3.5AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 6/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 14/20
We all know there are a lot of beers on the market that are in no way intended to be crafty whatsoever. In fact, the majority of beer sold in America is treated as a commodity rather than something to be appreciated. The Matt Brewery, the makers of the Saranac line of beers, knows this and is unapologetic when it comes to their continued production of Utica Club Pilsener Lager Beer. According to the brewery (and the bottle’s label), it was the first beer served after prohibition in 1933. That’s quite a claim to fame, however, I don’t think the recipe has been changed since then.
This is a beer that has all the makings of a cheap mass-market lager, the difference being Utica Club isn’t nearly as offensive as those other commodity brews. It’s far from being true craft beer, but it’s definitely tolerable. The fact it’s only sold within 90 miles of Utica, New York seems to have given it something of a novelty status and in that aspect it works (sort of).
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
I poured a 12oz bottle into a tall pilsner glass. Judging by its superficial qualities, I’d say Utica Club is not all that different from the major market adjunct lagers we’re all used to by now. It’s a clear, white gold/straw color which is very bubbly at first, but eventually calms down almost completely. It produces a fairly small, fluffy, bright white head which fizzles away and leaves little to no lacing on the glass.
The aroma is also similar to the macro lagers although it does not seem to indicate the presence of any adjuncts. It has a typical grainy and generic "beer scent" but it is mild and easily tolerable. There’s even a touch of sweetness in the nose, although nothing about it is particularly appealing.
There’s a certain expectation that comes with drinking a beer like Utica Club. This is a beer whose reputation precedes it (and it’s not a good reputation if you’re not from around these parts). If a complete stranger were to drink this beer they would easily gather from the appearance, aroma and packaging that it’s going to be a very generic beer and they’d be right.
This beer is a pilsner after all and it’s quite obvious on the first sip. What’s interesting is just how bad the beer is not. Up front there is a genuine taste of light hops and a touch of malt sweetness. The body is light, thin, crisp and surprisingly refreshing. There’s even a slight creamy texture not unlike Stella Artois, but there is no presence of rice, corn or other adjuncts. There’s also a noticeable generic, grainy beer taste, although it’s not off-putting the way a lot of the "Big Three" adjunct lagers and "lights" tend to taste.
While I wouldn’t classify this beer as watery per se, it definitely is overtly mild and rather bland overall. This would be quite refreshing as a summer lawnmower brew, but those who want genuine flavor in their brewski might have to reach for it here. If you want a beer that tastes like something you’re used to without the sour notes of a macro lager, then Utica Club is even more drinkable. Otherwise, this beer is best described as tolerable.
I wasn’t able to find an official source on the ABV for Utica Club. From what I can gather it’s somewhere between 3.5 and 4.8% ABV. It certainly doesn’t feel heavy on the system which would make this a perfect session or meal beer.
There’s really no point in harshly criticizing Utica Club Pilsener Lager Beer since it’s brewed, in my theory, for its historic, nostalgic and novelty value alone. I don’t believe it’s purposely intended to be a bad beer, because it isn’t, but let’s just say I’m not buying the hyperbole on the bottle label.