressive beers I’ve encountered in a long time. It does pretty much everything right and almost nothing wrong. The brewers should upgrade this to their flagship pale ale.