Pacific Northwest – Two years ago many of you in the major Northwest cities saw an odd site on the shelves of your local grocer or bottleshop, a Barleywine from Alaskan Brewing. Initially a draft only beer, this amber and inviting brew was released in small amounts two years ago to an eager crowd of people. Attentive to the successful release they increased their production and again you the fan were not stingy with your pocketbooks.
Well another year is coming to a close and soon another chance to stock up on Big Nugget Barleywine.
This may be its third bottled vintage, but the 2009 release of Alaskan Barley Wine is anything but old news among the crew at Alaskan Brewing Company. Walk through the cellar or past the offices at the brewery in Juneau, Alaska and you’re likely to be asked, “Have you tried this year’s Barley Wine?”
“Yes, and it’s stellar,” is Alaskan Quality Assurance Analyst Rachael Juzeler’s most common reply. “Alaskan Barley Wine has always been big, malty and incredibly balanced,” scoring high marks at the Toronado and Hard Liver Barley Wine Festivals and the World Beer Cup, “but I am crazy about the bright floral aroma and dynamic flavors of this year’s vintage,” adds Juzeler.
“The hops are really showcased this year,” replies Production Assistant Bobby Wilken. “The 2009 vintage features the rich caramel malt characters and killer balance we expect, but it is the inviting aroma and cooling flavors of the Cascade hops that make it surprisingly refreshing and drinkable for such a big winter beer. We’re calling it the gentle giant.”
Bottled in mid-December and slated for release in the Western states in early January, Alaskan Barley Wine has been produced in limited edition vintages each year since its introduction on draught in 2003. A big beer for big winters, this brew has garnered a steady following in Alaska and was bottled for the first time in 2007. Like many wines, Alaskan Barley Wine can be enjoyed fresh or aged in the bottle to a collector’s liking.
Juzeler, who has several of her recipes included in the Brew Crew’s recently released cookbook - Cooking with Alaskan Beer- recommends pairing Alaskan Barley Wine with a pumpkin ravioli or apple pie with a slice of cheddar.
“The caramel notes and fruity esters in the Barley Wine compliment the apple sweetness, while the high hopping rate would cut the fat of the cheddar. The lightly floral spice of the hop coupled with the deeper caramel flavors also compliment the earthy, spicy sweetness of pumpkin dishes.”
Wilken recommends pairing Alaskan Barley Wine with a “big ol’ grilled steak.”
While the Brew Crew recommends trying this vintage fresh, they are eager to see how the flavors change and develop with age. “So far Alaskan Barley Wine has been a great cellaring beer that gains deeper malt complexity, sherry notes and caramel smoothness over time,” explains Wilken. “But it’s going to be a challenge to keep this one in the cellar.”
About Alaskan Brewing Co.
Alaskan Brewing Co. has been making award-winning beer in Juneau, Alaska, since 1986. The Alaskan Brew Crew bottles the unique character of the Last Frontier with historic recipes, local ingredients and glacier-fed water. Alaskan Brewing handcrafts Amber, Pale, White, Stout, IPA, Smoked Porter, Winter Ale and Summer Ale. Visit www.alaskanbeer.com.
Look for this beer to be at your local bottleshop, favorite grocer or pub, and as always if it’s not on the shelf ask your beer buyer to purchase a case.