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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Moose is Loose!

I have never really considered myself a “dark beer guy,” but with the coming of Winter and the onslaught of my wife’s awesome Swedish Christmas foods, it felt right to move my tastes to the right on the “beer-o-meter” and go more noir.  Rather than just pick a single beer, I decided to go for a threesome of “winter warmers” and then took the middle beer in the group to write up.  Sierra Nevada “Celebration” and Brooklyn Brewery’s “Black Chocolate Stout” bracketed Saranac Big Moose Ale.

Before we get to the beer, though, a couple of thoughts on Saranac.  Brewed by the Matt Brewery in Utica, New York, which has been in business since 1885, Saranac is what I think of as a mid-major of brewers. 

Now, in the pantheon of brewers, you have the majors on one end (Miller, Coors, InBev) and then you have the small craft brewers and large home brew operations on the other end.  As the market for craft and microbrews has grown, the market is diversifying across that spectrum of styles and variety. 

Large brewers have the volume and distribution, but don’t seem to have a lot of diversity within their product because their market share and branding is based in large part on price and a well-established product.  Small brewers may have one or two strong products brewed on a profitable, but not large scale and then a variety of styles that are added to the mix on a seasonal or other periodical basis. 

Within that middle ground you get brewers who have the volume and the consistency of product, but who also invite some experimentation Hence, the label of the mid-major, which is where we find Saranac.  Saranac has moved from the ranks of the micro and craft brewers to brewing on a larger scale while maintaining quality and diversity over a number of years. 

Saranac Big Moose Ale is a smooth very drinkable ale that tends towards the lighter side in terms of its body and taste.  It poured with a nice head, about 3/8” to ½” of fragrant foam with a dark amber color and low turbidity.  It starts out a little bit hoppy and then holds that flavor.  This is the kind of beer that you can drink throughout a holiday party as it matches with a number of different foods. It nicely complimented standard Christmas fair (ham, meatballs, ribs), but wasn’t really up for the stronger tasting fish dishes (pickled herring, gravad lax, and Jansson’s Temptation). The taste stays consistent through the entire glass.  I was a bit disappointed in the lightness of the body, expecting something more robust based on the color and aroma. It definitely worth a return visit, expectations appropriately set and thirsty in tow.

“Saranac Big Moose Ale is an American Pale Ale with a kick.  The medium-bodied malt sweetness is balanced by a nice crisp bitterness from hand selected centennial and cascade hops.  Look for a vibrant citrusy hop aroma that will leave you craving another swig!”



  1. "tends towards the lighter side in terms of its body and taste."

    This has been my impression of just about every Saranac beer I've ever had, and I don't see it as a positive trait. Of course it's acceptable in certain styles, but overall I find their products thin and bland.

  2. Dave, thanks for stopping in. I can see that about Saranac, but I do like their caramel porter and their pumpkin ale. Saranac is one of the beers I bring to barbeques in the summer. So you are on to something.

    (Total side note, their black cherry cream soda is awesome)

  3. Dave, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Yes, I can see what you are saying about Saranac. They have tended to go for "easy drinkability" rather than really holding to a distinctive style. Maybe this is one of the challenges as a brewer grows up and stays with what is selling, even if that is really not true to form or pleasing to other groups.