September 14th, 2012 | by JOHN LOCANTHI Food & Drink | Posted In: The President of Beers

President of Beers: #29

Saranac Pale Ale: Matt Brewing Company, Utica, New York

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We're drinking the flagship craft beer from every state in the Union, counting down from 50-1, to find which is home to the President of Beers.

#29 Saranac Pale Ale: Matt Brewing Company, Utica, New York

State: Skyscrapers, the Statue of Liberty, Broadway, Central Park, and Times Square all come to mind when one thinks of New York. And then you realize that those are all just in Manhattan–and Lady Liberty is pretty much in Jersey. Legend has it that the state extends even further north than Westchester.

Brewery: In 1888, German immigrant F.X. Matt took over what would become Matt Brewing Co. in the foothills of Adirondack Mountains near Utica, NY. The brewery has grown to become the 8th largest craft brewery in the country. Matt Brewing Co. is the second-oldest family run brewery in the U.S., and quite possibly the oldest run by people with two first names. While Oregonians may be more familiar with Brooklyn Brewery, it is in fact much smaller than Matt Brewing.

Beer: Saranac Pale Ale–not to be confused with Saranac Pale Pale Ale–is an English-style pale ale. Matt Brewing began brewing the Saranac line of beers in 1985. In case you were curious, “Saranac” is an old Iroquois word meaning “craft beer is more interesting than American lagers.”

Difficulty of Obtaining in Oregon: Moderate. Matt Brewing does not distribute further west than Kansas, but you can order it over teh internets.

Rating: 62.3

PHOTO: Cameron Browne
This pale amber-colored pale ale announces its arrival with a faintly citrus nose. Vaguely sweet, vaguely malty, and somewhat hoppy, this heavily carbonated beer is fairly tame. That is, until you get to the acidic aftertaste that has already coated your throat and mouth, refusing to go away. Saranac Pale Ale is a pale ale that, while light in flavor, leaves a lasting memory–whether you want it to or not.

Admittedly, beer is the not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of the Empire State. With about 60 active breweries–landing them in the top 10 in breweries per state–there’s plenty of beer to be had. New York just has too many people for it to seem significant. The state was 40th in capita per brewing in 2010, with over 10 times as many people per brewery as Oregon.

That may not be true for long if 2012 is any indication. The Farm Brewery law passed on June 25 creates a special farm brewing license and provides tax incentives for brewers to farm hops, malts, and barley. They can also open up restaurants and hotels on these brewery farms, provided the beer is made primarily with products grown in New York.

On August 9 earlier this year, Governor Cuomo signed a bill allowing small breweries–defined as producing less than 300,000 barrels a year–to get out of costly exclusive contracts with wholesalers that many had been forced into by earlier legislation.

The state has embraced small-scale local brewing scene this year and it will be interesting to see it continue to develop.

While we wait, it’s a good time to get acquainted with scenic Upstate New York. Because of the Farm Brewery law, New York’s brewing scene is going to develop out in the forestland first. While the vast majority of what people associate with New York is contained in the five boroughs, it’s important to acknowledge that there are a few things to do outside of the city.

Things to do in Upstate New York:

Visit Niagara Falls: The iconic waterfalls straddling the border between Canada and America were formed through glacial recession thousands of years ago. This loud, powerful, and beautiful natural wonder has served as a backdrop in both Superman 2 and Bruce Almighty. (Canada has the better side.)

Eat a Juicy Burger in Albany: Juicy Burgers and More serves some of the finest steamed hams the capital city has to offer.

Watch a Toronto Buffalo Bills game: The Bills are the only team in the NFL to participate in four  consecutive Super Bowls. On second thought, no. You don’t want to get attached to this team.

Anchor Bar: While you’re in Buffalo, you should check out the birthplace of spicy Buffalo wings, which might be moving north with the Bills, too

Watch a Syracuse game at the Carrier Dome: Old Man Boeheim and the Orange have been a college basketball powerhouse for decades with an active NCAA-record streak of 42 consecutive winning seasons–including that one year they actually won the title with ‘Melo. After the game, you can stop by Community General Hospital, birthplace of Tom Cruise and future Scientology shrine.


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