Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Alaskan Smoked Porter: A Winter Classic

By William Brand
Tuesday, January 1st, 2008 at 2:58 pm in Uncategorized.

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In the 19 years since Alaskan Brewing Co. founders Geoff and Marcy Larson conceived the first version, Alaskan Smoked Porter has become a craft beer classic

Note to all: This is the first of a weekly series. I’m starting with one of my absolute favorites. Got a comment or a beer that should be a Beer of the Week? Post it here.

KNOW SOMEONE WHO’S PRONE TO SHUDDER and say, `Oh – I don’t like dark beer!’ Don’t argue, serve a glass of Alaskan Smoked Porter.

On the surface everything about this beer is what Alaskan Smoked Porterdark beer haters mean when they shudder. It’s smoked; it’s porter, a strange name to the uninitiated, and well, it’s dark. Even the label info’s a bit weird. It says, “natural sedimentation may occur” and “enjoy it now or age it for several years.”

Whaaat?

In the 19 years since Alaskan Brewing Co. founders Geoff and Marcy Larson conceived the first version, Alaskan Smoked Porter has become a craft beer classic. It’s won more awards and medals in professionally judged contests like the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup than almost any other beer.

Released in December, it sells out rapidly. It’s made with a blend of five malts, including barley malt smoked over an alder wood fire at Taku Smokeries in Juneau. Hops are mildly spicy Willamette and piney Chinook.

This is a dark brown beer with a nose of smoke and malt. Taste is complex, a bit of smoke, lots of malt and intriguing notes of raisins and maybe sherry. It’s bottle-conditioned. A bit of fresh yeast is added to each bottle so that fermentation continues over time. As years past, the beer changes, becomes drier, more like a smoky old port or sherry.

Smoked or “rauchbier” is a German specialty. It’s an ancient style, going back to the time when all beers were smoky, because malts were kilned over wood fires. Now, they’re rare. Alaskan Smoked Porter is one not to miss. Buy one for the holiday season, a second to put away for a few years.

Alaskan Smoked Porter ****, Alaskan Brewing Co., Juneau, AK, 22 oz. bottle, $4.99. Available at stores with good beer stocks throughout the Bay Area. Can’t find it? E-mail us at whatsontap@sbcglobal.net , ask for our 2008 Retail Beer List.

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