Oh, brew me no brew with artifical bubbles,
Those carbonated beers of today;
But Utica Club will still take the trouble
To age beer the natural way.
(Check out those cans at the top of the page. When is some brewer going to bring them back? They look like old style oil cans, so you could see a sort of engine-oil themed line. You know, Old Crankcase Stout or Lubicator Premium Pilsner or 40 Weight IPA. Something like that. )
Utica Club was the flagship beer brewed by the West End Brewery - later renamed Matt Brewing Company after founder F.X. Matt. It is the fourth largest family owned brewery in America (behind Yuengling, August Schell Brewing Company, and Straub Brewery - for you beer trivia enthusiasts). Having survived Prohibition by producing soft drinks and malt syrup as well as other food stuff, West End was one of the first breweries to be back on line once sanity was restored. In the '60's and '70's as many of the smaller breweries were being gobbled up or driven out of business by the mega national brands, West End persevered through a combination of regional brand loyalty and by brewing private label beers (remember Billy Beer?) Soon came Matt's Premium and Maximus Super (a malt liquor at around 7% ABV - pretty high for the time).
Today Matt Brewing is best known for their line of Saranac craft beers. We have included a number of Saranc brews in past BOTB meetings (Herb refers to Saranac Pale Ale in a can as the quintessential boat beer; their IPA scored very well with us and their Imperial IPA is to die for) but at our December meeting we decided to focus our taste buds with our usual laser-like precision on seven of Saranac's seasonal selections: Bohemian Pilsener, Lake Effect Lager, Big Moose Ale, Rye IPA, India Copper Ale, Vanilla Stout - this years 12 beers of Winter - plus Season's Best.
With a mixed case like this though, it made no sense to compare them to each other, so we decided to evaluate each on their own merits. Dan devised a chart for evaluation. We were to look at four areas as objectively as possible then give it an overall subjective evaluation. Each area was on a continuum. For example, aroma had "hoppy" at one end and " malty" at the other. A "3" would be dead center meaning it was pretty balanced with equal
notes of both. Besides Aroma we also looked at the following: Color - Pale, Golden, Amber, Copper, Black; Flavor - Bitter to Sweet; Mouthfeel - Light/Thin to Full/Thick. These were the objective observations. The final, subjective category was "Overall Impression" and this went from "Can't Stand It" to "Can't Get Enough."
Lake Effect Lager is nowhere near the 14% mark, but it weighs in at a respectable 5.59%. It's a German style lager brewed with Pilsner and and Kiln Coffee malt. Perle and Hallertau hops are used. It has a pleasant malty/yeasty aroma. It's a deep amber in color. The taste was judged as tending toward the sweet, which doesn't sit well with some of our members. The mouthfeel was just shy of full. Overall impression again fell right int the middle with no one hating it but no one ready to propose to it either. A few of the comments: "Doesn't look like a lager; a caramel-like taste; I'm not a fan - too sweet; Beats the hell out of Bud!"
Overall, it's a smooth, easy drinking beer with more flavor than your typical lager. You gotta' love the name though. It's alliterative plus evocative of the region. Those who live around the Great Lakes are well acquainted with lake effect.