Alaskan Smoked Porter – Alaskan Brewing Company Juneau, Alaska

alaskan-beer-hero-smoked-porter1BY Steve Lonsway

Many know that a nice red wine can be cellared for years and the flavor profile can be drastically developed over time, ending up with a whole new libation. Some wines you don’t even want to drink for years after purchase because how “young” it may taste. There is even an uptick in start-up companies that specialize in wine cellar construction and many homeowners are adding one in that unused basement corner. If you are in the planning process of building a wine cellar, don’t forget to add shelves for aging beers as well. That’s right! Certain beers can (or should) be aged before consuming. A big Barley Wine, a thick and rich Scotch Ale or maybe an Imperial Stout aged in a bourbon barrel. Certain beers just get better with age. That is our theory in the beer the Stone Arch Brewery team chose to review for you this month. Brewery owner Steve Lonsway has a very modest, almost basic, collection of age-able beers and the one chosen for this article was a 2011 bomber bottle of Alaskan Smoked Porter.

The label depicts what to us is a perfect image of the Alaskan wild; a caribou trio descending down a hill with the sun setting to darkness behind them. “Smoked” is clearly evident near the top of the label in a fiery orange tone with “Porter” reversed out in white. A very attractive label that clearly sets the tone for this beer.

The Stone Arch Brewery team let the bottles warm a bit before pouring samples into brandy snifter style glasses. The head produced at the pour was a bit light. The foam color definitely shows off the darkness of the brew. Once in the glass, it is a pleasure to hold it up to the light and enjoy the ruby red-brown hues and the brown foam lacing.

The nose this beer brings is quite awesome. Burnt wood, campfire, oaky, malty sweet, whiskey, peat, chocolate, earthy, burnt caramel, coffee, nutty and of course, smokey. It is a very aromatic beer.

The flavors this brew offers are identical to the scents we described above with a very pleasing creaminess on the palate. A few flavors popped out that weren’t necessarily evident in the nose. Dark/bitter chocolate being the most common descriptor noted amongst the tasting team. The smoke flavor was a bit tamed from the aging process, maybe even a bit too much. It was suggested that this beer may have peaked a year prior and, for the future, it was noted to not age the Alaskan Smoked Porter past 4 years, at least in the conditions we had it which was cold and medium-dark. A bit of oxidation was present but not over-powering. On a positive note, the aging process made the complexity of the beer very multi-dimensional.

A very pleasing dryness awaits and the smokiness lingers to perfection well after our samples went dry.

This beer compliments several dishes. This is known from years of trials and experiences. Anything grilled is a perfect match, especially beef. Other great pairings that deserve a try are Schnitzel, beef stroganoff, bleu cheese and seafood. For desert-type items expect a glorious continuation of flavor when consuming alongside vanilla ice cream, a variety of chocolates, and cheesecakes. Don’t be afraid to nibble a few fruits as well. And if feeling truly adventurous, use the Alaskan Smoked Porter in sauces for your next chicken breast creation.

The key factor in this fine libation is the smoked malts. They carefully smoke small batches of selected malts in a commercial food smoker using local alder wood. The flavor that results is very unique and extremely well done.

Beer specifics
Original Gravity: 1.068
Alcohol by Volume: 6.5%
Bitterness: 54 IBU’s
Color: 92 SRM
Five types of malts, two varieties of hops

Alaskan Brewing Company was founded in Juneau, Alaska in 1986. At the time they were the 67th brewery in the United States and the first in Juneau since prohibition. The founding members brought the skills of accounting, bush piloting, chemical engineering and homebrewing to the table and turned their brewery into one of the most award-wining brewery in the history of the Great American Beer Festival. They are currently available through distribution networks to 17 states, with Wisconsin (fortunately) being one of them. The Alaskan Smoked Porter is an annually release and you can expect it to be released in early November.

FINAL WORD: One of my top ten favorite beers.

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