Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ho, For the Klondike (Part II)

OK, let's have some reviews!

First, a couple of beers I had before we left on vacation.

I mentioned back in February (2/23/2012 to be exact) that I had scored a bottle of Acer Quericus from The BrueryAcer Quercus is a collaboration brew with Lawson's Finest Liquids, a nanobrewery in Vermont.  The beer has been "oaked, smoked, and mapled", not necessarily in that order.  With my good friends Tom & Curt coming over to enjoy some rib-eyes off the grill, I decided that it was time to break open this 9.5% ABV bad boy and see what it had to offer.

It poured completely opaque with a small, fast-dissipating tan head.  The aroma was what you would expect: a malty sweetness, some oak-wood notes, and smoke.  The beer was very heavy on the palate, very thick.  The flavor profile was rich and complex, with the various elements stepping to the fore then swirling into the background, round and round, until my tongue was dizzy, if such a thing is possible, before falling away to a long, pleasant finish.  An exceptional beer, and a fantastic accompaniment to the steaks.  I wish I could have gotten home with a case, rather than a single bottle.

Next up, a beer I picked up at La Bodega in Anchorage, mainly because owner Pamela Hatzis suggested it but also because I love smoked beers,  Beeriment #44 Smoked Stout, 7.7% ABV, from Amager Bryghus in Denmark. This was another opaque brew, though this time one with a large tan head.  The nose had some maltiness, plus roasted coffee notes, as well as the smoke, and perhaps a touch of hops.  On the palate there was plenty of bitterness, some from the hops and some from the roasted grains, giving it an astringency, almost like a cup of black coffee.  The taste of the smoke was subtle, but the finish was pretty abrupt.  All-in-all a pretty good beer, but not spectacular.  These Danish brewers could learn a few tricks from Alaskan's Smoked Porter.

Now we'll move on to the vacation.  First, you're probably expecting me to wow you with reviews of the beers I had in Haines brewed by Paul Wheeler of the Haines Brewing Company.  Well, there's a bit of a problem with that.  I was having such a darn good time that I didn't actually take the time to write any reviews.  Plus, it's kinda hard to write notes when you're drinking beer in the rain.  At various times over my three days in Haines, I drank their Black Fang Imperial Stout, their Lookout American Stout, their Eldred Rock Red, and the scary beer Paul Wheeler called Sixteen Pounder.  Every one of them was excellent, but I never took any formal notes.  Sorry about that, but then again, I was on vacation...

One beer I had which certainly deserves a special mention was Denali Brewing's Tinderfoot von Scotch Ale.  I'm a sucker for a good Scotch ale, and this one was excellent.  I'm not sure when during the year or for how long this brew is on tap, but snap it up if you can.  Made with Golden Promise and some peated malt, it was truly exceptional.  I'd love to lay down a few bottles.

Realizing how derelict I'd been in Haines, when I hit Skagway Brewing Company I made sure to write up all four of their brews, which is a lot easier to do in a brewpub rather than in the rain, let me tell you! So here they are:

Prospector Pale Ale: I got a bit of a bad pour on this one, as it was served filled to the brim with no room for any head.  This lack of head seriously compromised my ability to judge its aroma.  It was a cloudy gold in the glass.  On the palate there was pretty good bitterness and clean flavors.

Boom Town Brown Ale: This beer was a semi-translucent brown with a small tan head.  The aroma was malt forward but you could still pick up some hops.  It tasted more malt sweet that roasty, closer in style to a Southern English Brown than a Northern one.  Very drinkable and a nice pairing with lots of their menu items.

Chilkoot Trail IPA: Honey colored in the glass with a nice white head.  Nice bright hop aroma.  Excellent balance between the hop bitterness and the malt backbone, unlike some IPAs which are just a face-slap of  IBUs. In fact, this beer was so well-balanced it reminded me of some of the excellent British ales I have had.  A really exceptional IPA, one I could drink all day long.

Blue Top Porter: Poured opaque with a small tan head.  The aroma was of roast malt, almost like a good cup of coffee.  Nice mouthfeel, with more roastiness up front and a touch of malt sweetness in the back for balance.  Stylistically, I guess you'd call this a robust porter, but it's closer to a brown porter than many examples of the style.  This was probably my favorite on the four brews (though the Chilkoot IPA was a darn close second) and it paired superbly with the gourmet burger that I drank it with.

A quick word about the Skagway Brewing Company's bar:  It's a real pleasure for me to walk into what I consider to be a proper bar, i.e. one with a brass foot rail, a nice looking mirrored back bar, and -- most important of all -- NO TV.  If I want to watch sports, I'll got to a sports bar.  When I want to enjoy beer and conversation, I like it to be distraction free.  Oh, and my wife really appreciated the purse hooks.  So well done, Skagway.

After Skagway, our next stop was Whitehorse and Yukon Brewing Company.  While I tasted thriteen of their beers at the brewery, I did not get to do formal write-ups (and I never do those off of small samples anyway).  I have managed to review some of their line-up.

Yukon Gold English Pale Ale:  An English Pale Ale would be a bottled version of an English Bitter, which style this beer most certainly is not.  However, it's not an American Pale Ale, as it's not hopped with American hops nor is it hoppy enough.  It most certainly is the #1 selling beer in the Yukon Territory and available everywhere.  It pours a clear gold with a small, persistent white head.  The aroma is of nice, floral English hops but not overpowering.  There's good mouthfeel and nice balance, making for a very refreshing and easy drinking ale.  As its sales show, it is designed to appeal to a wide variety of drinkers and pairs well with most dishes.

Ice Fog IPA: This is one of the beers that Yukon Brewing cans, and the beer I evaluated was from a can.  It poured a light copper color with a nice off-white head.  There was a nice hop aroma, English hops again, floral not the citrus or piney aromas I associate with Pacific Northwest varieties. Good balance between hop bitterness and hop flavor, falling away gradually to a nice finish.  By American craft beer standards, this beer might seem more like a hoppy pale ale, rather than an IPA, but who cares?  It superbly brewed and extremely drinkable, leaving you wanting another rather than a glass of water to scrub your wrecked palate. 6% ABV.

Lead Dog Olde English Ale:  In the style of a Strong or Old Ale, this 7% ABV beer is the strongest made by Yukon Brewing.  It poured a dark, barely translucent ruby with a small, fast-dissipating cream colored head.  The aroma was of caramel & sweet malt, with a touch of alcohol heat.  Definitely a malt forward brew, but with enough IBUs to balance things out.  It has good mouthfeel and drops away to a long, slow and warming finish.  A perfect sipper by the fire on a long winter's night in the Yukon.

Finally, a beer I had in the bottle in Dawson City, Yukon Territory: A Wee Angry Scotch Ale from Russell Brewing Company in Surrey, British Columbia.  Given how much I love this style, when I saw it, I had to try it.  I poured the color of a good scotch whisky, a dark caramel, with a dense white head.  The aroma was of malt and peat smoke.  On the palate, there was an excellent blend of the malt flavors and the smoke from the peat.  There was not quite as much mouthfeel as I would have liked, but that might have been due to this beer being of the small side for a Scotch Ale, at only 6.5% ABV & 30 IBUs.  A very nice brew and one that took the Bronze in the Scotch Ale category in the 2010 World Beer Cup.

Well, hopefully you enjoyed those reviews; I know I enjoyed drinking the beers!  Look for a new blog next week, with all the latest news from the local beer scene.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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