Keep them out of the bottles and in the bars
A Review of Saranac Black & Tan by Saranac / Matt Brewing Co.
Posted on 3/1/2012 by Brew's Your Daddy
Lets face it, there are going to be times in all of our better beer journeys that leave us shaking our heads in either frustration, disgust or just sheer confusion. It could be because a beer seems to have been misclassified, or because a flavor is misplaced or totally off. Then there are those anger inducing, head shaking moments where a beer insults your intelligence right off the bat and everything seems to go downhill from there. A fist clinching, table pounding example of this is the Saranac Black & Tan from Matt Brewing Company.

I have always been a fan of layered beers, with my favorite being a Black Velvet. There is something visually appealing to me about them, and I feel as though that absolutely adds to their drinking experience. So when I see a bottle that says ''Black & Tan'' on it, I immediately think to myself ''Are you kidding me? That isn't possible. That is nothing short of bullshit marketing''. Unless there is some kind of magical layering monkey in the bottle, there is no way a ''real'' black & tan beer is coming out of it. Putting some stout and some lager in the same bottle makes about as much of a real black & tan as me throwing some eggs, flour, and sugar in a bowl makes a gourmet cake. Just because the ingredients are in there, doesn't mean there is no need for proper preparation.

Now that I have gotten a bit of my ranting out of the way, how about I take out a little more frustration by actually reviewing the liquid in the bottle? To begin with, in the glass this beer is more about what it is not, rather than what it is. What it is, is a dark brownish coloration with some reddish hues around the edges. What it is not is damn black or tan. Now I realize that we have all had wrongly or misleadingly(yes, it is a word) named beers, and occasionally we can let it slide because the beer can still reside in the stylistic realm of what the name may suggest. Guess what? Not here. The name black & tan actually comes from the visual aspect of what the beer is supposed to be, and it ain't happening here.

The bottle and website state that the beer ''is a judicious melding of our classic Irish-style stout with an all-malt German-style amber lager''. Getting your nose in the glass offers slight suggestions that both are in there, but nothing amazing is going to jump up and grab you. Some roasted malts are apparent, as are a few notes of chocolate and cocoa powder. Occasionally some dark fruit notes poke through, but none are distinct enough to specifically identify. In my opinion, the more you study it, the more the stout practically drowns out the lager in the aroma department.

As far as the taste goes, the stout again seems to overpower the lager. There are some chocolate and coffee flavors up front that seem to give way to hints of cocoa powder as they move along, and a few of those fruity notes detected in the nose come through in a light layer towards the tail end of things. With a bit of patience some of the more bready malts can be found, and some faint hops bitterness becomes noticeable as the session progresses. There is a bit of sticky sweetness left of the lips and in the mouth, and when all is said and done, the aftertaste again goes back to a standard Irish style stout.

There are so many different directions I could have gone with when reviewing the Saranac Black & Tan, but in the end, I went with simple and direct honesty. This beer angers me due to its attempt to take advantage of beer drinkers by placing a name on the bottle they would recognize, with full knowledge that they couldn't replicate what the beer actually is. I place this little stunt only about a half a step above Anheuser-Busch calling some mutation of their pisswater concoctions ''Bud Light Craft'' or ''Budweiser Micro''. The fact that the actual beer in the bottle fell somewhere in the average range is irrelevant as far as I am concerned. There are some things that are better left in the bars, and the real black & tan is a perfect example.

*side note - The Vortex Bar & Grill in Little 5 Points near Atlanta, GA makes the best Black Velvet ever. It is layered Left Hand Milk Stout and Crispin Cider. It is a must have any time you are near there.

**second side note - If Anheuser-Busch ever comes out with either ''Bud Light Craft'' or ''Budweiser Micro'', you better believe I'm getting paaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaid my friends, and the first celebratory round is on me.

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Saranac Black & Tan by Saranac / Matt Brewing Co.
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