A look inside the FX Matt Brewery and Saranac’s new 12 Beers of Winter

12-BEERS-OF-WINTER-2009.jpgThe New York Brew Authority recently had a special opportunity to go behind the scenes at the FX Matt Brewery in Utica, NY and get a special introduction to the lastest incarnation of Saranac’s 12 Beers of Winter with other select beer bloggers and writers.

If you have been lucky enough to visit the brewery where Saranac is made, you know what I’m talking about when I say it’s one of the most interesting brewery tours out there.

The FX Matt Brewery is a family-owned operation that is small enough for an intimate peek at its inner workings, but big enough to provide a look at the operations of a significant regional brewery.  I had been on the tour a couple of times before, but this was truly a unique experience especially given our tour guides were Nick and Fred Matt.  Another interesting aspect was to see the new warehouse built after the destructive fire that temporarily took out canning operations at the brewery.  From the tour, it was clear that the historic brewery was forward-thinking with a lot in mind for the future.


Fred Matt pours some very, very fresh Saranac Pale Ale.

mashfilter.jpgMaking the most of wort: The FX Matt brewery is one of select
few using a mash filter.

warehouse.jpgNew warehouse space post-fire.

And while I wholeheartedly recommend making the trip to Utica and taking the tour for yourself, the true stars of the evening were the 12 Beers of Winter.

Saranac may have outdone themselves with this seasonal variety pack that includes four entirely new brews.  The Brew Authority was lucky enough to have a dinner pairing with the 12 beers, created by Chef Arthur Langdon.  The featured beers include:

Winter Lager – A malty German-style lager that is both smooth and flavorful.  At 5.95% abv this ties with the Rye IPA for the strongest of the offerings.  We tried the Winter Lager with Cracked Peppercorn Duck Breast and Sweet Potato Hash.  Delicious!

Rye IPA - Earlier this year Saranac released a rye pilsener that I enjoyed quite a bit.  This time the rye is back in an India Pale Ale.  This is a traditional approach to an IPA with an unmistakable and tasty rye kick.  This was paired with crab cake with arugula salad and roasted corn salsa.  The Rye IPA went nicely with the spicy salsa, and I could see it being paired with chili with equal success.

Belgian Ale - Brewed in the Trappist style, this Belgian-style ale is a seasonal inclusion you may have tried before.  A tasty, fruity beer that looks to hold its own with other Belgian beer powerhouses.

Big Moose Ale
- This American Pale Ale is quite well-balanced, full-flavored and citrusy.  One of my favorites of the bunch.  The Big Moose Ale was paired with baby back pork ribs.  Very nice.

Black Lager - A German Schwarzbier reminiscent of Saranac’s popular Black Forest Lager, with a subtler hop addition.  The Black Lager was paired with beef brisket and cabbage with white beans.  I’m partial to both the beer and cabbage, so this may be my overall favorite.

Maple Porter - I love porters and I love maple syrup.  The Maple Porter is an apt combination of the two.  The maple flavor definititely comes through. Best enjoyed sipped with dessert.  On its own it was a little much, but paired with the apple bread pudding, it was terrific.

The Brew Authority will be talking more about their 12 Beers of Winter Preview in an upcoming podcast.  Thanks to the folks at Saranac for another great-tasting (and affordable) seasonal offering and a chance to taste it up close and personal.

6 thoughts on “A look inside the FX Matt Brewery and Saranac’s new 12 Beers of Winter

  1. If there’s voting for favorites, I choose the Winter Lager. If there’s not voting, I still choose the Winter Lager.

  2. It would be tough for me to pick an overall favorite. I’m partial to hops, and I thought The Big Moose Ale was great in that respect… But I almost want to say the Rye IPA because it’s so different… But I will stick with my first impression. Big Moose.

  3. Totally second Blake’s comment. The Rye IPA was very good, but as far as striking a balance between drinkability, hops, malt and overall flavor, I think the Big Moose is a complete winner.
    Oddly enough, the last time I tried the Maple Porter I hated it, but this time around I’m taking a liking to how different it is.

  4. Although I haven’t tried many of the above mentioned beers, I have tried pale ales before and I’m a pale ale kind of guy. I’m sure I’d like Big Moose Ale and most likely the Rye IPA. On a side note-the mash filter looks impressive.

  5. I have been drinking Saranac Brews since 1984. The Saranac Brewery continues to make some of the best beers around. With beers like Black Forest, Black and Tan, Caramel Porter, and the Rye IPA, there are beers that are perfect for everyone!

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