Thursday, October 23, 2008

Alaskan Smoked Porter 2008 review

Alaskan Smoked PorterIt's not often that you come across a smoked beer that has a high recommendation not to mention finding a decent smoked beer period. Back in March of this year (2008) the Alaskan Brewing Company of Juneau Alaska started shipping it's beers in a much wider distribution into the lower 48 states including Colorado. I was excited to see the variety of brews they were offering.

I had previously sampled their Amber, Pale Ale and Summer Ales but had missed out on getting a bottle of their 2007 Smoked Porter. And to top that off I was out of luck at the Great American Beer Festival as they ran out of Smoked Porter by the time I got to their booth. Luckily, the 2008 batch of Alaskan Smoked Porter just came out and it is in ample supply at the local Colorado stores, but I'm sure they won't last long.

Alaskan Brewing was most fortunate this year to take home 4 medals at the GABF in 2008 including a Gold for their 2006 Smoked Porter in the Aged Beer category. The lines for their Smoked Porter, a rauchbier, at the GABF were long and for a good reason. This beer is known for it's excellence. So finally, I got a bottle home of the 2008 batch and gave it a sampling. It came in a big 22oz bomber and weighs in at 6.5% ABV and 45 IBUs.

This smoked porter was made from malts roasted over burning alder wood. Alder wood is the same wood that is used for smoking fish in Alaska. The wood smell gave me a mental image of sitting in a restaurant serving smoked salmon. The smoked malts hid just about every other smell up front initially.

Appearance: The Alaskan Smoked Porter poured dark brown, dark enough so you couldn't see through it. It yielded a small 1-finger tall tan head that quickly dissolved. As the beer warmed up a bit and upon 2nd pouring it gave me a nice tall head. So I suggest you don't serve this too cold.

Aroma: The one thing I noticed right off the bat with the Alaskan Smoked Porter was the unique smokey aroma. It reminded me of sitting around a quiet campfire and eating beef jerky. While there is no meat in this beer, smoked beers tend to remind me of meat.

Taste: It's not until I tasted it for the first time that the smokiness gives way to a pleasant slight coffee and chocolate blend. The smoke flavor is different up front if you've never had a smoked beer before but by the 3rd or 4th swallow you really take a liking to it.

Alaskan Smoked Porter is said to age well despite only being 6.5% ABV. It's an excellent beer right now and aging it for a couple of years is said to make this beer even better. That must be the case if it beat out a 2003 vintage Sam Adams Utopias for best aged beer. I now wish I had gotten 2 or more bottles of this so that I could age them.

Aging this style of beer makes the smoke flavor more subtle over time. Smoke acts as a preservative and thus does not have to be 8% ABV or higher to do well over time. It is said that after 3-4 years of aging that smoked beers like this take on a sherry, or currant or raisin like character. But if aged even longer, the smoke flavor comes back.

Overall: I've had some smoked beers before in Fort Collins from a local brewery and was only so-so on the smokey taste, but this smoked porter from Alaska was truly wonderful. Alaskan Brewing really got the smoke balance down pat. While smoked beers aren't one of my favorite styles, I could easily finish the entire 22oz bottle. This could very well become one of my favorites.

This beer would go great with seafood or cheese but it great all by itself too. I'm going to give this beer a BIG thumbs up and a "grab it while you can" recommendation. I look forward to having more of this in the very near future. If you can get the chance to sample this aged by all means do. There may be some of this stuff as old as 1988 out there somewhere, but more likely in the 2-3 year old range.

Update: (10/25/08) Word on the street is that Alaskan will soon release their new Baltic Porter. According to one source, this brew is supposedly one of t Look for it in stores later this year.

Related articles:
- Alaskan Amber revew.
- Alaskan Pale Ale review.
- Alaskan Summer Ale review.
- Alaskan Black IPA review.
- Alaskan IPA review.

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