Monday, March 17, 2008

Sunday Night Suds - Saranac Caramel Porter

Tonight's beer is a dark beer with an interesting twist - Saranac's Caramel Porter. Porters are dark beers that were brewed in this fashion to be able to withstand long trips or ocean journeys. The Saranac Porter is no exception.

I first started drinking this variety last year (winter 06-07) as it was part of the Saranac Winter Beers box. At the time, I had just started getting into the flavored beers and decided to give the Caramel Porter a try. I found the beer a little on the heavy side, but with a nice caramel aftertaste that was able to offset a beer that was quite dark.

A quick word about "flavored beers." Most beers are made from four main ingredients - barley, hops, yeast and water. So why do some beers vary greatly from others, depsite the fact that they all have the same ingredients? A lot can depend on the type of hops that are used in the process. Some hops give a lighter flavor, others can induce a fruity effect, while still others produce a rich dark flavor that borders on coffee. My wife Sarah thinks that Guinness tastes like coffee and although she likes coffee, I can rarely get her to take more than a sip of a Guinness. (As to how a nice Jewish boy like me got into Guinness, the credit goes to my good friend Charlie, but that's a story for another day...).

So if the beer gets its flavor from the hops, what is a flavored beer? Flavored beer is a beer that something additional is added into the brewing process - this can include fruit extracts like blueberries, strawberries, pomegranates or apricots. It can also include darker more complex flavors like caramel or coffee. It is beers like this that require special kashrut supervision as the main four ingredients (water, hops, barley and malt) are generally kosher, while the "flavorings" can come from a variety of sources and thus require kashrut supervision.

The Caramel Porter is a drinkable beer if you like beers that have more character than bud or Heineken. It is full bodied and has a sweetness from the caramel flavor that is added to the brewing process. After enjoying the two that I had in my Winter box last year, I wrote to Saranac and they agreed to distribute it in six packs. It is not as easy to find as the Saranac Pale Ale, but it is widely available where Saranac is carried.

Saranac Caramel Porter is under the Kosher Supervision of the Vaad of Detroit as are all beers brewed by Saranac. For the experts' take on the Caramel Porter please click here .

As always, please remember to drink responsibly and to never waste good beer unless there is no designated driver.

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