Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saranac Black Lager


3.2
   AROMA 5/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 14/20
Chad9976 (597) - Albany, USA - JAN 7, 2010
As I’ve stated many times over the years, there’s a misconception among the general public that the darker the beer the more intense or heavy they are, and therefore, more difficult to drink and appreciate. To anyone who thinks this way I would gladly buy them a bottle of Saranac Black Lager. It’s a beer with a big black bear on the label which I suppose is supposed to be intimidating. However, it’s actually one of the more easy-drinking dark beers I’ve ever encountered.

APPEARANCE AND AROMA

It should be noted that Saranac Black Lager is indeed a lager and not a stout. Specifically, it’s a German-style “Schwarzbier” – a style known for its dark appearance but smoothness. It certainly pours smooth to form a thick layer of off-white, rather foamy head. It dissipates rather quickly, though and leaves only minor lacing on the glass.

The aroma is quite unremarkable, literally, because it’s so faint to the point that it barely exists. Even upon “close inspection” (a deep whiff held right up the nostrils) all I get is a slightly malty, slightly spicy character. At least it doesn’t smell grainy or boozy, but it’s not very inviting.

TASTE

I always try to judge a beer by what it actually does rather than what it’s “supposed to do.” However, when the brewery advertises or promotes a beer in such a manner and then it fails to live up to the hype it can earn some demerits from me. In the case of Saranac Black Lager the label clearly indicates flavors of chocolate and coffee but having drank two bottles of this beer I was never able to find them.

What I did find, however, was a fairly malty palate with a slight caramel and toffee taste not unlike an Oktoberfest. Considering the style, this isn’t surprising. I also noticed a distinct burnt aftertaste as well as a spicy tingle. Additionally, a crispy hop presence is noticeable (albeit barely), but otherwise it’s very mild overall. It’s not off-putting, but not quite as enjoyable as I would prefer.

I still think Black Lager is still a decent brew because what taste it does have is fairly enjoyable and mild enough that even the lightweight and more casual beer drinkers should have no problem sucking it down and maybe even enjoying it in the process.

DRINKABILITY

As I said, this is a noticeably mild beer, but then again most “lite” macro lagers are mild as well. But since there is some genuine taste to appreciate, what ultimately makes it a recommendable beer is its easy (almost ridiculously so) drinkability. The sweet, but mild palate and low carbonation give it a velvety mouthfeel and a super smooth finish. It’s somewhat watery, which is probably why the palate is so mellow. It definitely doesn’t feel as potent as its 5.5% ABV statistic would indicate. No doubt this would pair well with a meal or work as a session brew.

FINAL THOUGHTS

While I have to say I wasn’t very impressed by Saranac Black Lager, I do feel it has more pros than cons. I tend to give beers with high drinkability such as this a break, although I’m still disappointed that it didn’t have the chocolate and coffee flavors it purported to contain (if anyone drinks this and find them, please let me know). As an inclusion in the Saranac “12 Beers of Winter” mix pack (about $15) it feels like something added just to round out the box. That’s okay, because considering the target audience for this brewery, I don’t think this beer will have any trouble finding someone to drink it.

Grade: 6/10