Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Alaskan Smoked Porter: A Good Reason to Collect Beer

By William Brand
Friday, September 29th, 2006 at 8:48 am in Uncategorized.

At the Great American Beer Festival...Do you squirrel away bottles of great beer that you really like? I do. I have, for instance, in an old dorm refrigerator in the garage, a single sample of the last seven or eight Sierra Nevada Barleywine Style Ales. I never touch them because – well I’m waiting for the right moment.

Last night at the GABF, I learned something about collecting beer. Geoff and Marcy Larson, who founded Alaskan Brewing in Juneau in 1986 were pouring samples of four “vintages” of their primo, prize-winning Alaskan Smoked Porter**** at their booth. In fact, the line of punters waiting for their sample was the longest in the vast, 188,000 square-foot hall, lined with brewers offering well 1,647 different beers.

After the tasting, I realized it’s time for me personally to grow up – to decide if I’m a connoisseur or not. What people who care should do, Geoff Larson said, is buy a 12-pack of Alaskan Smoked Porter each year (usually in December or January) it comes out. Then sample one bottle along with the next year’s vintage when it comes out.

In 12 years, you’ll have a library of vintages. Of course, at $4.99 for a 22-ounce bottle, that would be nearly $66 with Bay Area sales tax. But, of course, you could probably get a break on a case, so figure $50. But suppose five years from now, in 2011, you could pull out bottles of 2006, 2009, and 2011, for example, to share with friends and highlight a special dinner? Hmmm.

Geoff Larson, of course, is selling beer; he wants us to buy his beer. But then, he doesn’t have to worry about Alaskan Smoked Porter. It sells out fast. Try to find a bottle of 2005 today in the Bay Area.

Last night’s tasting demonstrates the sound reasoning behind a beer cellar: We tasted the 1994, the 1998 and the 2001.

The ’94***** was stunning: heady, smoky nose. The taste was wonderful, well balanced, malt and fading hops with a mild, smoky taste in the background.

The ’98*** was sweeter, more smoke. The 2001*** seemed raw and young, in comparison, still an excellent beer, but obviously one that’s still maturing.

Move over wine lovers. Grain and hops can indeed match the grape on occasion.

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