Tag Archives: Amber

Saranac India Copper Ale

Matt Brewing Co.
Utica NY
Saranac India-style Copper Ale

A rocky head emerges out of the bottle – off-white with just a hint of yellow and orange – and it exhales quickly, dropping down towards the top of the brew. That brew is deep mahogany and more red than brown, darker than amber or copper, and the clarity is low. It is translucent, but by no means clear.Saranac Copper

The nose is a nice chalky mix of grassy yet earthy malts that exude a bit of sweetness and hops. The malt is subtly sweet, allowing the green florals of the hops to emerge and complement that grainy background.

The mouthfeel is full and immediately even. Hops kick in first, biting into the tastebuds a bit with some tart citrus that is strong but is not astringent. The malt body soon comes forward, evening things out across the tongue with a sourdough tartness and chewiness. However, right at the end, that sourdough just becomes sour leaving a flavor like Pine-Sol in the mouth.

I ran into this issue with Saranac’s Rye IPA so I hope it’s my problem and not there. The way the label boasts that this is a malty take on a classic IPA makes me want something more akin to a Cascade Dark/Black IPA, or even a hopped-up amber like Boulder’s Flashback. Not what I was expecting though the aftertaste that I found bracing gets milder with each sip.


Yards Extra Special Ale

Yards Brewing Co.
Philadelphia, PA
Extra Special Ale

An orange-tinged tawny head pops up quickly to over half an inch and remains rocky and full. Through excellent clarity, the beer is toffee-amber with just a bit more strawberry blond than brunette throughout. The effervescence is extremely lively and fine.

Roasty cereal malt is predominant in the nose – there’s an impressive amount of smoke and char.

The mouthfeel is very full and the head has settled down a bit, adding a creamy touch. That initial smoothness ramps up quickly as the smokiness kicks in and hits the back of the palate with a bitter, if slightly metallic, hop twang that spreads out gradually. After a sip or two, that sere quality softens a bit and provides a nice finish to what is otherwise a very malt forward brew.

Good stuff here. A beautiful coating of lace is a final boastful salvo from what is a full and interestingly complex ale.

Madison River Irresistible Amber

Madison River Brewing Co.
Belgrade, MT
Irresistible Amber Ale

Madison River BrewingOff the pour, the head is slow to develop but a tan foam eventually forms, thanks to a heavy-handed pour, and settles down to a thin layer. The color is a true amber – tortoiseshell, with just a touch of copper. Decent clarity throughout, and a faint haze isn’t enough to obscure the slow, thin carbonation.

The nose is more malt than hops – some baked sweet potato skin and a bit of cinnamon. The mouthfeel is very good to start and a lemon crispness evens things out. Eventually, hops show through with a bit of clean orange pulp and some soft bread crust.

Eminently drinkable, this beer lacks punch, but was never intended to have much. Many ambers tend to have a bit too much malt, leaving them a bit cloying, or they are over-hopped and essentially American IPAs, so this is a nice session amber, if not irresistible.

Riverwest Stein Beer

Lakefront Brewery
Milwaukee, WI
Riverwest Stein Beer

Lakefront markets this as an “All-Malt Amber Lager” and a German-influenced brew. I don’t know much about this particular brand but I like the sound of stein beer.

The color lives up to the label and is a lovely amber, with more cola brown than maple-syrup red. A thin, slightly off-white head sags quickly to a thin layer that is sustained by very slow, fine, and widely-spaced carbonation.

Anytime is a good time for a stein

The aroma is very sweet with notes of candy corn and a little bit of honey. There is a mossy background of bitter hops in the slender shape of straw.

With the first sip, the sweet malt imparts and immediate and surprising richness that borders on saccharine and cloying but is tempered into a milky Bavarian smoothness. The hops ride in not unnoticed, but quietly, and rear their heads with a faint squeaky wheel of dried apple and fig leaf.

This is a pleasantly complete beer which would do well served cold in a gradually perspiring tankard, or accompanying a heavy dish in cold weather when you want the smoothness of a lager but pilsner won’t cut it. I’ll look out for this one over the summer.

Steamworks Steam Engine Lager

Steamworks Brewing Co.
Durango, CO
Steam Engine Lager

The can (nice!) claims that this is “Arguably the Best American Style Amber Ale in the World.” Well, that’s a tough argument to make. Amber is basically an unofficial designation, so we’d be lumping in some heavy hitters like Brooklyn Lager, Blue Point Toasted Lager, and even Sam Adams, not to mention hundreds of smaller houses’ examples.

Even a slightly glugged pour elicits only about a quarter-inch of white head, but the effervescence is lively and leaves a delicate archipelago atop the surface of the beer.

The color is burnt orange and toffee (lighter than the photo), and a slight haze obfuscates some of the steady streams of carbonation around the back of the glass.

The nose has a lot of honey and toffee aromas, very sweet like burnt brown sugar and molasses. There is something rich to the smell, too, like over-ripe fruit. It smells like more than a 5.5% beer, and hopefully that means a big malt body with some nice complexity.

The mouthfeel is good. As the beer edges around the side of the tongue, the middle of the palate gets a bit left behind at first. The sip is smooth – sweet honey and some candied fruits become more evident as the beer warms up a bit. There is a bit of dryness from the hops that takes over towards the end, but really you are left with a fairly refreshing, though not quite balanced amber lager.

While I didn’t find much in the way of hops here – grassy, floral, citrus or other – it still isn’t quite overwhelmingly malty, which is a good thing. This beer teeters between too sweet for my liking and just right as a change of pace from IPAs and pilsners that tend to have a lot of bite.

I dig the can, and I might suggest this to all you non-hopheads out there but it is not my style. I tend to like crisper beers and this one, while not cloying, needs some more bittering. I am biased, however, and anyone who loves their beer malty should check this out.

St. Arnold Amber

Saint Arnold Brewing Co.
Houston, TX
Amber Ale

Here’s another offer from the so-far-impressive St. Arnold.

A slightly too-soft pour threatened to leave my beer as headless as Ichabod Crane’s horseman. However, this extremely active brew put up nearly a full inch of cloudy white froth that settled in at a half-inch with no signs of dissipation.

The clarity is excellent, as is the effervescence that swirls up continuously from the bottom of the glass. (This glass in particular has an etching on the bottom, possibly helping to foment the bubbles to action). The color is pure honey gold with just the faintest nod of rouge – a true amber – like the purest specimen of the semi-precious stuff for which it’s named.

The nose is sweet malt all the way. Brown sugar, confectioner’s sugar, cane, and some citrus all make their way through the still impressive layer of foam.

The mouthfeel is first-rate and the sip doesn’t disappoint at any juncture. Initially, you are met with some smooth cereal grains, like cream of wheat almost, but that soon gives way to a slightly nutty malt character with touches of walnut. This opens up to a fantastic snap of hops that is neither purely citrus, nor grass. There is a subtle blend of bitter flavors: under-ripe oranges meet German pretzel dough.

This a really lovely example of what American Amber can mean – an amalgamation of West Coast and Old World brewing. Once again, St. Arnold does not let me down. At 5.5% ABV, this is just on the high side of session-dom, but you’ll be able to enjoy a few of these and still be able to read the witticisms under the twist-off caps.

New Belgium Fat Tire

New Belgium Brewing Co.
Fort Collins, CO
Fat Tire Amber Ale

This is New Belgium’s flagship brew and, while I’ve had it many times previously, I love how pervasive it is down here in Dallas.

The pour is not too lively, but some increased flow yields an elegantly rocky, slightly off-white head which dissipates, but is sticky. The clarity is perfect and the color is all golden honey and a slightly ruddy straw

The nose is slightly soapy and fruity, notes of apricot and pear, along with some sour notes reminiscent of wet hay, probably indicative of a nice hop character.

The sip is very smooth – the mouthfeel is neither aggressive nor full, but it’s not weak either. The first thing you notice is a fruity sweetness with hints of graham cracker malt, and which all gives way to a snappy hop finish that is grassy, not fruity.

While Fat Tire may once have been considered a more sizeable brew, it has been somewhat dwarfed by many of its overly-hopped counterparts (particularly to the west). Nonetheless, this beer persists as an interesting, if not entirely complex brew, that is as easy to drink on its own as it would be to drink it with the many foods that it might accompany well.

The lacing down the sides starts with a Braille-like pattern that eventually gives way to even tiger stripes at each tip of the glass.