Saranac Pale Ale

Review Date 12/11/2002   By John Staradumsky

There is a common misconception, I think, among many beer enthusiasts that a beer has to be big, bold, and brawny in order to be a top-notch brew. The more malt and hops the better, the conventional wisdom seems to go, and without these you just can’t have a first-rate beer. Although I love an imperial stout or barleywine as much as the next day, I tend to disagree on this line of thinking. Soft, delicate beers can be every bit as good as malt monsters and hop behemoths. In fact, they are often a bigger test of the brewer’s skill, since there is precious little to cover up an off flavor.

Saranac Pale Ale is a great example of what I’m talking about. To be sure, this is a lighter bodied pale, but it is so delicate and flavor, wonderfully balanced with subtle nuances of hop aroma and crisp malt that it makes a delicious companion to may foods. It’s also great for gentle sipping on a quiet evening with a good book, or while surfing the latest beer reviews on Epinions for that matter.

Like Saranac Adirondack Amber, Saranac Pale Ale is a great beer for those just testing their wings in the great big sky of craft beer. It won’t overpower you, but at the same time it offers new flavors for you to appreciate. At the same time, the veteran beer enthusiast can enjoy it too. I certainly do.

Saranac Pale ale is also widely available, and is one of the brewery’s year round offerings. It’s very reasonably priced, too, usually selling in the five to six dollar range. The brewery has the following to say about their pale ale:

A beer that would make the English jealous! This true English pale ale is rich and fruity, yet finishes crisp. You’ll love the copper amber color and medium body.

Actually, Saranac Pale Ale is lacking the buttery notes I often find in English pale ales and has a more assertive hoppiness, but otherwise I would agree. The ingredients are certainly authentic: English pale and caramel malts are used, while East Kent Goldings hops are used for aroma. Willamettes are used for bittering, and although they are an American variety they are in fact a variation on Fuggles. The beer is later dry-hopped with more Goldings as well as Fuggles. This adds a spicy hop aroma.

My sample of Saranac Pale Ale was part of the 12 Beers holiday sampler and was exceptionally fresh. The beer pours to a burnt orange color with a thick creamy head and a delightful flowery hop nose. The palate is medium bodied with crisp, slightly caramelly malt flavor at first. A subtle flowery Goldings aroma emerges on the tongue followed by a lightly bitter finish. The aromatic hop flavors linger on the tongue after the sip.

I love the delicate flavor of this beer, especially the gentle hop flavors that abound. One caveat: this is a beer that is best when very, very fresh, since the hop aromas will likely fade with the progression of time. It’s a great beer to serve with poultry, seafood, and red meats.

And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.

*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.