Craft brewing is all about exploring new frontiers. Yet, as Alaskan Brewing's success story has shown, sometimes the frontier does some exploration right back. Founded in 1986, Alaskan is ancient in Craft Beer Years. In fact, it was only the 67th brewery to open in United States history. Beginning as the husband and wife duo of Geoff and Marcy Larson, Alaskan has since traversed as far afield from Juneau as Texas, California, and Michigan, to heavy accolades (especially from the Great American Beer Fest, where it is one of the most decorated breweries in the festival's history).
Alaskan's expedition continues westward, and they now have an outpost here in Brookyln after personally sending us bottles of their Winter Ale and their famous Smoked Porter. After sampling both in our latest 2 O'Clock Tasting, we're avowed fans of the veterans from the Great White North.
6.4% ABV | 22 IBUs
This chilly beer is a perfect introduction to Alaskan's lineup, and it brilliantly showcases the brewery's passion for its regional roots. After all, a winter seasonal Old Ale called "Winter" brewed with spruce tips and water from the Juneau Ice Field is about as Alaskan as as a beer can get.
This Winter blows in a sandy, orange-blossom-honey shade of copper, with an ephemeral head that leaves only a slight trim of bubbles. On the nose are gusts of a sweet, malty mead, along with apples, cherries, pine and a hint of sweet tea. Tasting brings notes of syrupy caramel, pears, and herbal citrus. The spruce is more subdued than one would expect, but it makes itself known with a crisp, sappy finish, heated gently with an alcoholic warmth. Light of body and crisp of flavor, Winter at once refreshes and satiates the sweet tooth.
6.5% ABV | 45 IBUs
A repeated Gold Medal winner at the Great American Beer Fest, Alaskan's Smoked Porter nearly as old as the brewery itself, dating back to 1988 when it debuted as one of the first smoked beers in the States. A testament to the beer's lifespan, Alaskan releases Smoked Porter in limited yearly vintages, each with their own unique identities. While aging is encouraged, we couldn't wait to crack open our 2015 bottle.
This year's Porter pours a deep cola brown, so dark it might as well be black, and so dense it might as well be opaque. A medium khaki head clings and sticks around as a robust woodsmoke aroma backs up the beer's name even from a distance. Perhaps it was only due to the unconscious campfire association, but multiple tasters even detected hints of leather, tobacco, and smoked meats from this hearty bouquet. Smoked Porter's flavor follows suit on the smokiness, though less intensely than the smell. Roasted malts, molasses, plums, and a puckering charcoal all swim up from this complex brew. The sticky, creamy, body is just as much a star, allowing the brew's rich, intense taste to linger long after the swallow. Alaskan Brewing has bottled a forest fire.