Saranac Black Forest | Matt Brewing Company / Saranac Brewery

570 Reviews
Saranac Black ForestSaranac Black Forest

Brewed by:
Matt Brewing Company / Saranac Brewery
New York, United States

Style: Schwarzbier

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 10-15-2001

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Reviews: 570 | Ratings: 1,137
Photo of Gavage
3.21/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured a deep dark brown with an off white head that produced some lacing through the drink. A slight roasted smell was detectable. The roasted malt was most prevelent with a slight hint of bitterness. Somewhat thin bodied and slighlty crisp on the tongue. The roasted malt lasts into the aftertaste for a short time. Drinkable, but overall an average attempt in this style.

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Photo of ChrisBowers
3.92/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Very decent schwarzbier, especially from an "economy" craft brewer such as Saranac. I found it very drinkable with a nice malty taste with hints of caramel sweetness at a touch of chocolate and hops. I don't know if I would go running out to buy more when there are so many better beers to choose from, but that is not to say that this is a bad beer. Just not one that sticks in my mind. Maybe the fact that there are so few schwarzbiers on the market to compare it to have left it in a sort of gray area in my mind.

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Photo of Stopper
3.88/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

The body of this schwarzbier is nearly black, not as black as some, with hints of amber around the edges. The head is a frothy dark tan, and relatively large. The aroma is very malty, and doesn't smell much different from an English ordinary bitter. The initial taste is medium in body, and the malt flavors are similar to those in the aroma, with enough hop bitterness to balance it. The hops become a bit more prevalent in the middle and are joined by a slight tartness and a very mild, nearly imperceptible, hint of roasted malts. All sweetness disappears approaching the finish, and you're left with a mild trinity of tartness, hop spice, and roasty character, combining to leave an overt dryness on the palate.

This was one of my favorite beers from college when I needed a well-priced, but interesting beer. I'd probably even say it was one of the main players in my transition to quality craft-brewed beer. So it has a warm place in my heart, and I feel validated to say that I can honestly still enjoy it for the same reasons I used to, even after having learned a great deal more about beer since that time. Ich will ein mehr!

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Photo of Scoats
4.3/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A very delicous, reasonably priced dark lager. It starts off with a nice sweetness that segeues into a restrained but noticable hoppiness for a wonderfully balanced, full tasting beer. I don't think they could make this beer any better. This is probably one of the best values out there.

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Photo of UnionMade
3.78/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

My final beer of the night, I remember really liking the Black Forest a couple years back, so I decided to give it a go on tap.
The beer arrives looking opaque black, letting no light through, topped with a frothy beige head.
Aroma is pleasantly roasty, with an estery sweetness. Some plum and fig, with light hopping creating an herbal undercurrent beneath. Some caramel. Simple, but very pleasant.
Flavor is mainly roasted malt, fairly clean, with some caramel and lighter malts adding a pleasing sweetness. Some fruitiness, with a pronounced peach and plum flavor carrying the middle. A touch of fig and very light toffee flavor. The barest trace of chocolate malt. Hops are very subdued, providing only a light wash of bitterness at the ned, drying out the flavor some. A light finish, with a mild roasty aftertaste, and some raisin coming through. Body is light, with smooth, mild carbonation.
Not the greatest schwarzbier in the world, but I still like it, and it definitely hits the spot. Simple and light. It's good to have beer that you don't have to pay quite so much attention to, and just enjoy good company. Easily my favorite from Saranac.

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Photo of steelreign
3.98/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

As a rule, I enjoy most of Saranac's output as session brews and at parties where economy comes into play. This one is my favorite of them all, since it is one of the darkest and heartiest that they brew. All chocolate malt and roasted grain, with a nice hop balance that leaves minimal bitter aftertaste. The finish is relatively dry with a little too much carbonation for the style. I would prefer it to be a little smoother. Overall, one of the best you can try from the Matt Brewing Co.'s line of beers.

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Photo of far333
3.85/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Deep brown color with ruby highlights where the light sneaks through. The head rises and falls quickly, leaving a layer one bubble high with light lacing all around the glass. Smell is initially of raisin, some sweet malt, and some roasted caramel with hints of hops. Flavor is warm and rich. Roasted malt and molasses, with hints of brown sugar and caramel. Slightest hint of an alcoholic aftertaste. Smooth and creamy mouthfeel. Pretty drinkable for a darker beer.

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Photo of GreatPondBrewer
3.7/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Had this at a party the other night(always nice when yuor friends decide to buy a barrel of something good). Poured a deep brown with plenty of ruby around the edges and a creamy small brown head. Smell was a tad indistinct with some earthy malts and sweet caramel as well. Taste was sweet and smooth with lots of chocolate, caramel, and dampness. Perfectly tasty beer on tap. I also like the bottles.

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Photo of GeoffRizzo
4.5/5  rDev +21.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Light brown in color, thin, yet foamy head, decent retention, stringy carbonation noted. Sweet, malty and some floral notes on the nose. Medium to full bodied with a caramel malt sweetness taste noted up front. Creamy, some light coffee beans noted, and the hops come through nicely towards the finish, a light toasty finish. Smooth for a darker beer, very tasty and well balanced, one of Saranac’s top brews!

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Photo of longpondbeerman
3.85/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

As the bold print so clearly notes to me, I have never reviewed this type of beer before. So, I'm operating a bit in the dark (which is not altogether bad, is it?). Here goes: while not overly intricate in its taste, this was a refreshing and pleasant brew, highly carbonated with lots of gentle sweetness. The pour is dark, almost black (no duh; it's a black beer), and the head, though thin, is a nice contrast. The smell is roasty malt, tinted with ginger. The taste is similar. On the label, they advertise "caramel malt sweetness, medium body..." I'd say truth in advertising. And I'd have another.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
3.92/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: black as night, with a creamy tan head. Aroma: lush and creamy, with notes of cocoa, nuts, feeling like a well-whipped latte!
Pleasant on the palate, dark, but sweet, initially hoppy, but smothered behind thick, huge malt.Very mild, smooth, but with a lasting, tasty flavor, and certain fruity tones emerging as we go.
Honestly, had I not known it was a schwarzbier, I would have pegged it as a less hoppy porter, it was so full and flavorful.
Thanks to UncleJimbo sending it out.

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Photo of AtLagerHeads
3.8/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Great looking brew. It is dark mahogany; looks very much like a porter. Two fingers plus of creamy beige head. Diminishes too quickly, but it leaves super sticky lacing all over the glass. Nose is malt and some caramel squeaks through. The flavor is sweet malt and lots of it. Little balance here and a bit thin and watery. Surprising taste for the look. You expect lots of smoky flavors but that's not what this is about. It's smooth, sweet, and all about malt. Enjoyable and drinkable it is a good beer that surprises the palate. Just a bit of roastiness creeps in at the end.

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Photo of nomad
3.48/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Strange pick for Matt Brewing to mass produce (schwarzbier). It was just about a black color with a creamy tan head that stuck around nicely. Also had good german-style natural carbonation rolls on the tilt. The nose was of roasted wheat, some caramel malt. Taste was a quiet dark malt, roasted wheat, and a slight fruit from the hops taste. Had a thin body and character, yet a nice dryness during the finish though it fades moderately fast. Almost an oily mouthfeel with a strange feeling cloy after the finish, like an acid burn. A good Saranac beer? It may have been if they hadn’t filtered it, and gone through with the heavy elements of it.

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Photo of maltydog
4.05/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

First tried this beer in their sampler case last week and I liked it so much that I bought a whole case of it for this weekend. In fact, I am enjoying one as I write this review! I am sampling this out of a 12 oz. bottle poured into a footed lager glass. The beer has a rich brown going to black appearance with hints of amber. The head is rich, creamy and opaque. It does not stay with the beer long and begins to dissipate on the first sip. The smell is of caramel and malt with a slight hop background. What a wonderful combo! The tast mirrors the smell with a rich, caramel and sweet front that is nicely balanced with a great blend of german noble hops in mid quaff. The finish is clean and dry with just a bit of residual sweetness. I believ that the mouthfeel is adequate, not great. All the great flavors are there, but they do not linger on your tongue. That being said I think that this helps to create to the tremendous drinkability of the beer. In other words, no resididual flavors on the back end that make you feel like you should pause and contemplate. Just a great tasting schwarzbier that naturally tempts you to take one drink after another and another and so on! On top of all this, Saranac's Black Forest lager is a great value. So, if you enjoy malt and an easy drinking beer,,,this is the one for you!


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Photo of Scooter77
4.1/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep brown color with a medium-sized, bubbly tan head. The head loses its retention with each drink, leaving a thin film on the glass. The nose is primarily toasted malt and a caramel. There was a nice, rich sweetness blended well with the malt and slightly bitter hops flavor. The finish was very light and dry. This is a well-balanced beer that’s easy to drink and quite economical.

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Photo of EmoBeerGuy
3.95/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours to a dark black, make you exspect that this beer is going to be very thick.

Nose is malty, carmel, with slight hops.

Taste is more of the smell, alot of malt and carmel sweetness here with a small but hearty dose of hops at the end. This one is very unique but in a subtle way. Not really like any other beer I've ever had. Maybe this is due to never trying another Schwarzbier.

I'd recommend this to anyone that hasn't tried this style. A great offering by Saranac, probably their best year-round beer...if not their best over all.

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Photo of pezoids
3.68/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This beer poured out a dark and rich mahogany color. The head was a good size - creamy and tan colored. Sweet chocolate and caramel in the aroma. There is a nice roastiness in the flavor - a little bittersweetness with a hint of green apples. The beer was light to medium bodied. Good drinkability and an overall interesting beer. I would have this again.

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Photo of Marty
4.42/5  rDev +19.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This is the most flavorful lager I have ever tasted. It's dark yet very easy to drink. It's sweet, but not yucky sweet (like Saranac's Caramel Porter). It's dark but not heavy. This is my favorite Saranac beer. Lately my buddies and I have been keeping six packs of this in our refrigerator in case of emergencies.

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Photo of BittRnessabounds
4.03/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Wonderful looking Gore Mtn. Garnet dark reddish-brown color with nice off-white/tan head. Lace hung around for the duration. Sweet and appealing smell that is mostly malty, with a bit of caramel and hops thrown in. Taste is very smooth and crisp, very enjoyable. This is easily the best Saranac has to offer, and is even better if you can find it on-tap.

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Photo of mzwolinski
3.72/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Dark brown/ruby in color with a fair sized, medium-tan, creamy head. Nice lace in the glass. Very appealing, sweet malty aroma with caramel and toffee notes. Medium body to the beer though the finish starts out unsatisfyingly light, almost watery. Things improve as the beer warms, however, with a nice toasty aftertaste developing to compensate somewhat for the thin body. Flavor begins with a strong taste of caramel malt and a mild (too mild, IMHO) roastiness. Hop flavor is understated. Drinkable beer, but too wimpy to be a a great schwarz.

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Photo of avylover
4.24/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Right away this brew is looking good & thick. The only light to penetrate this brew comes out blood red. Other than that, it's black, hence the name. Huge frothy head. Looks can be decieving though. This beer is about as thick as your average pale ale. Still nice but no motor oil here.Smell is nice & malty, with some hops peeking through. A decent sweet malt taste, not overbearing at all. Drinkability is niice here. Not a "Big" beer, but great beer

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Photo of francisweizen
3.85/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is my first achwarzbier and a pretty good one if I do say so myself. You have to love Saranacs great beers at such an affordable price:-) Anyway, this beer poured a light black, dark brown mahogany colour with little to no head on it. This smelled of mainly 1 thing, ROASTED malts...there was also a bit of chocolate and caramel in the nose as well.
This beer tasted good, very hearty, smoky(almost), malty, and roasted! This had a pretty thick, charred mouthfeel and a decent drinkability as well.
Not bad, but i'd like to try a better, authentic, German-Made Schwarzbier!

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Photo of BeerAngel
3.86/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a dark brown with garnet highlights and comes with a massive tan head. The head slowly shrinks down into a lumpy froth that lasts and lasts. The smell consists of faint burnt malt and a slightly twangy hop. Again the taste is also slightly faint but has a nice combination of lightly roasted malt and an earthy grain with very light hops. It is incredibly smooth and drinks down easy. It is light bodied and finishes just a lightly dry bitter. Nice brew! Thanks again to BIGDEB for sending me this brew! Cheers!

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Photo of TheLongBeachBum
3.78/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I see from my research (a few clicks of my cordless mouse) that this beer has been reviewed many times. Well, I have a 12 fl.oz. Bottle to finish the nights sampling with, probably wise.
Described on the label as ‘Bavarian Style Beer’, which gives me about as much confidence as A-B describing Bud as a Pilsner-Style Lager. I hate the foreign labels that US breweries appear that they have to tag themselves with; they are usually good enough to stand on their own merits, so my advice would be to ditch the foreign references guys.
Pours a turbid dark brown – smoky darkish iridescent deep ruby red, antique cherry wood color. The head is a creamy smooth tan colored ½” pillow covering.
Nose is of sweaty malty biscuit aromas and dark toffee caramel. Aromas are medium in strength but never pervasive. Has a mouthfeel consistency that reminds me of Tate & Lyles Golden Syrup, mixed with Dates and dark fruits. Finish is bitter with a lingering mild sweetness. This is a Black beer that appears to improve with temperature, the dark roast malt flavors increase exponentially with temperature. At room temperature this beer is at its very best. Thin but wholesome strange beer, that is to say, that it is a very good Shwarzbier. Make Sense?

Cheers to my friend BigDeb for this sample.

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Photo of kelticblood
3.9/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I was given a 6 pack of Saranac's black forest by a guy at work.I was mislead by the name "Black Forest" assuming it would be real dark and thick.Upon drinking I found it was quite the opposite.I had a nice creamy head and poured a brownish-red color.It has a malty taste with a little bite upon swallowing.A little taste of hops and wheat but nothing overwhelming.I really enjoyed this beer and would buy it again.

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Saranac Black Forest from Matt Brewing Company / Saranac Brewery
3.71 out of 5 based on 1,137 ratings.
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