Sunday, September 25, 2011

Saranac Black Forest (Matt Brewing Company)

Schwartzbier is sparsely represented in the American beer market. This lager is also known in German as Schwartzpils, or "black pilsner," so that should warn us not to let the beer's color lead us to expect a flavor profile along the lines of a brown ale or a stout. It should be something lighter, cleaner, and not at all fruity. Let's see how the folks at Matt Brewing have expressed the style.

Yes, in my pint tumbler (which, apparently, should have been a tulip glass, but I don't own one) it does appear quite black at a distance, but it is revealed to be ruby-tinged brown when held to light. An aggressive pour raises an inch or so of large-bubbled foam, which quickly settles down to a thin film. The cold aroma is pleasant: bready and herbal accents over a roasted malt base.

My impression from the first sip is of a simple, clean maltiness -- slightly roasty, but not what I would call smoky. Mouthfeel is quite smooth, just shy of creamy, and carbonation is on the soft side. Hops presence is discernible but subdued. The beer is light-bodied with low complexity, so it is very difficult for me to tease out individual flavor components beyond the malt -- maybe a slight nutiness? Finishes up caramel sweet with no bitterness.

Overall, Saranac Black Forest is a tasty if somewhat circumscribed brew. There is certainly nothing offensive in it, and to denigrate its simplicity would be misguided, as I think it actually does a good job of portraying the Schwartzbier style. At 5.3% ABV (and at $6 for a six-pack, I might add), this could be a highly sessionable lager. A decent dark beer for people who don't like dark beer.

From the bottle's label:

Deep in the heart of the Adirondacks, there is a place where even light is scared to enter. The Black Forest! It inspired us to brew this delicious Bavarian style black beer with caramel sweetness, medium body and our trademark rich creamy head. Look for the delicate brownish-red color. Don't be afraid of the dark!

Featured beer:
Saranac Black Forest

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