Review Date 1/7/2005 Last Updated 12/11/2009
If any brewery
has a claim to the most holiday beers out there, it’s got to be Saranac.
Every year they present us with a new assortment of brews in their
delightful 12 Beers collection. Many of these have been concocted
just for the holiday season, including a
Winter Wassail , a Maple Porter, and a
Caramel Porter .
Some of these appear frequently, others rarely, all are welcome visitors.
Of all the beers Saranac brews, however, there’s one that stands out as their holiday staple: Saranac Season’s Best. This is the beer that I see consistently every holiday season, whether in the holiday sampler or in six-packs and cases. And this is a beer everyone can enjoy for the holidays, too. It’s full of soft malty flavors yet not overbearing, something the beer novice or seasoned veteran can enjoy.
As I type it’s January of 2005, and I’m just finally finishing off the last of this year’s first 12 Beers collection. I’ll likely buy another. They tend to float around until February or so, so if you haven’t gotten out and bought one yet, now’s the time. For about $11, you’ll get 12 different beers with lots of different flavors to explore.
Including a Season’s Best. Season’s Best is a lager, and a tasty one, too. Saranac calls it a nut brown lager, a style seemingly of their own creation. To be sure, nut brown ales abound, most notably Newcastle Brown and Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale . These beers derive the name from the soft, sweet nutty flavors imparted to them by gently toasted malts. Here’s what Saranac says about Season’s Best:
Made to celebrate the holidays, this rich, mellow nut brown lager is brewed with a special blend of domestic and Belgian malts for a delicate nut-like character, then aged longer than most American beers. Enjoy its full-bodied taste and signature hop aroma.
Ales generally have a touch of fruity character to them, a trait lagers should not share. That is enough to separate Season’s Best from the above mentioned brews in flavor profile; otherwise, there are similarities, so if you enjoy the above you’ll likely fancy Season’s Best.
Saranac Season’s Best pours to a light brown color with a thick and creamy head than head formation and a soft, nutty nose. Allow the beer to warm slightly and more of that toasted nuttiness will emerge, both in the nose and in the palate. Lots of Brussels lace clings to the side of your glass all the way down to the bottom.
There are more of those delightful nutty flavors in the palate, along with notes of chocolate and toffee. The palate is clean and all of the flavors are subtle; none overpowering the others. The finish is nicely bitter, again not overly so but enough to leave a long dry aftertaste that lingers nicely on the tongue, but gently so.
I really enjoy this beer. As holiday brews go, its one of the more subtle ones. But it has broader appeal for that very reason. It’s a great little beer to ease your way into the big wide world of beer. And one you’ll long cherish once you’re there.
Update December 11, 2009: If you're out scouring your local store shelves for Saranac Season's Best this year, good luck. I haven't been able to find it. The beer isn't being sold in the 12-pack samplers this year, although I've heard it's offered in six-packs once again. Still, I did get some last year, and I just happen to have a bottle tucked away that I'm popping tonight. Admittedly, this isn't a beer I'd normally recommend for laying down, but I've had mine refrigerated the whole time, and I'm surprised at how good it is a year later. The malt is soft, delicate and nutty with a hint of chocolate. A fine layer of Brussels lace clings to the side of my glass, and the entire affair is laced with an herbal, aromatic hop character. I'm impressed that the beer has held up this well after a year. But then this is the most wonderful time of the year, after all.
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.