Getting Drunk in the Rain in the Catskills
Saranac India Pale Ale from Matt Brewing Company in Utica, New York
Style: American IPA
Serving style: Bottle
Location: Little Pond Campground in the Catskills, which is somewhere upstate outside of the city. Don't ask me to explain it more than that.
Cost: A fellow camper brought it, and I swiped it. Thanks, Zander!
ABV: 5.8 percent
Appearance: We were in the middle of the woods, so no glassware in which to pour and see what I imagine is a beautiful beer. But, hey, the bottle is nice. The green label felt very soothing on the campground--or something like that.
Aroma: A strong flowery scent, pungent with hops, caramel, and topped off with a little bit of grain, too. Then again, it was raining when I drank this beer, so the air felt a little damp, probably affecting the scent.
Taste: Full bodied and aggressive, this is a beer that wants to have a punch, but doesn't really deliver like you hope, kind of like watching the junior varsity football team. It's bready and a little spicy. Good for an IPA beginner.
Mouthfeel: This brew carries a medium, almost thin body that's not quite as full as you'd expect since it's an IPA. I wanted it to have a stronger aftertaste, as well, but nothing really came through like I hoped.
Overall Experience: Well, I went to the Catskills with some friends this past weekend to celebrate a birthday and the end of summer, and one of the fellow campers showed up with a sampler pack from Saranac. I was pretty stoked to dive into it and try all the beers, so after we set up our tents and all the other things you set up when you go camping (Hammocks! Chairs! Firewood!), I sat down, expecting to start drinking--since, you know, what else do you do when you go camping? At that moment, our team leader (read: birthday girl) announced that it was time for the three-hour hike. So like the good, friendly, Midwestern boy I am, I delayed my desire for booze and climbed a mountain in tennis shoes.
Once we returned from our conquest (which I am surprised to have lived through), it was time for beer. Except there were some unfortunate-looking clouds moving in our direction. Thinking those clouds spelled some sort of trouble, we ran to the car and grabbed a large beach umbrella that the team leader had brought. (These people I went camping with really knew their shit. I would've sat in the rain in a hooded sweatshirt.) Just as the heavens began to open, we flopped open the umbrella, a few of us standing underneath it as others dipped into tents.
Finally, I could have my beer--even if it wasn't the most ideal situation in which to be drinking. I popped open the Saranac IPA, and, well, even though it was kind of your average, beginner IPA--damn, did it taste good. Sure, my enjoyment of it probably had more to do with standing around in the pouring rain rather than the actual flavor of the beer (you could've handed me a Keystone Light at that moment, and I would've argued for it as beer of the year). But as I began to think about the beer critically, perhaps knocking it for its "weaker-than-expected hops presence," it dawned on me: Who gives a shit what the quality of this beer is like? Here I am, with six friends all huddled around each other in the middle of the woods, trapped under an umbrella in the pouring rain, joking and jockeying for space, tired from hiking, yet still laughing, having a great time, and enjoying one another. That's what I should be thinking about. Tell me, when it comes down to it, is there really any other reason for beer to exist?
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to New York dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.