Sam Adams vs. Saranac isn’t exactly Army vs. Navy football. But as I sit here watching my favorite college football rivalry (Go Navy!), I’m inspired to renew my annual winter beer 12-pack taste-off.
In a rematch from last year, we have Samuel Adams Winter Classics brewed by the Boston Beer Company in Boston, Massachusetts vs. Saranac 12 Beers of Winter brewed by Matt Brewing Company in Utica, New York. This is my first ‘live blog.’ I’m holding the 12-pack taste-off on my patio where I set-up my portable flat screen for the Army-Navy game and a fire bowl to keep us warm. It is a beautiful December day in Maryland – sunny with highs in the low 60s. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be outdoors and the fire bowl is the perfect protection against the mild chill setting in as the sun goes down.
On to the taste-off…
Both 12-packs have two bottles of six different beers, so I matched Sam vs. Saranac beers against each other in a six-on-six battle. Joining me in the taste-off of six-ounce samples was my beer-drinking companion, Beth. Here are the results of the 2012 Winter 12-Pack Challenge.
1. Sam Adams White Christmas vs. Saranac Belgian Pale Ale
The taste-off opened with a battle between the lightest offerings in each 12-pack. White Christmas, new to the Sam Adams winter mix-pack, is a White Ale “with a slight citrus note complemented by a blend of cinnamon and nutmeg.” Saranac’s Belgian Pale Ale is a “sessionable brew with…distinctive fruitiness from the Belgian yeast.” I liked the hoppy finish of the Belgian Pale Ale, but I also liked the crisp flavor of White Christmas. Round 1 is a toss-up; I’m calling it even as Army-Navy end the first period 0-0.
2. Sam Adams Boston Lager vs. Saranac Big Moose Ale
Big Moose is triple dry-hopped with Amarillo, Centennial, and Cascade hops for a “vibrant citrusy hop aroma” and “bold hop character.” The big flavors of Big Moose stand up to the classic Sam Adams Boston Lager. Early in the match-up, Saranac takes a surprising 1-0-1 lead. Army-Navy is tied 7-7.
3. Sam Adams Winter Lager vs. Saranac Black Bear Bock
In a battle of bocks, Sam Adams Winter Lager, a Wheat Bock spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and orange peel, edges the malty Black Bear Bock. As the Army-Navy game heads into halftime tied 10-10, at halftime here Sam and Saranac are knotted up 1-1-1.
4. Sam Adams Old Fezziwig Ale vs. Saranac Red IPA
This a match-up of the wild cards of the 12-packs. I hoped for more from Saranac’s Red IPA. It boasts of a “distinctive hop aroma and flavor” but I’m not feeling it. Old Fezziwig is “bursting of flavors of the season from traditional holiday spices to sweet toffee and caramel malt notes.” Fezzi wins going away to give Sam Adams its first lead, 2-1-1. Army-Navy are still tied 10-10.
5. Sam Adams Holiday Porter vs. Saranac 4059′ Porter
In this head-to-head match-up of Porter vs. Porter, Sam Adams’ Holiday Porter comes out on top. I prefer the the roasty robust Holiday Porter to the lighter 4059′. As Sam clinches the win with a 3-1-1 lead with one beer to go, Army takes a 13-10 lead over Navy.
6. Sam Adams Chocolate Bock vs. Saranac Chocolate Lager
In the final match-up of the day, the chocolately Bock edges the Lager. Saranac’s brew is a “sinfully delicious deep Amber Lager made with the purest Cacao from Belize.” But the creamy texture of Sam’s Chocolate Bock gives it the edge as Navy retakes the lead 17-13.
Sam Adams Winter Classics: 4
Saranac 12 Beers of Winter: 1