Saranac Imperial Stout | Matt Brewing Company / Saranac Brewery

very good
152 Reviews
Saranac Imperial StoutSaranac Imperial Stout

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

Style: American Double / Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.00%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by AlHam on 10-22-2007

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Reviews: 152 | Ratings: 198
Photo of gabedivision
3.92/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz'er to a Sam Adams Imperial snifter.

A- Nice dark black with a fluffy well carbonated head. Cant see in, cant see out.

S- Faint alcohol, roasted malts, sweet chocolate and caramel and a light smokey scent.

T- Smokey roasted flavors, the chocolate and caramel that was so good in the smell tend to get lost every other sip, high alcohol on the finish.

M- Well bodied and hearty with sweetness that stays on the tongue.

D- Highly drinkable, and very inexpensive. Great choice will absolutely have again.

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Photo of Chickenhawk9932
4.35/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours black with a thick coffee colored head that hangs around.

Smells of caramel, malt, coffee, chocolate, and bitter spice.

Slightly sweet up front with caramel notes, followed by a full coffee taste, then bitterness pounds the back of the mouth - finishing dry with bitter chocolate notes; An excellent Imperial Stout.

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Photo of grover37
3.42/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Appearance (4): Dark black with dark brown around the edges. A finger of light brown head reduces to a thin layer with some bigger bubbles. Sporadic spots of lacing.

Smell (4.5): Dark chocolate, char, and heavily roasted barley. Some booziness is apparent.

Taste (3.5): A bit watery up front with strong flavors of dark chocolate and roasted barley. Then a bit of sweet chocolate and tobacco and pine in the finish. Although it's a bit thin at first, the flavors are good but the charred flavor is a bit too strong in my opinion.

Mouthfeel (3): Medium to full bodied with medium carbonation which is a bit high. Creamy and coating with chocolate, charred malt, and pine.

Drinkability (2): The flavors are really big - almost too big - for 9% ABV. It's got some solid flavors for an RIS but it seems like something is off - I think it's just the overly strong char flavor. This would probably be a lot better with 6-12 months once that char character mellows.

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Photo of mmmbeer
3.36/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12 oz. bottle, brewed to 23 Plato with eleven malts, including two-row, chocolate and roast; hopped to 50 IBUs with Columbus and Summit, and dry-hopped afterward. Pours thick black, with a dark khaki collar that leaves a just a trace of lacing. Aroma consists of roasty coffee, vinous malts and a bit of hops. On the palate, the malts contribute dark fruits, coffee, roast, char and a hint of acidity, while the green hops lend a mild, bitter linger. The body is medium and coarse, a bit bubbly, and eventually smooths out. Fairly easy to drink despite the higher ABV, but it could benefit from some age to even out the rough edges.

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Photo of TheSevenDuffs
3.75/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Tasting notes from 1/9/11
Poured in to Duvel tulip

A - Dark black, small amount of light brown head.

S - Chocolate, coffee, hazelnut, slight bitterness.

T - Coffee, licorice, light chocolate notes. Somewhat hot.

M - Medium body, moderate carbonation.

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Photo of bubseymour
3/5  rDev -23.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I've only had 2 other Imperial Stouts to date so this Saranac was my 3rd. The appearance was so/so. The head, like all other Saranacs, had large/fizzy carbonation. Not as nice as I would hope from a I.S. The smell was sweet and the taste was strong, sweet and boozy. It was very heavy and a little hard to drink. Little to no hop bitterness at all. For those fond of R.I.S brews, I would guess there are much better options out there for this style of beer. There are better Saranac's as well.

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Photo of allergictomacros
4.12/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pitch black with a cream tan foam.

S - Nose is rich cocoa, coffee and fruit. Hints of booze and something anise-like come through as well.

T - Wow, bitter burntness. Dark, caramelized sugar and molasses. Pumpernickel, raisins and other dark fruit. Sweet, but barely enough for balance against the other big flavours.

M - Soft, creamy body.

D - Pretty good impy stout. Lots of flavour, but heavy. Very heavy.

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Photo of HotHands
3.88/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from bottle into my pimp, err, Chimay chalice.

A - pours jet-black with a finger of tan head. Great lacing.

S - coffee, toffee, roasty char, and bittersweet chocolate.

T - Roasty malts predominate. Coffee and chocolate are present, but this stout is not too sweet. Only a slight booziness. Nicely balanced by the bitterness at the end. I wasn't blown away by any of the flavors, but there's nothing to complain about. Everything is peachy.

M - Nice slick, full-bodied feel. Carbonation level is appropriate for the style (lower than the average beer).

D - Quite drinkable for the ABV. Goes down smooth.

A solid offering from Saranac. They get a bad rap because many of their beers are mediocre, which is true. My favorite Saranac is probably their Irish Stout, and this is a pretty similar beer with a higher ABV, so I like the Imperial. Plus, it was pretty cheap ($9.50 for six).

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Photo of TMoney2591
4.03/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a Dogfish Head snifter.

I know I owe someone a thanks for this bottle, and I think I know, but I'm not entirely sure. (Whoever you are, let me know...the thanks must be given!)

Finally unpacked my snifter, just in time to enjoy this tasty-looking brew. It pours a dense Charlie Murphy-style darkness (well, before Wesley Snipes hit the scene, anyway (thanks for that one, VDubb!)) topped by nearly a finger of light tan foam. The nose is the epitome of roast, with some chocolate, molasses, coffee, and a strip of leather racing among the roasted ruins. A touch of booze singes the hairs in my 'strils, but not so much as to cause a recoil. The roast seems to take a back seat to some chocolate-laden coffee when things move toward the 'buds, but make no mistake, the roast remains strong and in control of the situation. Leather, light maple syrup, brown sugar, and a hint of vanilla bean round out the flavor profile. The body is pretty hefty, with a light moderate carbonation and a somewhat lightly watery feel. Overall, a very solid stout, a bit high in roast, but not lacking in complexity or enjoyment.

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Photo of BeerAdvocate
4.2/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From BeerAdvocate Magazine Volume II, Issue IV:

Coal-black, color so dark, no light can penetrate it. Massive head from a hard pour, the head retention is simply amazing as the lace covers nearly all of the glass. Big aromas of dark milk chocolate, toasted cocoa nibs and mild coffee. Dark berries, slight char, ghost-like smokiness and a sweet malt tone in the nose. Creamy, slick full body with enough carbonation to bring out the smoothness. Burnt and acrid flavors are kept to a bare minimum. Sweetness comes in with burnt raisin, toffee and dark bread flavors. Dark chocolate and coffee throw a deep mocha character at the taste buds. Hop bitterness is mild but helps to balance with a bit of flavor from the middle to end. Alcohol is warming with a mild but quick pucker of dark fruit. Toasted bread crust and lingering mocha run deep in the semi-sweet finish.

Right on target for the style. Flavors seem to be meshed together well and the balance really shines. A great example of what an Imperial Stout is.

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Photo of BeerNinja007
3.71/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Picked up a sixer of this at Hoosick Beverages in Troy NY. 12oz bottle stamped with code 0980 1008. Served cold in a chilled pint glass.

A: Hard pour gives a huge slowly-building brown head that tops out at ~2" and threatens to overflow the glass. Settles very slowly to large bubbles and craters, leaving a thick solid curtain of lace on the glass. Thick black brew lets zero light through, even when held to a bright light. Perfect appearance.

S: Big rich nose. Bitter dark chocolate, molasses, some pine and grass hops barely peeking through. Smells dry, smoky, chalky.

T: Similar to the smell. Massive dose of dark chocolate, bitter smoke, dry molasses. Astringent and biting, could use a bit of sweetness to even it out. Bitter smoke and a little licorice in the long bitter finish. A ton of dark roasted grain.

M: Very dry throughout, especially in the finish. Medium-heavy body, good viscosity, soft carbonation.

D: Very good and very enjoyable, but would be a heck of a lot nicer if it was balanced with more sweetness and less roasted grain.

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Photo of Jeffo
3.18/5  rDev -18.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Got this at De Bierkoning in Amsterdam.

From a bottle into a snifter.

APPEARANCE: Pours out dark brown and sits black in the glass. Pour yields a three finger medium-thick mocha colored head with great retention. Medium carbonation evident. Head fades to a thick foam cap and leaves some immediate clingy lacing. Ring and splotchy wisp remains and leaves some half decent lacing down the sides.

SMELL: Roasted malts and some charred and charcoal notes. Some alcohol notes and hints of chocolate and coffee aromas. Some smokiness to with the charred, burnt notes.

TASTE: roasted and burnt or charred malts with some alcohol in there as well. Notes of dark pure chocolate and bitter coffee, but more about the smoky burnt malts here. Long lasting and bold charred, burnt malt finish with some alcohol and bitterness bringing up the rear.

PALATE: Medium body, lighter and thinner than expected for the style. Semi-creamy, goes down fine with a little scratch at the back and finishes slightly dry on the palate. A little below par for the style.

OVERALL: Fine, but a little too one dimensional with the roasted, charred malt profile. Moreover, the palate could use a little more weight for the imperial stout category. If you like your big stouts burnt, this will do the trick. If you like a little more complexity, however, then there are others that fit that bill.

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Photo of MrDanno96
3.28/5  rDev -15.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A: Pours black with about one finger of light tan head sitting on top. Some frothy lacing coats the sides of the glass.

S: Lots of smokiness and roasted malt. Maybe a little dark chocolate in there too.

T: Surprisingly hoppy, and not really in a good way. Flavors of roasted malt, smoke, and burnt coffee up front give way to a slightly sweet and piney hops finish. The finish is a little too sour as well and some citrus comes out as the brew warms. Not really what I'm looking for in an Imperial Stout.

M: Medium to full with a little alcoholic bite.

D: An O.K. Imperial Stout, but I don't really like the strong hoppy finish. The 9.0% abv doesn't aid in drinkability either.

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Photo of mostpoetsdo
4.1/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Nice dark brown, with a nice big brown chocolate head. Some good lacing.

S: Smells very roasted, a slight booze flavor with coffee.

T: This is delicious, very impressive for a Saranac. The taste starts with a big chocolate roasted malt flavor. It finishes with an almost tart dark fruit flavor. Lastly, possibly the best element, is the big time coffee aftertaste.

M: A silky smooth feel, medium body, decent carbonation for a RIS. It all works together nicely.

D: Great, but watch out. They did a great job with masking the 9% ABV.

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Photo of ClockworkOrange
3.83/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Out of a 12 ounce bottle and into my standard shaker glass. The stout appears a very dark brown color with some light showing around the edges of the glass. The head stands about a finger tall and is ecru in color. Nose and flavor consist of dark chocolate, cocoa, deep roasted grains, still a decent amount of fusel alcohol, milk chocolate and light mocha notes as it warms, sweet crackers/biscuits, even a bit of sweet and sour dark fruits. Medium in both body and carbonation with a clean, roasty, slightly bitter finish.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.75/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Roasted coffee bean brown with no highlights on this overcast day. The caramel colored head is large and firm, with plenty of persistence and lots of lace in finely dotted sheets. The jury is still out on whether or not MBC can brew outstanding beer, but at least this double stout looks the part.

The nose comes through with flying colors as well. The usual chocolatiness is accompanied by a floral fruitiness that might be due to hops. That's hard to figure after almost one year in the bottle, but 50 IBUs (to start) is nothing to sneeze at. Asking for more power borders on nitpicking.

Not surprisingly, Imperial Stout is one of The Matt BC's best beers. It's right up there with Black Diamond Bock and Fiddler's Green IPA. Hmm... I may have spoken too soon. As the middle of the bottle approaches, I'm less impressed. The flavor profile isn't quite as clean and as classic as it could be.

The good thing is that there's a decent amount of well-roasted malt that *almost* covers up the flaws. In particular, there's more floral (almost perfumy) flavor and slightly more sourness than there should be. Bittersweet chocolate, dark caramel, tangy molasses and coffee with cream all share the spotlight and come close to earning this double stout two thumbs up.

The body/mouthfeel, while not bad, is too light to run with the big dogs. It's acceptable for a 6.0% American stout, but nothing bigger. I'm still enjoying its lightly creamy smoothness and its finely tuned carbonation.

My hope was that Saranac Imperial Stout would be as well-crafted as Leinenkugel Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout, another ambitious undertaking for a brewery not exactly known for producing outstanding beer. Alas, it isn't that good, but it's still a worthwhile purchase if expectations remain reasonable.

*originally reviewed on 10-13-2008

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Photo of joejost
4.8/5  rDev +23.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

With a change in the weather and summer turning to fall it is time to revisit Saranac Imperial Stout.

Poured into a pint glass from a 12 oz. bottle.
The color is incredible brown bordering on black with a caramel color head.

Smell of chocolate, coffee, and maybe molasses. Nice and gets better after sitting awhile.

Taste is of rich malt, coffee, burnt toast(likeable), with a hint of cream and either raisin or fig.

Rich and creamy in the mouth.

I could drink this every night in the fall but then I wouldn't get to work very often. Delicious! The best The Matt Brewery has to offer.

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Photo of MVotter
4.38/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - The Saranac Imperial Stout pours into a chalice a deep-dark brown ... impervious to light. It has a healthy one-inch, tan head.

S - Some alcohol, malts, chocolate, black licorice.

T - The taste starts as coffee, then transitions to sweeter, roasted malts, retaining the coffee-note theme, hint of molasses ... wow! Plenty of character in these flavors.

M - The mouthfeel is damn near perfect. It has plenty of effervescence, and a medium-heavy feel.

D - Outstanding drinkability for a brew which weighs-in at 9% abv.

In summary, if you're the Ba with a hankerin' for an imperial stout which offers a taste profile leaning "bitter," yet provides a touch of a "dark chocolate" tease ... this is YOUR stout!

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Photo of SaintPeter
4.63/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours like a 40W motor: oil-thick and black, with a huge chocolate meringue head. The puffy head resembles heavy whipping cream or crème Frisch with cocoa powder. Very slowly disappears. Probably the darkest I've ever seen. No light penetrates this black hole of a beer. Intricate lacework of cling around the glass that lasts the whole way down the glass until the last sip.

Beautiful, wholesome aroma of molasses, oak, bourbon, toasted pumpernickel bread, coffee, roasted nuts, oats, caramelized candy, black licorice, rustic bread, prunes soaked in brandy, burnt plantains. So many aromas meld together to imperial perfection!

The taste is of coffee, molasses and chocolate upfront, turning to rum bread alcohol with raisins, and then an additional kick of sweet oak aged warming alcohol. Coffee toasted grain and just enough pleasant bitterness in the aftertaste. A touch of hop bitterness. The alcohol is mellow and smooth, warming and nicely layered in the flavors, not taking over at any time. Brilliantly balanced.

Syrupy and viscous-lazy on the tongue. Just creamy when it is swished around in the mouth. No carbonation. Almost chewable.

A very sippable beer, ultra smooth from an imperial. Mellow, no over-bold or too-strong flavors. This is exactly what one wants on a cold, dark winter night, sitting next to a fire and warming the beer with the hands to bring out all the robust flavors. A different buzz than most beers--more like a scotch or a fine red wine. Relaxing. Reminds me of Port Brewing's Old Viscosity, but only a fraction of the price. A fantastically executed imperial stout. You can tell great thought and care went into this black beauty, not to mention obscene amounts of ingredients that must have gone into this beer. This is one for the record books--a shining example of what an imperial stout should be. Hands down the best beer for the value in this country ($8.99, +/- a dollar, per 6 pack).

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Photo of wchesak
3.75/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a pint glass

A - very dark brown, 2 fingers of tan with a slight hint of red head, lots of lace left as the head dissipates to a thick ring on the glass

S - smelled the alcohol when I was pouring it, a closer smell reveals more alcohol with roasted malt

T - toffee, dark chocolate, some dark fruit flavors before the slight hop hits, then the alcohol shows up

M - not as thick as I like for my imperial stouts, but certainly not that thin either, good carbonation for the style

D - fell the burn in the chest, probably not the best beer for an 80 degree day, think this could beer would be good to try in a year, which is why i bought two

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Photo of brentk56
3.28/5  rDev -15.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Appearance: Pours a very dark brown with some rusty highlights around the edges; initially, it produced a fairly decent head, but that faded quickly to a ringlet while dotting the chalice with lace

Smell: The aroma is a bit of a muddle, frankly, with a rich dark chocolate and molasses tone, on the one hand, and a phenolic, plastic, artificial scent, on the other

Taste: I'm afraid the taste profile follows the aroma, with a nice rich, roasty, dark chocolate character up front; by mid-palate, the flavor starts to taste like burnt caramel and, unfortunately, it only goes downhill after the swallow, with a slightly sour finish

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body with moderate carbonation; still, a bit thin for the style

Drinkability: Ultimately, the off flavors in the aroma and the taste make this one tough to finish

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Photo of far333
3.63/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Ruddy dark brown with a bumpy and lumpy light brown head that lingers long and leaves a half-inch cap of foam.

Low aroma of cocoa and molasses, and a touch of smoke and leather.

Flavors of dark malt, espresso and tangy cherry. Rich molasses, smokey autumn leaves, some hop bitterness breaks out in the finish. Could be more roasty for the style, feels a bit more like a porter.

Mouthfeel is a bit thin, but smooth. Finishes a bit tannic, with some ABV numbing. Tasty beer, but perhaps a bit off style?

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Photo of bgjohnston
4.35/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

I bought a 6-pack of this beer after an in-store tasting. After getting it home and having it for a couple of nights, I will definitely look for it next year, as the rep told me it is a seasonal that is running out for this year.

Pours opaque black with a nice dark brown head. Steady carbonation, small foamy bubbles. Hits the nose with coffee, dark chocolate, and hits the palate with more of the same. Nice and dry with a little hoppy sharpness in there, but well masked by that dry dark chocolate flavor that I like in a stout. Comparing it to the Sam Adams Imperial Stout, this one has less of the "burned" or over-roasted flavor that I found in the SA version.

It's about as strong, tastes a bit better, and costs the same for 6 as the SA does for 4. Saranac wins this round, until it runs out for the season.

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Photo of grayburn
4.05/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured this pitch black brew into a glass around 50 degrees. A dark maple colored head stays around and leaves some lacing.
The smell is a bit maple syrupy, a lot of burnt caramel, some bitter chocolate, and some hops in the behind.
The taste follows the same lines, it starts off bittersweet chocolate, moves to a warming alcohol, then in the very end you can taste those hoppy oils.
The mouthfeel is excellent, smooth, creamy, a bit heavy on the carbonation, but other than that this mouthfeel is perfect.
The drinkability is pretty good, which at 9 percent is a bit scary. Definitely the best I've had from saranac.

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Photo of puboflyons
4.35/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From a 12 fl. oz. bottle marked 2757-1150 and sampled on Feb. 26, 2009.

Appearance - Incredibly dark. It pours almost nblack with a creamy brown head and good amount of lacing.

Smell - The aroma is full of malts and dark chocolate. These are the most evident of scents.

Taste and Mouthfeel - The mouthfeel is of medium body and a somewhat chewy texture. The flavors start with coffee but end bready and dryly hopped.

This is a smooth winner from Saranac.

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Saranac Imperial Stout from Matt Brewing Company / Saranac Brewery
3.9 out of 5 based on 198 ratings.
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