Alaskan Smoked Porter brewed by Alaskan Brewing in Juneau, Alaska
Porter has no real end to its shelf life according to Alaskan Brewing. Craft
beer drinkers are still enjoying vintages from our cellar that date back to
1993, when we started leaving some yeast in the bottle for better aging,”
explains Alaskan Brewing co-founder Geoff Larson. Larson literally wrote the
book on smoked beers in 2001, publishing Smoked Beers: History, Brewing
Techniques, Recipes, which he co-authored with Ray Daniels after over a
decade of experience brewing with smoked malts.
The first release of this now vintage-dated beer was called “Alaskan
Seasonal” in the late 1980s – a hearty winter seasonal brewed as a nod to
the malting and brewing practices of the turn-of-the-century brewers in
Alaska who had to malt their own barley using local alder wood for
direct-fired heat. While the name officially changed to Alaskan Smoked
Porter a couple of years later, the Alaskan Brew Crew still employs the same
smokehouse used for the first batch those many years ago.
“Alder adds a traditional smoke character to our Porter that is true to the
Alaskan landscape. Due to natural flavor changes in the wood and malt each year,
no two vintages will taste the same when brewed, and they will not age in
exactly the same way,” says Alaskan Brewing Plant Manager Curtis Holmes, “That’s
what makes each year’s release so exciting for us.”
Beer Review from Beer Advocate
This is the darkest brown beer we've ever come across, so dark you may as well
call it black. Good cling from the tan head. A heavy, but not overbearing, waft
of smokiness mingles with the roasted, charcoal-like malt; hint of black currant
and burnt sugar in the nose. Lush, creamy smoothness flaunts its full body.
Solid roasted grain flavor is followed by a smokiness that compliments it very
well. Hop bitterness and flavor hold back to let the smokiness shine, yet still
help to balance. Smoke drops a slight puckering, charred-wood character middle
to end that leads the beer into its dry finish.
A classic--you can't call yourself a beer geek unless this beer has touched your
lips. If you are into all things smoke or a lover of Porters, it's a must try.
The brewers suggest drinking it now or aging it for several years; we prefer
drinking it fresh.
History of Alaskan Brewing
Alaska has a rich history of brewing. From the explorers of the 1700s through
the Gold Rush, many a thirsty Alaskan has been able to enjoy locally made beers.
In 1986, 28-year-olds Marcy and Geoff Larson reignited that tradition when they
opened the Alaskan Brewing Company, the 67th brewery in the country and the
first brewery in Juneau since Prohibition. Alaskan beers reflect many of the
same characteristics of beers that were brewed here during the gold rush era.
From the historically based Alaskan Amber recipe to alder-smoked malts and Sitka
spruce tips, Alaskan beers reflect Juneau's local brewing history and
Marcy and Geoff were drawn to the beauty and adventure of Alaska, but finding a
livelihood that would allow them to stay was a challenge. "Why not start a
brewery?" a friend suggested. Other than the extreme financial and logistical
challenges of brewing beer in the Last Frontier, they couldn't think of why not.
Maybe the idea wasn't so far-fetched. After all, Geoff was a chemical engineer
and a homebrewer and was married to Marcy, an adventure-seeking accountant and
aspiring bush pilot. Together they brought a unique skill set to the task of
opening a brewery in Alaska.
While researching brewing in Alaska, Marcy unearthed shipping records from
Douglas City Brewing Co. (1899-1907) that listed ingredients for its popular
beers and a newspaper article that described the way it was brewed. Geoff
homebrewed a batch of the Gold Rush-era brew and they could see what made it so
popular. That beer is now known as Alaskan Amber.
In December 1986, Alaskan Brewing Co. officially began operations when Geoff,
Marcy and 10 volunteers spent 12 hours hand packaging the first 253 cases of
Alaskan Amber for distribution in Juneau, Alaska. From that very humble
beginning, Alaskan Brewing Co. has grown to become the most award-winning craft
brewery in the history of the Great American Beer Festival and expanded
distribution to 15 western states.