Saranac Black Lager | Matt Brewing Company / Saranac Brewery

66 Reviews
no score
Send samples
Saranac Black LagerSaranac Black Lager

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

Style: Schwarzbier

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 10-07-2009

For Trade:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
firstprev| 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 66 | Ratings: 104
Photo of woodychandler
3.68/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I loooove Saranac's 12-packs! They give you an opportunity to try (and review) a whole buncha different beers all at once and all at a reasonable price. Here goes.

I got almost two fingers' worth of light-tan head with decent retention off of my pour. Color was a deep-brown with ruby highlights - very pretty. Nose was lightly cocoa-sweet. Mouthfeel was medium-to-full with a light cocoa sweetness on the tongue. The bottleneck mentioned "dark chocolaty flavor", but I did not feel it was all that. Chocolate, sure, but not dark chocolate. Finish was slightly malty-sweet with that chocolate malt taste, but it probably would not satiate any self-respecting chocolate lover's dream. Still, for the price, not bad.

 715 characters

Photo of drperm
3.03/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured into my pilsener glass.

A: Looks a bit like Dr. Pepper in my glass. Handsome, translucent brown with copper notes as the light passes through. A thin tan foam gets thinner as it sits atop.

S: Smells like beer. Smells like lager beer. A nose reminiscent of dark Vienna lager (say, Negra Modelo), very much malt-forward.

T: Simple, humble, straightforward, not bad. A bit watery, but nicely roasty-malty. No pretense with this one. A hint of chocolate shows up at the end if you're patient.

M: Somewhat watery throughout.

D: Not bad, not great: Average. One could work through a few of these with no problem. Don't drink it too cold or you'll miss out on some subtle notes. Try with meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

 722 characters

Photo of bltzburgh
3.95/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured dark black with medium head
Head smeemed to diminish fairly quick but showed good lacing on the glass.

Very drinkable lager with a nice chocolate and carmel smell and just the a hint of nut in the aroma.

Full flavor with a reasonable after taste. Thumbs up, though I bought in a variety pack, I would purchase a full case for one of the up comming "Beer Club" events we have coming up.

 397 characters

Photo of mtnbikerpa
2.91/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured out a 12 ounce bottle. Very dark almost black. Little or no head. Its a plainer and less flavor than the winter lager. Flavor is very disappointing compared to the color. It is very drinkable but nothing I would go out of my way for. I expected more of a malt or coco flavor. Or maybe some dark fruity flavors. If you are looking for something special look again. If you want a solid drinking every day brew, this is it.

 427 characters

Photo of jwc215
2.82/5  rDev -16.1%
look: 2 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Part of Saranac winter variety pack:

Pours ruby/cranberry toward brown - certainly not black - with a head that, at first, seems to hold some promise, but soon descends to a patch. Some vanishing dots of lace...vanish.

The smell is of diark-ish (cocoa?) maltiness with a slight berry-like tartness and slightly burnt coffee.

The taste is of sweetened coffee with balancing, though overroasted, roast (slight burnt edges) and a tart note. Sweetness balanced by roast/toast and a hint of non-descript hops in the finish.

Light-to-medium bodied...It is pretty smooth.

Drinks suprisingly well (for one) though very mild all-round. Had to dig for character though was the first beer I had for the day. A schwarz light...lite...

 728 characters

Photo of mempath
4.19/5  rDev +24.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

nice light tan head and lacing, dark cola appearance, settles fast.

smell is a nice breadiness, but there is an assertive freshness that suggests nothing extremely complex, but very refreshing and somewhat bold

taste almost matches the nose...almost a sour finish amid a mostly malty-bready palate. carbonation, though a bit flat, keeps the flavor upfront. a good trade-off.

very drinkable. best to session with a few other Saranacs. actually, as simple as this seems, i'd love to oscillate on a do nothing evening with this and a nicely contrasting Saranac from this winter pack. nice to see some new entries into the lineup this season.

 641 characters

Photo of russpowell
3.16/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

The last beer in my winter mixed pack I've yet to review

Pours chestnut with 2 fingers of rocky tan head. Good lacing & head retention

S: Brown bread & a touch of cooked corn & leafy hops

T: Licorice & brown bread, & leafy hops up front. Brown bread & leafy hops dominate as this warms. Finishes about the same brown bread, a touch of caramel & leafy hops with just a bit of apricot, just doesn't pull together for me...

MF: Medium bodied, fairly lively carbonation

Drinks easy, but not that great a Schwartz bier, could drink 2 or 3 before boredom sets in...

 565 characters

Photo of brentk56
2.91/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Appearance: Pours a clear burnt caramel color with a solid tan head that leaves some lacing around the sides of the pint glass

Smell: A bit of roasty malt, but just a small bit

Taste: Opens with a brown bread flavor but moves in an almost bitterly sour direction by mid-palate, though the crusty bread makes a re-appearance just before the swallow; roasty malt in the aftertaste, the sour/bitter flavor lingers as a distraction

Mouthfeel: Light to medium body with moderate carbonation

Drinkability: A bit disappointed with the bitter flavor on this one; verging on sour, it reminds me of nuts that have gone off

 616 characters

Photo of beerthulhu
3.35/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Poured a burnt cranberry-cola with a ½ finger khaki colored head that was moderately lasting. The lacing sticks well around the glass while a light density of moderately paced carbonation bubbles find their way to the surface. The coloring was not really black in nature, could of used a bit more roasted malting for coloring and when held against the light it appeared a deep crimson red.

S: The nose was faint, with only the slightest regards of roastedness. There was a presence of dried vegetative matter and faint juicy dark fruit of plums ever so lightly detected. Not a lot to go on here, was fairly clean the way I lager should be.

T: The flavor offered a decent helping of softly roasted malt balanced with a touch of sweet dried caramel. Light watery coffee and roasted grains add dryness to the overall presentation while there is some dried dark fruit that moves in for the finish. The overall notion of the drink was one of moderate flavor with a light coffee lacing on the finish that did enough to make its presence known.

M: An active mouthful is a result of the strong carbonation with a lot of dance on the tongue. A light bodied affair like a good Schwarz.

D: Decent drinkability, easy enough to consume in multiples but wonder what my tolerance would be. A decent session minded beer for the casual craft drinker.

 1,345 characters

Photo of KenC411
2.78/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Appearance: Dark amber hue capped with a sizable head, lasting for about 2 minutes before fading away with lacing on the side.

Smell: Deep chocolate, hint of roasty malt, however, very faint.

Taste: Malt taste in the front, kiss of hops for a finish. Taste of chocolate and some malt coats the tongue in the front. Very light on flavor, and a bit watery.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, mild carbonation.

Drinkability: Smooth beer with deep contrast. The beer is enjoyable, though I would not actively seek it out.

 514 characters

Photo of Mardukk
3.71/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep brown with an off white head that creates some lacing.

Not much smell to speak of other than a hint of malt.

Nice clean schwarzbier in that the flavor is light chocolate in the finish and also light on the roasted junk. Hops make the finish somewhat clean with the chocolate lingering a bit. There is also a hint of sweetness mid taste.

Medium carbonation with a medium well balanced body.

I'm a big fan of the style and this fits it very nicely. Well balanced and drinkable with some nice lightly roasted characteristics.

 540 characters

Photo of dsa7783
2.75/5  rDev -18.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Watered-down and lackluster are the best adjectives to describe this sampling experience... An American stab at a traditional German style that fails to capture the richness of this unique style of beer... Flavlors were sadly lacking... Nothing of the "chocolate malt" profile was evident... Nothing special...

 310 characters

Photo of mwa423
3.41/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Jet black with a finger of off white head.

S - Very little smell, just a tiny hint of malt.

T - Very typical lager taste only with a slightly darker malt flavor and a hint of smoke at the end.

M/D - A relatively easy drinker that is superior to lighter beers in the winter. Mouthfeel is quite light and doesn't leave a lot of taste in the mouth after you swallow.

 370 characters

Photo of bob3701
3.56/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a shaker pint glass. Very dark amber, clear with reddish-orange highlights. Nice creamy head that dissolved into a thick film. Laces really well. Slight roasted aroma. Faintess hint of coffee bitterness. Very smooth in the mouth. Highly drinkable. Not the best black lager out there but pretty good.

 311 characters

Photo of animal69
3.48/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A- pours a clear deep brown color w/ a thin off-white cap which dissipates quickly leaving little lacing in my pilsner glass

S- a very mild smell, some bready cereal grains with subtle darker whole grain and nuts as it warms

T- taste is slightly stronger with a bit more emphasis on the darker grains, a faintly minerally hop(?) bitterness with some nuts and very subtle dark fruits, clean crisp finish

M- a slightly dry, light bodied beer with a decent co2 level

D- all in all a very drinkable brew, i think their black forest is a tad better tho

 551 characters

Photo of deruiz10
3.36/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12 oz bottle served in a pint glass.

A - Darkish brown pour, reminiscent of molasses. Dark amber color around the outside of the glass. Medium-body coffee-and-cream color head fades fairly quickly, leaves significant lacing.

S - Not much smell; chocolate, malts, coffee & molasses.

T - Roasted malts, coffee, molasses, very slightly bitter-burnt taste in the finish.

M - A little watery for the style, minimal carbonation.

D - A good beer to drink when you get home from work or with some food, but too simple to be a sipper.

 530 characters

Photo of Stinkypuss
3.97/5  rDev +18.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Saranac Black Lager, poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pint glass. Pours a dark amber with a small white head that retains decently well. Spotty lacing.

Aroma of roasted malt, molasses and brown sugar.

Flavors of caramel, mocha, and roasted malt. Earthy hops add a zing and a flash of bitterness. Suggestions of toffee in the finish.

A prickly mouthfeel with a mild viscosity. Finishes semi dry. On the fuller side of medium bodied.

Solid drinkability. Good flavors that work well together. A good example of the style, which I am a fan of.

 544 characters

Photo of oberon
3.23/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Last of the Saranac Twelve Beers of winter beers for me to try.Poured a nice dep chocolate and ruby tinge,a large fluffy almond colored head atop.A mix of German malt and spice in the nose,not strong but quite nice.Really not much to say about the flavors because there were not many,light iron and chocolate is all I really picked up.A little thin in the mouth made it even less drinkable in my mind.Eh,it started out ok but really seemed to fizzle out in the end.

 465 characters

Photo of Amalak
3.28/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I had this out of a 12 ounce bottle.
A- It's a very dark brown in color, but still basically see-through. Some head and only a bit of lacing.
S- I'm not picking anything strong coming through.
T- Tastes kind of like cotton (to be honest, not sure what this means, but it's in my notes). It's very, very dry and has a sour, malt taste to it.

 340 characters

Photo of CHickman
3.65/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours out black looking but when you hold it up to light it's a red/brown in color with a creamy tan milkshake like head; smells of roasted malt with hints of coffee, caramel and chocolate.

Tastes of roasted malt, some malt sweetness, coffee, chocolate, nut, very faint hops, and grain or yeast. Nice smooth rich taste and feel, with medium carbonation and an overall rich roasted malt flavor that finished crisp and on the dry side. It tastes and feels like a stout even though it's called a lager.

Very tasty beer (not sure I'd call it a Schwarzbier like the label says) that goes down smooth and leaves a little lacing on the glass. The Saranac 12 pack variety packs always provide a lot of enjoyment and this year's winter selection is on target again!

 760 characters

Photo of GeoffFromSJ
3.92/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Very decent schwarzbier, which we need a lot more of.

Nice ruby to dark color. Clean lager taste with some roastiness from the chocolate malt.

Quite drinkable, not incredibly complex. In other words, a very nice schwarzbier. If someone likes Guinness, this may be a nice beer to introduce them to the world of craft beer.

 323 characters

Photo of number1bum
3.82/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dark brown, slightly reddish color with about a finger and a half of tan head. Definitely not black; I've had numerous other black lagers that were black, and this one is not. Keeps a thin lace and does leave some decent stick, but c'mon, it's not black.

Smell is pretty grainy, although it does have some dark caramel sweetness as well. Has a touch of chocolate too. Hmmm...beyond the grain it doesn't really smell like a scharzbier, but it doesn't smell bad. Hmmm...

Ditto on the taste. More chocolate and rich caramel in the flavor than the nose even. It's pretty tasty actually. Not like any black lager I've had before, but it does have some good flavor. Some hop bitterness in the finish.

Mouthfeel is creamy and smooth, medium bodied with modest carbonation.

Beating a dead horse here but this is no typical schwarzbier. Must be that it was brewed with a lager yeast, but beyodn that it drinks a bit more like a porter. It's not really true to style, but it is pretty good. This Winter pack is pretty solid so far.

 1,033 characters

Photo of mnrider
2.46/5  rDev -26.8%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

12oz. Brown Bottle. Pilsner Glass.

A: Dark brown, with a reddish tint. Thin head never lasts, with little lacing. Carbonation is strong.

S: Watered down malts. Sweet with bread.

T/M: Mostly malts. Kinda watery with a slight caramel taste. A little bitter on the back end. Carbonation is strong.

D: I've had better beers of this style. Not that bad, just something I wouldn't get. Unless in a mix pack.


 413 characters

Photo of tigg924
3.4/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Appearance: dark brown in color, 1/3 inch head, moderate carbonation, clear

Smell: light chocolate and toasted malt

Taste: caramel and small burnt malt

Mouthfeel: medium carbonation, medium/light bodied, slightly bitter

Drinkability: Average for the style. Nothing overly exciting, but nothing bad either. Glad to drink the two in the sampler, would not get a six.

 369 characters

Photo of WVbeergeek
3.3/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a cola brown with ruby highlights a large beige khaki head forms and leaves evenly spread lacing around my imperial pint. Aroma is heavier on nuts and caramel than the dark roasts like coffee and chocolate edges. The Black Forest Schwarzbier used to own this, no where near as traditional as that offering. Flavor has a slight tart sourdough edge to it creamy milk chocolate notes with herbal hops and harsh carbonation, that sour twang throws me off a bit. Mouthfeel is a bit acrid with a harsh tartness to the finish, light bodied sturdy carbonation. Drinkability is solid okay darker brew bring back the old formula.

 625 characters

firstprev| 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Saranac Black Lager from Matt Brewing Company / Saranac Brewery
3.36 out of 5 based on 104 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    No fake news here. Get real beer content delivered to your doorstep every month.