Monday, November 8, 2010

Saranac Lake Effect Lager

I absolutely love this time of year, especially here in Upstate.  I grew up in Britain, and while I do still love the place dearly, I've always slightly resented my home country for its utter inability to produce proper winter weather (well, until last year, and by then I'd left the country anyway).  Come to think of it, the UK climate was never that good at producing any kind of weather, apart from rain in the autumn and overcast skies in the summer. 

Contrast that with the weather you get in the region around Lake Ontario, where I'm now based: hot, humid summers where your rich neighbours can get some real honest use out of their outdoor swimming pool; crisp, dry autumn days that show off the striking colours of turning leaves; freezing winters where you can fully expect snowstorms, and where a White Christmas is pretty much a guarantee; and then the beautiful springtime, made all the more dramatic by the memory of the winter that the land is shaking off.  There's a saying I've heard a few times in the short time I've been here: if you don't like the weather, just wait five minutes; it'll change.

Only in Upstate NY could you name a beer after the local weather, and get away with it. Saranac's Lake Effect Lager does just that: it's named for the way in which the proximity of Lake Ontario exacerbates the high snowfall and winds in the areas around Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo during the mid-winter season.  The Lake Effect and I have a special relationship: it stopped me getting to my green-card interview, as we would have had to brave 40mph winds and heavy snowstorms to get there at the scheduled time.  (Yes, I did re-schedule, and no, I'm not an illegal immigrant.)  But I digress.

Saranac beer is brewed by the Matt Brewing Company, a family-run microbrewery based in Utica, NY.  They make a range of drinks, including Bohemian Pilsener, which is inspired by Czech brews - can't wait to try that one!

Lake Effect Lager, on the face of it, doesn't look, taste or smell like much of a lager - it's pretty dark, has an aroma of malty caramel, and tastes a little hoppy.  However, I'm not complaining - it's a pleasant surprise to see a self-professed lager that has some character.

The aftertaste of this brew deserves a special mention: toasted barley with a caramel undertone.  There's nothing I like more than a slightly burnt, toasty flavour working its magic on your palate after a sip of good beer, and this one had just the right hit for my liking.

The one criticism I have of this beer is the slight weakness of flavour as you're drinking it - this isn't an IPA or porter with a strong flavour, most of the interest comes in the aroma or the aftertaste.  This might be because it's a lager with a lighter body, but I expect a winter beer to have a touch more flavour in the drinking.  The toasty aftertaste more than makes up for this, though, and I can recommend this beer without reservation.

4 out of 5.

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