Tag Archives: seasonal

Saranac White IPA

A guest review from Max – plus a new “Limited Release” tag and category!

Matt Brewing Co.
Utica, NY
Saranac White IPA

There seem to be so many IPAs at one’s finger tips today that one might
think the beer industry has come to target only hop heads. This isn’t a bad
thing, mind you, but it is rare to find a really good hoppy IPA that tastes
different from, well, a really good hoppy IPA. Batter up, Saranac White
IPA. What drew me to this beer was essentially the fusion of two of my
faves: a citra hops IPA and a Belgian-style white. The results had the
potential to delight, but you never know with seasonals, because if they
bomb they are only around for a few months.

The pour unleashes a powerful head similar to that of a Boddingtons, the cascading abruptly ceases (note the glass here) and you are left with a beautiful orange-ocher haze. Don’t try and stare down this lady, she, like most women are tough to see through and patience will serve you best as you make your way through the aroma which, like most analysis of this beer, is refined citrus. The most prevalent smell is grapefruit, then grass.

The mouthfeel takes you on a wild ride starting with a blast of citrus, however the infusion of 2 Row, Wheat, and Oat malts, tone down the hop as the backside of the taste releases an array of spicy vanilla and coriander (Saranac also uses 2 Row malt in it’s Vanilla Stout).

There is a wonderful duality between these different styles, they harmonize
when they need to and clash at just the right moments. This is certainly
one of the most refreshing IPAs I’ve ever tried and I would be very happy to
see a re-release in time for grilling season. While hardly a session beer at
6%, I drank three in 20 minutes after the Giants won the NFC championship
with no problem!


Stegmaier Winter Warmer

Lion Brewery
Wilkes-Barre, PA
Stegmaier Winter Warmer

I’m a little embarrassed to find some winter seasonals still lurking in the beer hold – it means I’ve not been posting (or drinking) enough. That said, spring has yet to rear it’s much anticipated head as of yet so a Winter Warmer may be just the ticket this evening.

Perfect clarity shows some very slow carbonation ascending to a quarter-inch of jaundiced tan head. The color is a spectacular garnet with slightly burnt ruby tints.

The nose is mostly malt, but spicy: cinnamon, nutmeg, and dried clove, as well as caraway bread and soft toffee.

The mouthfeel is excellent – full and complex. It starts off immediately with very chewy bread crusts which turn appropriately tart as though you’d just added some rind-heavy marmalade to your toast. What hopping is present is subtle, but it’s not missed as a docile alcohol warmth slowly awakes and adds just the right amount of tang.

I would not have believed this was a 7.2% beer. Very drinkable, very well-balanced, and not as cloying or palate-destroying as some bigger seasonal ales can be. Lion rarely disappoints. Kitty’s got claws!

Kitty also has rebus!

Tremont Mr. Oktoberfest

Shipyard Brewing Co.
Portland, ME
Tremont Mr. Oktoberfest

It is no longer anywhere near Oktoberfest time. Hell, it’s not even autumn, but I’ve only got a couple of months before this stuff is no good. Tremont is yet another Shipyard brand, but SBC tends to be on the positive side of the plus-minus rating so I’m not too skeptical.

Still working on that Ph.D.

As an Oktoberfest, this beer is a nice ruddy, rusty amber with pumpkin hues in the light. A tan head dissipates quickly but leaves behind a veil of carbonation from some sturdy bubbles rising from the bottom.

The nose is sweet, but doesn’t cloy, like a graham cracker, and has a similar cinnamon and sugar spiciness. Some faint lavender florals hide behind the grain bill, but there is virtually no hop spice or citrus aroma to speak of.

The beer has a great texture – full and with finer effervescence than what the large globules hint at. Oddly enough this beer starts out with some bitters with some slightly tart grassy notes. That cleanliness gives way to a smooth wash of some ale-like characteristics – dates, dark chocolate, and even some brown sugar but with a very tidy finish that is much crisper than the malty aroma intimates.

This seems to be more of an English pale than a real Oktoberfest, but it’s certainly worth a whirl if it’s available.

Saranac Lake Effect Lager

Matt Brewing Co.
Utica, NY
Saranac Lake Effect Lager

I just got back from eight days in Miami. As such, landing in 30-degree New York was a rude awakening. The name of this beer is very apt considering the windy flurries outside.

Get your coats on

The color is surprisingly dark for a lager, but the label boasts that it’s a malty German-style lager. A very fine and frothy beige head sits at about a half- to a quarter-inch with slow medium-fine carbonation rising in a wide column form the bottom.

The color is garnet and plum with touches of cola brown. The clarity is excellent and there are rich amber hues shining through when the glass is held to the light. A lot of malt on the nose; chocolate milk powder blends with some richer notes of stone fruit and a bit of cinnamon.

The mouthfeel is very good – the sprightly effervescence adds some peppery life to what is otherwise a very smooth first sip. There is less sweet malt than originally advertised but roasty toffee emerges as the beer warms a bit. Hallertau hops jump in with touches of grainy pear or coconut that is very pleasant when mixed with the nutty background of the malt.

An excellent winter beer – very balanced – and a great choice if you want something darker without resorting to ale.

New tag/category, too! Cheers to that.

Sierra Nevada Tumbler

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Chico, CA

Touted as an “Autumn Brown Ale”, I figure that, now that it’s September, it’s suitable to try. Also, I’m sitting on Nantucket Island, waiting for Hurricane Earl to come test the abilities of the area roofers, so I figure it’s a good time to settle down with a good beer.

The pour is not too lively, but bubbles up with a beige head which hangs around at a little less than a quarter of an inch. Lively carbonation visible through good clarity keeps it going.

The color is a fine light cola brown with some garnet touches when held to the light. There is a nice chocolate color but just enough red in the background to make me think that this won’t be too roasted or cocoa-like.

The nose is a nice amalgam of malt and hops – slightly sweet milk chocolate comes through at first but with some great grass and pepper hop character. Even after five minutes or so, the layer of head has persisted, with some slight dissipation showing a nice ability to cling.

The mouthfeel is spectacular – simultaneously smooth and effervescent. The start is all creamy malts with a silky, milky body but it gives way to a nice little tang that has some very light florals and a touch of grapefruit under what is otherwise a very snappy, slightly metallic end.

As usual, Sierra Nevada comes through with flying colors, and they’ve steered away from their usual Cascade hop body. Only good things out of Chico.

Blowing Rock Summer Ale

Boone Brewing Co.
Blowing Rock, NC
Blowing Rock Summer Ale

Having just returned from the West Coast – including a 120-degree day in Las Vegas – I have returned to what is most definitely summer in NYC. Thus, a summer ale.

Initially, the pour is somewhat lively, with a very clean white head accelerating to a half-inch before settling to a fine layer. The beer is properly cloudy, like a real New York City summer haze – golden straw in color with dappled orange.

The nose is malty with wet cedar bark, sweet citrus, and a hint of coriander spice.

The mouthfeel is full, improving as it proceeds toward the throat. Fine carbonation keeps things interesting as the beer starts to open up a bit. Pleasant twiggy tanginess and a smoother spiciness than you might expect are complemented superbly by very subtle touches of lemon and orange.

It may be the run in the heat I just went on, but this beer is really hitting the spot. It is a really nice refresher on a hot day like this and, while it won’t stand up when preceded by a fuller-flavored brew. All told, this one is pretty good and is more interesting than many other summer brews I have that suffer from a thinner mouthfeel.

St. Arnold Spring Bock

St. Arnold Brewing Co.
Houston, TX
Spring Bock

With spring weather upon the Great State of Texas for moment, I went looking for some appropriate brews. I stumbled upon a six-pack of St. Arnold Spring Bock. Since I dig this weather, am newly obsessed with bock beer, and spend my days composing love-filled sonnets to St. Arnold beer, I figured this was perfect.

The color is crystal clear amber like it was just dug up from a Baltic forest; some yellow tones near the edges of the glass really enhance the clarity. Straight, steady streams of bubbles ascend the glass, with a few pearl strands that expend themselves quickly, forming an off-white head that descends slowly with some light lacing.

Check out the apropos hilarity under the cap

The nose is almost all malt with a faint wet-straw aroma and perhaps overripe orange peel. There are some hints of peppery Euro hops, too. Initially, a sweet, slightly toasty aroma emerges, followed by a background of fresh nuts.

The mouthfeel is exceptionally full, assaulting all corners of the palate. At first, there is a creamy feel, like an ale, but the malt character really starts to pick up, simultaneously hitting on sweet caramel notes and a bread-like chewiness. Finally, as the warmth of the alcohol starts to outweigh the smoothness of the malt, some grassy, peppery notes kick in thanks to the Saaz hops.

All around, this is a stellar bock with a big malt character and a 6.4%ABV to back it up, but it uses the Pilsner-style hops well and finishes the sip on a slightly spicy note so you don’t feel like you just got butted by a goat.