India Pale Ales are supposed to be bitter, but they’re also supposed to
taste good. Saranac Red IPA definitely has the bitterness factor going
for it, but it’s lacking in the good taste department. Hops without
taste to back them up are rather boring.
I poured a 12oz bottle into an official Saranac shaker pint.
Appearance: Dark copper/burgundy hue. Forms an average size, off-white,
foamy head which leaves plenty of lacing on the glass and never
Smell: Similar to hop pellets: earthy, grassy scent with a hint of sweetness.
Taste: The bottle’s label indicates this beer is a "twist on a
traditional West Coast IPA," but aside from the raw bitterness I’m not
sure I would compare this to a beer of that style at all. There are some
unusual hops used in Saranac Red IPA - Calypso, Palisade, Chinook and
Delta (according to the website). These aren’t known for imparting
citrusy aromas and flavors. It’s just sheer bitterness, and dry,
astringent bitterness at that.
The label also mentions "caramel malt undertones," but I fail to find
them. There isn’t much malt distinctiveness here at all other than a
crackery, biscuity taste. That’s not to say this is a bad beer, far from
it. I’m actually more indifferent to this palate than anything else.
This is probably the most bitter Saranac brew I’ve ever had, and in that
vein it’s impressive. Still, it’s lacking balance and memorable
flavors, so it’s also forgettable.
Drinkability: Though noticeably dry and bitter, Saranac Red IPA isn’t a
challenge to drink. The body is medium with a perfect level of
carbonation to give it some energy, but calm enough to enable smooth
swigging. The aftertaste is dry, though, but tolerable. The 6% ABV is a
bit bigger than I would’ve guessed, but it’s not overbearing.