20 June 2007

Saranac Kölsch Ale

One of Saranac's "12 Beers of Summer," the Kölsch Ale advertises itself as "clear, crisp, and easy to drink," and it doesn't disappoint on any of the counts. The crispness especially is notable, one of the better finishes of any American beer - reminiscent even of the superlative Victory Prima Pils - and ranks the Kölsch Ale immediately as one of my favorite offerings from Saranac (which, given that it's one of my favorite breweries, is saying something). It's a pity that it's only a seasonal offering, but those do seem to be some of Saranac's best brews these last years - see especially, e.g., the Caramel Porter and Scotch Ale (though the Pomegranate Wheat [also in the 12 Beers of Summer pack] is a trendy trainwreck of a beer, with none of the good notes of either pomegranate or wheat).

A visit to Saranac's web site also reveals a new semi-regular line of beers:
Imperial IPA
(Big Beer Series)

We are pleased to announce that Saranac Imperial IPA, the first in our “High Peak Series”.

The Saranac “High Peak Series” is a series of Special Beers, limited to one single batch. These beers will be much bigger, more complex, and targeted to craft beer aficionados.

This is a beer to be sipped and savored; a “real show and tell . . . blow your head off beer”

The first of our series, Saranac Imperial IPA, is brewed with 10 different hops and 10 different malts and is 8.5% alcohol and 85 IBU’s.

Look for Saranac Imperial IPA at your local retailer!

Clearly, Saranac is feeling a push from the higher-end regional brewers (e.g., Ommegang and Allagash), but I'm not sure that pitching their products against the craft brewers' is a good idea. Saranac to me has always been notable as a microbrewery that makes beer at more or less the same price point (and often the same style) as many other mass domestics but with notably higher quality. What it isn't is a high-end craft brew - but that's fine. Saranac has been able to pull the trick of maintaining a pretty solid level of quality even as they've moved to a national distribution footing, which is quite a trick to pull. The craft brewers do make beer that is often better, but I'd never find myself making my way through more than one or two pints of Allagash (save for the White Ale), Ommegang, Dogfish Head et al. - and Saranac should realize that most of those beers will never sell that many cases, in any event. Saranac is, and remains, a solidly drinkable line of beers. The Kölsch Ale shows the brewery at its best.

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