Most of the Saranac (Matt Brewing Co, Utica, NY) beers that I have tried are about average. None are every really bad, but none are ever really top notch. One of my favorite beer stories has always been the $1 drafts of Saranac Black and Tan at the now defunct local Ground Round restaurant one night with a good friend that was driving. I asked what they had on tap and they had their usual macroswill, but the bartender finished with "oh and we have this Saranac Black and Tan that we are trying to get rid of for $1 a whack." I had just graduated from college and money was tight, so this was like manna from heaven. I put a $10 down on the bar and left with change. Life was good -- comparatively it was a decent beer and the price was right.
I recently picked up two new Saranac six packs, Imperial Stout and Imperial Pilsener (the first two offerings in their High Peak Series). I couldn't resist, Kappy's (one of my local stores with a great selection) was selling each beer at $6.99 per six pack. Saranac has always had a great price point, but $6.99 for beers with 9.0% and 8.5% abv respectively is absolutely unheard of . I figured I would give them both a shot and man, I am glad I did. The Imperial Stout is excellent. It has a fresh ground coffee and bitter chocolate aroma with rich roasted malt flavors that are well-balanced by a nice hop profile (six different dry hops according to the website). The 9% provides a comforting warming in the belly within the first couple of sips. For the price, this beer is an absolute steal and it is the best Saranac beer I have ever tasted.
The Imperial IPA pours a beautiful garnet-copper color with a huge fluffy white head with tons of sticky lace. The beer smells as good as it looks. While certainly not the best Imperial IPA I have tried, it holds it's own and for the price, I almost feel guilty...almost. Saranac has really hit a homerun with these two beers and I look forward to the next release...I just hope the price stays the same, they could easily sell the stout for $11-12 per six pack and I would not think twice about picking one up. This is even more of a value than those $1 drafts of Black and Tan. Buy them if you see them.