23 November 2007

Saranac Belgian Ale/Chocolate Amber Lager

Saranac's 12 Beers of Winter has two each of six beers and costs around a buck a beer (before tax and deposit). Knowing this brewery, I don't expect these beers to blow me away in terms of quality (though it would be nice if one did). They will be approached more in the spirit of "oooh, let me try this one next!"

Belgian Ale: The label describes this as a "Belgian Style Ale." I understand that there are rules saying that you have to call it "-style" unless it's actually made in Belgium, but apparently the beer name itself can be "Belgian Ale."

This pours crystal clear, somewhere between amber and copper. I got a decent head out of it and a malty, spicy nose. It's not a textbook Belgian. It's over-fizzed, as are most Saranac beers (that's what the people like). This cuts into the flavor a bit. It's more spicy/herbal and even hoppy than fruity sweet. The finish is on the dry, crisp side of things. I can't pick out any of the fruit subtleties here, such as dark cherries or plums, and in this case I don't think the fault is mine. Still, this is a half decent beer. It's a Belgian for those to whom the word "Belgian" doesn't bring pre-existing expectations.

Chocolate Amber Lager: This one is categorized by the online rating sites as a dunkel. It was bottled two days earlier than the Belgian Ale: 2677 vs. 2697, which as the website helpfully explains, is September 24th rather than the 26th. This baby pours really dark, nearly black. Holding it up to the light reveals just a tinge of red around the corners, and still can't see my fingers on the other side. It doesn't have much aroma, though.

Again, this has too many bubbles for my taste, but the body is heavier than the Belgian Ale's. It's a bit slick going down. The chocolate is dark and bitter, not sweet, and heavily roasted, almost to the point of being burnt or smoky. I actually coughed at first, like a kid puffing his first cigarette. I didn't expect this to be a sweet chocolate syrup -- and wouldn't want it to be that -- but I do think the chocolate aspect is a bit too faint. There's also some coffee in there. Chocolate Amber Lager is more or less in the same ballpark as Beligan Ale in terms of quality, but gains points for being different.


bl0ndb0mbshe11 said...

I really like the chocolate mixed with coffee and I like that it isn't too overpowering- it compliments a heartly meal well without feeling like a dessert beer. Granted there are a lot better chocolate beers out there but it got me into the idea of chocolate beer. I did not like the carmel and I am not a fan of the wassail..but then I don't like sweet beer. I stay away from lambic and even cheery wheat gives me the willies. The Scotch Ale is a no frills ale either. But it is pleaseing to my palate. Saranac is a great kick around beer and shouldn't be contemplated too much.

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