Alaskan Brewing Company
2007 Edition Smoked Porter
It’s a dark, clear September evening. I stoked up a roaring blaze in the firepit... “firepit” sounds so outdoorsy-in-a-yuppie-return-to-nature sort of way, doesn’t it? Can’t you just see the half-naked guys sitting around, their sweaty painted faces reflecting the flames, as they hypnotically thrum their tom-toms? Okay, well, this isn’t that kind of firepit. More accurately, it’s a 2-foot by 3-foot fireplace built of grey cinderblocks and loaded up with cardboard cola boxes, yard trimmings, and some probably toxic lumber remnants from a kitchen remodeling project. Still, it makes for a nice fire. Nice and HOT. The chemical residue in those pressboard cabinet doors really puts out the heat!
I filled the chip bowl with baked pita chips and trendy yuppie Trader Joe's Veggie Chips and pulled the chilled bottle, a 22-oz nearly black glass bottle, of 2007 Edition Alaskan Brewing Company Smoked Porter from the refrigerator and allowed it to sit at room temperature for about five minutes. I allowed the surface frost to melt off of the freezer-chilled glass before pouring.
The cap popped easily. This is no small matter, and had me a bit concerned initially. You see, my bottle opener -- an actual Alaskan Brewing Company bottle opener I picked up in, yup, Alaska, while on an Inside Passage cruise -- is getting kind of worn, and doesn’t pop the tops like it used to. I suppose this is a sign that I should be seeking some kind of professional help. Instead, I think I’ll be looking for another bottle opener. Anyway, this opener requires considerable prying on the Newcastle and Guinness bottles I’ve been opening recently, yet the Alaskan popped off like nothin’. I wondered if perhaps the bottle was not properly sealed.
A glance at the label, however, indicated possible “sedimentation.” Aha! This is a bottle-fermented brew! Hence, a bit of pressure behind the cap, and an easier opening bottle! Perhaps, until I get a new opener, I should be drinking Anchor Steam or other bottle-fermented beers.
The fermentation theory was supported by the full, foamy head with large bubbles. Poured directly into the glass -- none of that sissy side-pouring for this porter -- released a lot of gas and the beer foamed quickly. The foam dissipated fairly quickly as well, although rather than wait for the foam to settle, I went with a 2/3 pint for my first tasting.
To backtrack a bit: upon first popping the cap, I noticed a strong peaty aroma with a hint of alcohol to it. This quickly dispersed, replaced by an alternating malty/peaty bouquet. The beer pours smoothly, not quite so viscid as a heavy-bodied stout, but satisfyingly still, with a dark mahogany hue.
I must admit to a bit of hesitancy upon sipping this beer. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Loathe as I am to admit it, my recent beer consumption has been largely limited to the tame Newcastle Brown Ale, with an occasional Guinness Extra Stout for zest. I did not know if my palate could tolerate a beer as strong as I was expecting this porter to be.
My expectations were not far off the mark. This is a strong-flavored beer, heavily peaty (or what I used to call “charcoal-flavored” before I became familiarized with beer-snob terminology) and bitter, with a lingering aftertaste. This beer does NOT “clear the palate.” At least, not until after three or four of those “piquant” -- that’s what it says on the bag; it means “spicy” -- Trader Joe’s Veggie Chips. I’m glad I mixed the TJ chips in with the milder baked pita chips this evening. I don’t know that the pita chips alone would be sufficient to overcome the lingering porter taste.
I sissy slow side-poured the second glass, finishing off the bottle and topping out the pint glass. Negligible foaming the second time around, smooth pour, leading to an intimidatingly dark glass of beer. I’m not sure that my senses are entirely accurate, but I seem to detect a bit of an alcohol scent, on which I’m not particularly keen. I’ve developed a preference for “malty” and “chocolaty” aromas, and the peaty-alcohol odor is not entirely pleasant. In this case it’s a faint scent, however, not sufficient to put me off of the brew, and it seems to alternate with the smokey charcoal aroma.
Of course, that could be the fire, which is getting kind of smokey. Time to toss on another log, I think. Or a few more paint-peeling two-by-fours, anyway.
As the beer warms, I don’t notice a particularly dramatic flavor shift, other than the “charcoal” flavor becoming stronger. In general, I like peaty beers, and this is no exception. They are, however, an “acquired taste.” Jumping back into a strong beer like this after several weeks of comparatively weak-tasting beers is a bit of a jolt. At least I’ve been drinking brown ale. Some “lite beer” drinkers consider Newcastle to be a bit strong. A smoked porter like this one from Alaskan would spell doom, or at least vomiting, from a Coors Lite devotee.
Despite the hint of alcohol odor, and a listed 6.5% content, as I near the end of the 22 ounce bottle I’m not feeling a buzz, and I note only the mildest of “warm” or “flushed” sensations. Other than, of course, the heat rash I’m attributing to the lead-based paint blaze in the fireplace before me. Additionally, I can still type reasonably well, which is one of the first indicators of impending intoxication. Perhaps I can still function because the Alaskan has been my only brew of the evening. Too, I’ve been sipping it rather sparingly. Were I to down two pints of this porter within a half-hour span, I have no doubt I’d be feeling it. And in my current unacclimated state, my stomach would be feeling it more rapidly than my head. While I enjoy, and prefer, strong-flavored beers, when I’m “out of shape,” from an ombibulous standpoint (as opposed to a salubrious interpretation, which merits no further discussion), I am well-aware, from sorry and embarrassing experience, of my limitations.
Smoked by name, smoked in color, and smoked in flavor: as a strong-flavored porter, Alaskan Brewing Company’s 2007 Edition Smoked Porter is... a smokin’ brew, well worth a try, particularly while kicking back on a cool evening before a roaring fire with some equally full-flavored snacks to accompany.
But it’s probably too much for those Beemer-driving Corona-Lite-sipping painty-faced half-nekkid tom-tom guys to handle.