LetsGoState (907) - Pennsylvania, USA - DEC 18, 2011
Aroma is a little concerning with some pale malts. Taste was better than expected with some nice bready malts and a little hops. Overall a good drinkable one. bhensonb (15608) - Woodland, California, USA - DEC 13, 2011
Bottle from a mixed box at the World Market in Davis, CA. Pours copper/amber with a 3 finger foamy yellowish head. Aroma is quite bready, but I’m not getting much hop. Med body. Flavor is sweetish roast caramel with something heavily roasted - but the hop is sort of only lightly present. That’s taste/flavor. In fact my tongue says there’s a lot of bitter here. But no grass, herb, etc. Still, it drinks ok. Scrapersnbeer (1532) - Boston, Massachusetts, USA - DEC 12, 2011
Beers of Winter # 2. Pours copper varnish color, clear and dark. Faint caramel aroma. Lake Effect is sweet but also more hopped than expected. Too soft and thin in my opinion. Saranac does better with the German styles; this one is not bad. Tmoney99 (14844) - Cincinnati, Ohio, USA - DEC 8, 2011
Bottle. Poured dark brown with a large frothy off-white head that lasted with excellent lacing. Moderate toasted malt and soft hop aroma. Medium body with a sticky texture and soft carbonation. Moderate toasted malt flavor with a small biiter hop finish of average duration. Well balanced drinkable brew.
johnnnniee (4405) - Bedford, New Hampshire, USA - NOV 26, 2011
Pours a deep copper color with a decent off white head that shows minimal retention and lace. Smells of caramel and butterscotch mostly. Smell is quite sweet with little to no hop presence. Taste is a little better that the aroma. Caramel and burnt sugars with a hint of earthy spicy hops. Medium body and level of carbonation with a slick sweet mouthfeel. I find it a bit of a stretch to call this a dunkel, but I guess it is a darker lager. Easy enough to drink but again nothing too special.
beerbill (3619) - Laurel, New York, USA - NOV 21, 2011
12 oz. bottle. Pours a mostly clear golden amber with a moderate linen white head that lasted through the first quarter of the glass and left partial lace. There is just a bit of skunk when the beer is first poured, but that thankfully dissipates fairly quickly. The remaining aroma is slightly husky malt and some mild lager yeast. The flavor is malt with just a bit of mild toast followed by some mild-moderate hops bitterness. Medium bodied. I haven’t been the biggest fan of Saranac beers, but I have to say this one was better than I was expecting. robgibbens (432) - Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA - NOV 13, 2011
Nice amber color with a smallish head. No real lacing present. Mild earthy aroma. Taste is balanced and finishes clean. rocbyter (2142) - Waterbury, Connecticut, USA - NOV 11, 2011
Home brew malt aroma. Clear orange color with a super large with head. Mild bitter beginning that last to the finish. jb43 (1650) - Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA - SEP 12, 2011
(bottle 1/8/11). Clear amber color. Medium off white head. Moderate caramel aroma and flavor with light toast/malt. Avg duration. Lasting toasty finish. Thin texture. Moderate carbonation. Fair lacing. ChadPolenz (1847) - Lakeland, Florida, USA - JUL 16, 2011
I’ve always considered myself a fan of the Saranac line of beers, although I catch a lot of flack for it within the craft beer geek community. Sure, I’ll admit most of their brews are indeed “supermarket beers,” but that doesn’t necessarily make them bad. I think when other beer geeks think of Saranac they would think of a beer like Winter Lager. This is an overtly pedestrian beer, which is evident from its smooth drinkability and fairly direct palate. It’s not a bad beer by any means, but it’s not nearly as fanciful as the description would indicate.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
The body here is very reminiscent of an Oktoberfest with a dark amber/brownish color with a clear complexion. It forms a surprisingly large, off-white rocky head which is slow to dissipate and, surprisingly enough, leaves some lacing on the glass. The aroma is quite sweet with hints of caramel and a touch of spice. There is a slight graininess to the nose as well, but mostly it’s unremarkable.
I’m not sure what the average drinker (craft, macro or otherwise) thinks of when they hear the term “winter beer,” but the first thing that comes to my mind is a spicy, peppery, warming palate. If a beer is going to put the put itself forward as a winter beer, especially as blunt as “Winter Lager” then it’s reasonable to have an expectation along these lines.
Saranac Winter Lager does play by these rules, but isn’t a strict adherence to them. There is a slight bit of cinnamon or ginger to be tasted here, in addition to a maltiness to create for a slightly sweet palate. It’s mild, to be sure, but the character is noticeable. There’s even a touch of hop crispness on the finish with a faint bitter aftertaste.
The problem is, despite all this apparent complexity, this beer is pretty direct. The palate doesn’t change as it warms, although it doesn’t worsen either.
The good thing about Saranac Winter Lager is that it’s a surprisingly refreshing brew. In fact, I think that’s the intention. The brewer’s website recommends pairing it with spicy food such as chili, and I could certainly agree with that. It’s thirst-quenching because it’s so mild and has a watery, soft mouthfeel. What’s surprising is the fact this is such a potent brew at 5.9% ABV. It doesn’t feel that heavy in the mouth, nor on the system.
I really wanted to like Saranac Winter Lager more than I did, but it’s impossible to coax flavors out of a beer that aren’t there. Its drinkability is impressive, but the palate is not. Still, considering this beer’s target audience it’s a worthy conclusion to the Saranac “12 Beers of Winter” variety pack ($12 - $20). I just wouldn’t make it one of my first choices right out of the box.