We are already partway through Winter (aka, The Winter Solstice) and although that pretty much dates this review, we cannot help but reflect on a recent experience with a familiar friend, Alaskan Smoked Porter.
Ever since 2003 when we started to realize the potential of craft beer (outside of familiar amber ale), we have been a huge fan of Alaskan Smoked Porter. To this day we ask ourselves, out of all the beers out there, why did we allow a beer that we have summed as, drinking a porter in front of a campfire, to be one of our favorites?
Today, for whatever the reason, we write to you to remind you that another year has ended and with it, the prospect of another vintage Smoked Porter, to stow away in a cellar or basement.
With malt smoked in a nearby smoke shack (used to smoke salmon), this beer has for years been a favorite not just of this reviewer, but also of those whomever we speak to when the words, Smoked Porter is mentioned.
Style wise, one could liken this to a porter being consumed in front of an alderwood fueled campfire, but to those who really need specifics we refer them to the Rauchbier, as the closest to style. Much like the Smoked Porter it (Rauchbier) began as something else.
Historically the Rauchbier’s birthplace started in the Germanic city of Bamberg, in the region known as Franconia. Using Beechwood, the malt used in the beer is dried (or kilned), which removes any excess moisture. This process as a side-effect causes the mal to absorb the rich smoked aroma, from the disintegrating wood, thereby making the malt unique and the beer memorable. However, it is worth noting that some breweries don't use one malter for smoked malt, in fact some produce their own.
Taking inspiration from the independent malters of Germany, Alaska & Geoff Larsen, purchase time across the street at a smoke shack, which is known for it's smoked meats. After scrubbing down the walls to remove any traces of food from the space, the kilning process is started, using locally produced Alderwood. Shortly thereafter the uniquely smoked malt goes into the beer that we have before us.
Taking all this in we go back to the beer that we have in the past appreciated whenever it is served up.
Alaskan Smoked Porter, as it streams out of the bottle is dark ale that rests in the glass without any clarity, save a small pool of burgundy resting on the bottom of the glass. As the beer settles an initially strong foamy but mocha-colored, head, forms before receding in the glass at a fairly moderate pace.
Not wishing to wait any longer we gather a sip and are initially greeted by sweet chocolate, followed by minor bitterness, before elements of burnt toast round out the experience. As the beer slowly goes down a small amount of lace can be seen inside the glass.Overall the carbonation is mild to medium, with only a small amount of stickiness mixed in with a medium alcohol burn.
Smoked Beer. Known as "rauchbier" in Germany, smoke-flavored beers were virtually unknown in the U.S. until Alaskan Smoked Porter was developed in 1988
The dark, robust body and pronounced smoky flavor of this limited edition beer make it an adventuresome taste experience. Alaskan Smoked Porter is produced in limited "vintages" each year on November 1 and unlike most beers, may be aged in the bottle much like fine wine.
Introduced in 1988, Alaskan Smoked Porter has been credited with helping inspire an American revival of smoked beers. Alaskan Smoked Porter is one of the most award-winning beers in the history of the Great American Beer Festival and a perennial winner at the World Beer Cup.
Water, five types of malt, 2 varieties of hops and yeast with no adjuncts, no preservatives and no pasteurization. Our glacier-fed water originates in the 1,500 square-mile Juneau Ice Field. Prior to brewing, selected malts are smoked in small batches under carefully controlled conditions in a commercial food smoker using local alder wood.
Alaskan Smoked Porter may be enjoyed with smoked seafood, cheese and other robust foods and as an after-dinner drink. It pairs beautifully with everything from bleu cheese to vanilla ice cream and raspberries. This unique beer is also a wonderful flavoring ingredient in sauces, seafood dishes and even cheesecake.
You Should Try This. This beer continues to surprise us and this year is no exception as the beer produces more distinct character than previous years. Definitely one to grab if you find it on the shelf, or better yet, grab two (one for now and one for later). For food ideas, we can suggest pork, chicken, turkey, or anything in a white meat persuasion. If you are feeling cheesy, try some havarti, or gouda to accent with.
Thoughts by your Colleagues
About the photos’ author
Paul “Fruit Trees” Orchard, is an amateur craft beer enthusiast and amateur photographer. Throughout the many years in craft beer he is always carrying a camera (smartphone, digital, traditional) and is invites you to see that beer can also be exciting even if you can’t drink the photo.
In accordance with new FTC regulations regarding bloggers and endorsements, the aforementioned company has provided me a free sample that was used for research prior to writing this review.