Beer Profiles: A Saranac High Peaks Comparison

S SingleMaltBarrel-AgedScotchAle-S TramoNaYS CloudedDreamS Imperial_IPAS Immortality

Profiled by Ken Carman

For our homebrew competition: Old Forge BIG Beer and Odd Ale Competition, Saranac gave us glasses, openers and five four packs of High Peaks. High Peaks is Saranac’s extreme, high abv, occasionally one off brews, and whatever pushs style boundaries. Here were the 5…

Imperial IPA
Clouded Dream: wheat beer with spices. We thought more a Saison, than a Belgian White.
Immortality: an “imperial amber” with German malts and local hops
Tramonay: brewed with grapes and a Belgian yeast
Imperial IPA
Single Malt: Scotch Ale aged in bourbon barrels

Here was our preference…

Single Malt
Clouded Dream
Imperial IPA

The last 3 were a close call, to be honest.

As beer judges an “imperial amber” is beyond a contradiction in terms. The German malt: interesting, somewhat unique, but not that impressive. The Imperial IPA was really just a great IPA. Yes, like the Immortality, the abv was popped up just a hint, but “Imperial?” Not really. Clouded Dream was exactly as advertised just, once again, not that interesting. Just a hint more interesting than the other.

Let’s be clear: all were brewed professionally, carbonation perfect, clarity, except Dreams, perfect. The mouthfeel, excepting low abv sense, about what they should have had. It’s just if you’re going to compete with Sierra, Dogfish and Rogue, well, timidity isn’t the best approach.

Both of the top two were perfectly balanced, obvious high abv, and we really wanted to have Tramonay as the top. It is INCREDIBLE. Wine-like, smooth, hint of sweet yet not anywhere near cloying, this is a unique quaff. The body is medium yet the bourbon sweetness pushed on by the grape-sense dominates the mouth: demanding, insistent.

Here’s the problem: while more unique, quite pleasing, and the Single Malt is something many other brewers are doing slight versions of, this recipe for an 80/Scotch Strong is perfect. I would have problem at the judging table keeping my score below 45. I think in my 16 year judging career I may be able to count on one hand, at best two, any entries that have received anything above 45, 50 being the top. I’d have to see Mother Mary and she gives me the best… I’ve ever had to give a 50. Well, maybe a 49 and she’s have to grant me an eternity of?

Single Malt is just incredible, yet simple, exciting, yet right in there with what has become a standard of the craft beer world’s variations on classic styles.

Single Malt: 4.8
Tramonay: 4.7
Clouded Dreams: 4.2
Imperial IPA: 4
Immortality: 3.9 (Minus .1 only for being annoying)

BUT, since all were 4 or above, except one so close it can taste 4…


Welcome to the PGA beer rating system: one beer “Don’t bother.” Two: Eh, if someone gives it to you, drink. Three: very good, go ahead and seek it out, but be aware there is at least one problem. Four: seek it out. Five: pretty much “perfecto.”

kendrawKen Carman. What can we say about Ken Carman? Not much.