Monday, July 11, 2011

Sacketts Harbor Brewing Co - War of 1812 Amber Ale

When I think of the War of 1812, as a miseducated Brit, the first image that comes to my mind is not the Revolutionary War, but the Napoleonic invasion of Russia which inspired Tchaikovsky's overture.  I actually had no idea that anything particularly noteworthy happened this side of the pond in that year until I took a graduate course in history a short while ago.  That raised a few eyebrows among my more patriotically-minded classmates, I can tell you...

So, please believe me when I say that I hold no prejudices regarding tonight's featured beverage on account of its name - to me, 1812 is all about a bunch of garlic-wearing frog-leg eaters being royally kicked in the arse by a hardy people who inexplicably choose to live in a climate where you can buy milk in frozen blocks and store it on your front porch.  The Anglo-American War of 1812 is such a humiliating chapter in British history that it's conveniently skipped over by our embarrassed educators.  A lot of Brits still talk as if America's some kind of socially-backward colony - a behaviour which, in my estimation and experience, masks a deep-seated jealousy of the pride of place America still holds in world affairs and which was once held by the British Empire.  Limeys are generally sore losers.

But speaking for myself?  Like I said, in my mind 1812 is all about cossack-dancers.

Sacketts Harbor Brewing Co are based, unpredictably enough, in Sacketts Harbor, NY.  I've been in their general vicinity - it's right in the middle of the Thousand Island region, about halfway between Rochester and Montreal.  As far as I can tell, they make 3 varieties - 1812 Amber, 1812 Light and Thousand Islands.  I first tried 1812 Amber a couple of years back at the Scotch 'n' Sirloin in Brighton, and remember quite enjoying it.  So I was looking forward to reviewing it for the blog - oh boy, how poorly my memory sometimes serves me...

1812 Amber Ale pours a light amber, with a good white head - not too massive but it's there.  There's moderate carbonation, and the brew has a good clarity.  So far, so good.  Right?

It's when you get to the aroma that things get a bit nasty.  There are some strong phenols, banana-like but verging on the plasticky.  There's a sweet, toffee-like quality, and it's also slightly malty, hops are very restrained.  There's an off-flavour though, and the aroma is a bit artificial.

The flavour starts off pleasantly enough - there's a sweet malt to it which isn't bad.  But then you taste the same banana-ey phenols and there's also a buttery quality, which I think is excessive diacetyl.  It's like an attempt at an English bitter, but something's missing - the diacetyl is too strong and there's not actually enough of a genuine malty backbone to give it the rich quality of an English style.

The body is extremely light, considering the style, and there's low-moderate carbonation.  Not much to be said for the mouthfeel, to be honest.

Overall, it's a disappointing effort - I'm not sure what style they were going for.  It's certainly not an American Amber, the diacetyl is over the top, the plasticky, artificial quality in the aroma is unpleasant and my final impression is that it's a poorly-made attempt at an English bitter.  There are far, far better brews on offer in the Upstate region - none of which make me think of Napoleon, borscht or cultural humiliation.

Here are my scores, such as they are:-

Appearance - 3/5
Aroma - 1/5
Taste - 2/5
Mouthfeel - 1.5/5

Overall - 1.875.  Frankly, a bit of an embarrassment to the incredible craft beer scene we have in our area.

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