Saturday, December 31, 2011

Beer of the Week (Vol. CXXVIII)

Another special holiday edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the resolute crew at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you find the wine, whiskey, and beer you need to ring out the old and ring in the new with style.

Last week, the WSJ had a story on beers to share at celebrations called My, What a Big Beer You Have!:

The great thing about beer is its versatility. Beer can go high or low; we can gather 'round a six-pack, or something special brought up from the cellar; we can knock it back in a tallboy, or savor it in a snifter. But often, beer drinking falls back on plebian vulgarities, on pints pounded, on bongs and shotguns. Its tradition is grander: Think of the Egyptians who offered saffron-and-date beer to their pharaohs and gods, or the 18th-century English lords who brewed barleywine to mark a first son's birth, and opened it when he turned 18.

Beer, in other words, was once a drink of celebration. More recently, however, those laurels have fallen on wine alone, as a dinner party offering or holiday toast. But that's finally changing. Brewers have lately been courting the class (and cash) of the wine world with bigger bottles, heftier price tags, claims of terroir, even—or, at least—profound, boastful flavors. This new generation of beer demands a different kind of drinking: Raise a glass, and drain it slowly.

This season is the best time to try these celebratory beers. There's their fizz, of course, to punctuate your holiday with exclamation marks of popping corks (or hissing caps). There's their size—big bottles with more joy to spread, 750 milliliters and up (and up)—and their strength as well. These single-bottle beers are often more potent than their by-the-case brethren, meant to be savored, not slugged—warming and spirited, drinkable hearths.

The article featured five of these big beers in particular:

- Unibroue La Fin du Monde

- Brouwerij Bosteels Deus

- Anchor Christmas Ale

- Mikkeller Red/White Christmas

- Stone Double Bastard Ale

The last selection comes in a three-liter bottle (101.44 ounces) and goes for $80 a pop. Note to self: talk with Dan from Glen Lake about reviewing one of those bad boys next year.

In the spirit of bigger, better beers made for sharing, our featured beer this week is Alaskan Brewing Company’s Smoked Porter:

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.

22oz brown bomber that retails for $9.99. Beautiful label has black background and a sharp scene of three caribou on the move at sunset.

STYLE: Porter


COLOR (0-2): Dark black color. 2

AROMA (0-2): Smoky and slightly sour. 2

HEAD (0-2): Tan color, small bubbles, good volume and nice lacing in the glass. 2

TASTE (0-5): Pleasant smoke flavors that are rich but not overwhelming. Roasted malts, coffee, chocolate, and a little bit o’ bitter build on that to create a flavor palate that’s well-rounded and balanced. Smooth silky mouthfeel and a dry delicious finish. Medium-bodied yet a beer that you definitely want to sip and savor. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Delightful as smoky flavors linger and slowly fade. 2

OVERALL (0-6): It’s rare when everything comes together just right in a beer the way that it does in Alaskan’s Smoked Porter. This is perfect beer to bring to a New Year’s Eve party both to establish your craft beer cred and please the crowd with a beer that’s complex yet approachable. Sometimes smoke beers overdue it and everything tastes like you’ve been sitting on the wrong side of the camp fire for too long. Alaskan’s Smoked Porter has just enough smoke to compliment the tasty porter flavors. 5

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 17

My big beer lineup for New Year's Eve includes but is not necessarily limited to:

-Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Hop Ale

-Lift Bridge Biscotti

-And to cap the evening off, a bottle of Surly Darkness that I've been holding in reserve for a special occasion

I wish you all a happy and joyous New Year.