Saranac Black Forest Black Beer | Matt Brewing Company / Saranac Brewery

Your Rating: None
Want it   Got it 
Saranac Black Forest Black BeerSaranac Black Forest Black Beer
1,147 Ratings
Saranac Black Forest Black BeerSaranac Black Forest Black Beer

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

Style: Schwarzbier

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.50%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
A Bavarian Black beer with distinctive caramel malt sweetness and a rich creamy trademark head. Flavorful, yet smooth…very drinkable!

Added by BeerAdvocate on 10-15-2001

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Ratings: 1,147 |  Reviews: 574
Photo of Socrates68
4.08/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

I was surprised to find out how light this beer tasted after I saw the nice, dark color. Overall, I can say this beer is very drinkable.

Appearance: A nice very dark brown, almost black color. Poured with a good head that lasted a decent amount of time.

Smell: Smells like a faint porter, with hints of chocolate and coffee. Not overpowering.

Taste: Just like it smells. A faint porter with a lighter body. Not overpowering with flavor, but enough there to taste it.

Mouthfeel: Great feel! A little creamy and goes down great! Lingers in your mouth shortly after it goes down.

Drinkability: I could see myself drinking more than 1 in a night.

 647 characters

Photo of PhageLab
3.45/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Single 12oz bottle purchased from Total Wine & More.

A - Slightly intimidating for my tastes, it's a completely pitch black opaque concoction. Minimal head and a little bit of lacing.

S - Almonds and roasted malts. A hint of something sour comes in at the end, not able to pinpoint what though.

T - Remarkably different from what I was expecting, this is my first schwarzbier. A lot lighter than it looks. Mildly bitter and malty. Has an nut-like feel to it, again like almonds. Not bad at all.

M - Surprisingly light bodied and clean. Decent carbonation.

D - Fairly high I'd say, I could make this my beer for the evening if I only had a few more. Overall this is a decent brew and one I would recommend to anyone looking to try new things, enjoy!

 753 characters

Photo of sbe1
4/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I used to get loaded on this beer years ago back when it used to be called Prior Dark and was sold super cheap for a good beer.

Matt brewery bought out the brewery in Pennsylvania (Schmidt's) that made Prior Dark (aka Prior Double Dark) and after awhile Matt rebranded it Saranac Black Forest. You can still get this beer on tap, sold as Prior Dark in some places--for example Clark's Ale House in Syracuse, NY. Whenever I'm in the 'cuse I make a point to have a pint of Prior Dark/Saranac Black Forest at Clark's before I leave town. I've also had Saranac Black Forest in bottles and I can attest it's the same beer.

Appearance: I've only seen this stuff in darkly lit bars and it looks like a brownish/blackish cola color. Has a decent head that doesn't last, but leaves a light brown lace that sticks to the glass.

Smell: Sweet, sweet, sweet! Malt and caramel, not much else there, but what is there smells very very nice.

Taste: Like a Heath bar in beer form (and I mean that in the best way possible), caramel, toffee, and chocolate, with a dominant malt taste.

Mouthfeel: Not heavy but not light, like a Becks or a Sam Adams Black Larger type of mouthfeel. Very smooth.

Drinkability: Fantastic! This is a beer I could drink all night. A wonderful session beer.

 1,273 characters

Photo of AlHam
4.2/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours dark and clear, with a nice head.

Smells of dark roasted malts.

The taste follows through. The roasted malts come through, and hops follows through for sound finish.

Easily one of Saranac's best beers. A good call anytime for a nice Bavarian-style Schwarzbier.

 269 characters

Photo of animal69
3.75/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

# 3 is my favorite Saranac brew; pours a deep cherry-cola color w/ a slight tan head moderate lacing; a rich toasty malt aroma w/ some faint hop undertones; nice sweet malty, almost "coffee"-like flavor balaced w/ the hops, a little more "watered down" tasting than my usual on-tap version; good med body, though once again being alittle thinner than the tap version; all in all a very drinkable beer..

 402 characters

Photo of Kendo
3.63/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pilsner glass. Body is dark brown with reddish hues. A 1-finger tan head settles on top and leaves some rings of lacing on the way down.

S: All malt -- caramel malt, roasted malt and burnt sugar.

T: Grainy malt is the first impression, followed by a caramel/toffee-ish sweetness. There's a faint finish of minerally hops to provide some balance, and a slightly burnt smokiness lingers in the aftertaste. Not bad at all.

M: Body feels a little thin, but there's a moderately creamy feel to it.

D: Very good. Goes down easy.

 563 characters

Photo of Mindsquall
3.68/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This poured a nice black with a brown head, as a schwarzbier should. Smell is a slightly weak aroma of caramel and malt. Flavor is nice and malty, not very bold, not too bad, could have used a bit more of a punch in the flavor department. Nonetheless however It's quite drinkable and rather refreshing.

This is a really good attempt at a Schwarzbier, but when it comes to Schwarzbiers, Köstritzer is easier to get and it's better.

 433 characters

Photo of matty
3.4/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Dark chocolate colored beer.The taste was like a chocolate-caramel bread that was cooked in an open fire pit.I do mean this is a good way though! Great taste from top to bottom of bottle smooth with pleasant aftertaste.I will recommend to anybody!!!!

 250 characters

Photo of dmamiano
3.46/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Drank from the bottle so I wasnt able to view it.
Beer smelled of roasted malts with an almost bready character.
Tasted of a bit burnt malt, bready with a very nice flavor profile.
Hops seemed to be missing. Just enough to balance the malt.
Good mouthfeel .
Very nice lager. I really enjoyed it.

 295 characters

Photo of ZimZamZoom
3.6/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured a 12 oz. bottle into my Sam Adams high tech glass.

Got a two-tone black over brown color, which becomes a reddish brown when held up to light. It wants to be pretty but does not quite get there. A fingers wroth of tan head gives way to little lacing and quickly becomes just a thin layer on top of the beer.

Smells slightly sweet, with some caramel and a bit of hops. Taste is sweet and malty, with a bitter hop finish that ends abruptly. Nothing lingers for long after this one's done. OK I think this is my first example of the style, and I was not sure what to expect. Its finishes clean like a lager, but has a bit of an estery flavor also. Interesting, but not for long.

Light bodied and definitely drinkable. Not sure how it lives up to the style but I will drink it again for sure.

 798 characters

Photo of Rootdog316
4/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Black Forest pours to a dark brown color with a hint of reddishness. You cannot see the red unless you hold the beer up to a light. Otherwise, its dark brown in color and it produces a nice- size head of foam> the aroma is very enticing with a nose that's roasty and sweet.

The flavor of this beer emphasizes the sweet, roasted malt. I could also detect traces of caramel, molasses, and chocolate, but very little hop taste. This is good for those who prefer the sweet taste of malt over the flavor of bitter hops. The body of the beer is medium, and it finishes a little on the watery side, although not excessively so.

Saranac brews this product using caramel and two- row barley malts, Hallertauer and Mt, Hood hops, and lager yeast to produce a smooth, easy to drink dark beer. The alcohol level is 5.5 percent by volume and there are 173 calories in a 12 oz. serving.

 879 characters

Photo of Zephenbrewid
3.65/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Serving Type: 12 oz bottle poured into 12 oz pilsener glass

Appearance: Opaque black, darker ruby translucence when held to light, solid tan head which does not dissipate very quickly.

Smell: A little malt sweetness pulling through

Taste: Good balance, bitterness seems to come from the roasted malts primarily, some light chocolate flavor

Mouthfeel: light bodied, though could have been slightly lighter. well carbonated, this beer was bubbling til the dire end

 474 characters

Photo of LeftyBWS
4.33/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12 oz. dark brown bottle into a pint glass.

A: Pours well to a mostly dark brown but partly deep reddish color, with a good amount of fizzy head.

S: Smells sweet and malty, though not quite as stongly as a dark stout. A nice toned-down version of that style, but still plenty intriguing.

T: I can taste plenty of sugars throughout, and the label indeed claims a “caramel malt sweetness.” There also appears to be a light and smooth chocolatey taste.

M: Full and malty, though not overpowering. Nice and smooth throughout, but still with the heaviness of a more stoutish beer.

D: Pretty high. A nice alternative to a heavv, wintery beer when you’re looking to have a few. I’ve bought it by the six-pack frequently, and always call dibs on it when I split a variety pack with a friend.

 817 characters

Photo of
3.44/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz. bottle

Clear, dark brown with ruby highlights. Modest, light tan head. Minimal lacing and legs.

Roasted notes and coffee on initial sniff. Deeper draws brought out caramel. Overall rather sweet, but mild in intensity.

Taste brings back the coffee and roast flavors. Herbal notes in there. Nicely balanced, but just a bit more bitter than sweet. Touch of caramel.

Light to medium body. Medium carbonation. Not particularly dry.

Easy drinking, very sessionable and nice flavors.

 497 characters

Photo of chefdejour
3.25/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

BOTM offering

A: poured from 12 oz. dark ruby / brown with thin light tan head

S: some raisins and dark dried fruit with carmel malts

T: caramel and raisins, lack of hops could be due to age of sample

M: med. light carbonation and thin

D: curiously interesting beer, but drab and boring at the same time.

 319 characters

Photo of giblet
3.53/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

the bottle was titled as a growler but it was a quart with a screw type cap. i liked the package cuz i had some last night and will finish today.

i really enjoyed this beer. nice dark rich color. nice head that settled down with nice lace. the smell was rich and chocalate. the taste was quite pleasant with rich malt.

i will certainly get this one again and will search for more from this brewer.

i recomend this one but dont expect to drink a lot of them. it is rich.

suckem up and movem out.


 516 characters

Photo of dacrza1
2.86/5  rDev -23.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2.5

After sampling the traditional lager, thought I'd try the dark side of Saranac...pleasantly surprised by the look of dark cedar, almost mocha body with short-lived head...malt is heavy, creamy, with a hint of metal in the scent....a thin, fleeting mouthfeel with soda pop bubbles when chewed...odd taste--I'm about to take a Dorito to chase it...overall, better straight than chewed....only a few schwarzbiers sampled, mostly Japanese and of course Xingu... not in that class, but a nice find in the winter sampler...

 517 characters

Photo of albern
3.47/5  rDev -7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Not a bad beer. It pours a pretty dark, rubyish color, with a little head that dissipates quicly. Decent to average lacing. The smell is malty, molasses, metalic, sweet fruits. The taste is caramel malt, some molasses, maybe a little coffeeish, maybe some raisin flavors, maybe a slightly burnt quality to the barley. This is medium bodied, slightly carbonated, but not overly so. It leans towards the sweet malts rather than the dryish hops. The mouthfeel is pretty slight, maybe a little on the refreshing watery side. The aftertaste is slight, just a tinge of hoppiness on the back end, but you have to look for it. Not a bad beer, not exceptional by any means. Schwarzbier (if I'm spelling it correctly) is a better Bavarian Dark.

 734 characters

Photo of BuffaloBill91
3.71/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Got this in a mini growler- more like a big 1qt bottle nice price 2.99

This brew pours pretty blackish with ruby or actually more of a garnet tone to it when up to the light-pours a nice 2 finger tan head that lasts for a while this looks like porter to me..
If there is anything that I think this beer is lacking its in the smell- this doesn't have much of a scent maybe some malt and mild fruitiness..
I think that that beer tastes excellent sweet caramel and mildly bitter chocolate taste--I also taste some dark fruit- guessing it is blackberry.. I think its a great blend that finishes still both mildly bitter and sweet..impressive.
The mouthfeel is average -light to medium bodied - has a dry feel as if it would have a higher ABV without the hot head but that doesn't take away from its drinkability -- I almost wish this was a thicker brew- seems to me like it belongs that way...
This is highly drinkable and I think its easily a session beer.. This is becoming one of my favorite offerings on saranacs long list and I look out for it...I was happy to find this mini grower from them since I cant ever seem to find it in a pack that isnt a mixed pack

 1,173 characters

Photo of zdk9
3.55/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A- Pours out a black brew with a finger of cocoa colored head. Some lacing but pretty weak.

S- Roasted grain and smokiness come out of the nose, with a hint of carmel sweetness.

T- The taste of this beer is all roastytoasty and smoky. The grains come out with a dark, but mild, coffee flavor. This is balanced by a hint of earthy and slightly pine resinous hop flavor and the whole thing is enveloped in a cloud of hickory and oak campfire smoke.

M- Smooth but not overall heavy, the alcohol comes out a smidge more than I would like but nice feel on my cheeks and tongue.

D- I enjoyed the smoky and dark flavors of this beer, certainly a sessionable dark beer.

 673 characters

Photo of PittBeerGirl
3.48/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A- very dark. would be transparent if it wasn't so dark. Small tan head.

S- some chocolate and malt.

T- sweet malty flavor with carmel. Very nice. Clean finish.

M- some carbonation and light body. somewhat watery. bot goes down pretty smooth

D- great dark lager. good session lager.

 294 characters

Photo of Redwood21
4/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 0z bottle into a nonic pint glass,

A: there is a deep brown/blac color with a medium brown head that dies away, but not completely.
S: sweet warm caramel type aroma that is very nice.
T: follows the type description almost to a t. its lighter in body than the color may initially portend. there is a sweet medium body caramel type flavor. low bitterness. very enjoyable
M: medium bodied and enjoyable not much else to say
D: A good beer that follows the style very closely. i was suprised and would enjoy another one

 526 characters

Photo of arizcards
3.83/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Received in early April as part of my March MicroBeerClub shipment.

This beer poured a dark brown/black with ruby undertones and a nice tan head. Nose is of sweet caramel malts. Taste is of those sweet caramel malts with a light hop finish to balance things out nicely. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and well carbonated. Overall drinkability is good. This is a nice representation of the style and a nice change of pace for me!

 427 characters

Photo of yourunclewalt
3.41/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

(This is my first review, so feel free to take with a grain of salt.)

A – Pours a deceptive black; a deep, blood red when held to light. Two-finger, thick, creamy head that dissipates after a few sips.

S - Extremely malty aroma - sweet with a hint of caramel. Countered with the slightest tinge of resiny hops.

T – Moderately bitter with a slightly burnt aftertaste – like a cup of Folgers. Not a terrible amount of character, but just enough to let you know you’re drinking something other than a macro lager.

M – Light, watery. Carbonation flutters on the tongue like a suffocating goldfish.

D – Highly drinkable, a good dark session beer akin to a dunkel weizen.

 688 characters

Photo of Doctuh
5/5  rDev +34%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours a blackened amber, light comes through in a copperish hue. The head is frothy and creamy. Hops dominate the aroma, with a hint of the caramel roast before the moment. The schwarzbier is well represented, a porter-like anticipation transforms into a smoother fading finish. The standard Saranac profile of a dominant pre-swallow taste leading to a crisp end lends itself well to this style of beer. The initial aromatics foreshadow this malty peak, slight chocolate into a roasty withdraw.

Each sip is a singular moment, each glass a individual episode. But each beer is part of a history, and a beer without history is water. In this are the beers that enlightened you to the knowledge that beer is worth reviewing. Alone in such distinguished company is that beer, the unique duality of style and brewer that made you first appreciate beer. To each their own: transcending communal rating.

One is fortunate to have a beer to bring oneself to places where they cannot physically go again. I would take a ponderous moment in this Black Forest anytime.

- Bottle pour, cellar temperature, into a pint glass -

 1,120 characters

Saranac Black Forest Black Beer from Matt Brewing Company / Saranac Brewery
Beer rating: 3.73 out of 5 with 1,147 ratings
  • About Us

    Founded in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.