Back in the late ‘50s and ‘60s, talking beer stein characters Schultz and Dooley promoted the mellow taste and naturalness of Utica Club lager in TV commercials. At the time, the brand was a strong regional competitor produced in Utica, N.Y., by West End Brewing Co., which is known today as F.X. Matt Brewing Co.

If those mugs could talk today, they’d have 125 years’ worth of new stories to tell as well as a new flagship brand to tout: Saranac. Although the family-owned brewery still sells Utica Club, albeit with very limited distribution, the Saranac brand family now makes up more than half of its sales throughout its distribution territories on the East Coast.

Last year, the brand paid homage to one of the brewery’s original beer recipes by launching Saranac Legacy IPA in celebration of the company’s 125th anniversary. F.X. Matt, grandfather of the company’s current Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Nick Matt and great-grandfather to its current President and Chief Operating Officer Fred Matt, originally founded the company on March 28, 1888.

“[Saranac Legacy IPA] comes off of my grandfather’s recipe from 1914 when he made an IPA,” Nick says. However, the brewers slightly adjusted the formula to keep up with the times.

“We did adjust the hops a little bit, so it’s a little bit hoppier because today’s IPAs tend to want to be a little hoppier in taste, but the malts we left the way they were,” he explains. “We used the traditional kinds of malts that he was using, so you end up with a lighter product in terms of color and also taste, and so that IPA is remarkably drinkable.”

The beer initially appeared last year on draft and in four-packs of 16-ounce cans as well as in a Brewer’s Dozen variety pack of 13 beers. Due to high demand, the brewery currently is rolling out Saranac Legacy IPA in six- and 12-packs of 12-ounce bottles.

Managing innovation

During its 125-year history, the company has faced Prohibition, two recessions, and a fire that wiped out its entire bottling operation. F.X. Matt Brewing Co. has literally “risen from the ashes” to become one of the top brewers in the United States. In fact, it ranked No. 8 on the Brewers Association’s list of the Top 50 U.S. craft brewing companies and No. 15 of overall U.S. brewers, based on 2012 beer sales volume. It attributes this success to its dedication to quality.

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