I was asked the other day what I thought of Saranac beer by the Matt Brewing Company of Utica New York, a small regional or big micro which has survived a number of cats lives. When I pop over the river and go shopping in the USA, I am stunned that shopkeepers know nothing of Middle Ages brewing just an hour down I-81 but they have all sorts of Saranac amongst the Bud the Coors and, horrors, the Labatts Blue. In fact, I have to go to Hannifords, a New England grocery chain to fine either Lake Placid '49er or Ubu Ale or even the local Sackets Harbour 1812. So, rightly or wrongly, I am a little sour with Saranac as its availability tells me something I do not want to hear - that the market is access controlled through the local wholesale distributors. That is maybe not the wholesaling distributors' fault. Other brewers may just not sell to them. But given one of the USA's biggest army bases is near by, the idea that all you can get is the mass producers and a few locals grates.
None of this is the fault of those who brewing the beer. Last spring or summer I brought a mixed 12-pack which had quite a good selection of their brews. For me the problem was their use of metallic German hops in all but one of their brews. It was also a heavily lager focused selection, and German-style lagers are simply not my favorite thing. That being said, the IPA really stood out as a tribute to hops. It is highly grapefruity but also has green and twig - making me think there is Cascade, Goldings and Fuggles all in the brew. The brewer says it is all achieved with Cascade which is something of a tribute in itself given all the levels of flavour they have gotten into this green labeled bottle. The beer it reminds me of is actually Sgt. Major's IPA from the Scotch Irish Brewing Co. of Fitzroy Harbour, Ontario. Both are fairly light bodied for an IPA and celebrate the complex combination of hops that can be made. I would love to do a side by side which may be possible for next weekend if I can keep my hands off the two bottles of this brew I have left. Interesting to note that Saranac IPA is a lighter USA IPA at 5.8% while at 5.5% the Sgt. Major's is touted as one of Canada's strongest and biggest IPAs. Here is what the beer advocated say of this ale.