Full disclosure: we really wanted to compare two smoked porters for this article, but quite frankly there is so much to say about our first contestant that we don’t have time to talk about what’s behind Door No. 2.
Don’t get us wrong, we drank them both, but only one made the word limit.
Before we delve into the awesomeness that is Alaskan Smoked Porter, here are a few FAQs about the style.
Firstly, the name “porter” originated in 18thCentury London due to its popularity among the city’s transporters of meat, fish and vegetables — in short, the city’s porters.
At this time in beer history, poorly brewed and well-travelled beers were the norm. It was a bleak time. Dark-roasted malts masked many of the off-flavours, so darker beers (porters) became extremely popular.
The strongest versions of porter recipes were named “Stout Porters”, a title that was soon shortened to “Stout”. (So never feel like a tool for confusing the two in public. Simply say, “Sorry, I was referring to the style contextually.”)
Traditionally, porters are brewed with a healthy dose of British-grown hops, giving the beer some earthy and herbal characteristics. Caramel and darkly roasted malts are used, giving the finished beer some sweetness and body.
Now a SMOKED porter is the same as above, except a portion of the grains are smoked (in the same way that you would a fish, jerky, bacon, etc.) prior to mashing. (You can also use a smoke extract after brewing, but, ew.)
Behind Door Number 1, and brought to you by the delightful folk at Alaskan Brewing Company (Juneau, AK), is Alaskan Smoked Porter.
It is difficult to find someone who hasn’t tried at least one of the many year-round or seasonally produced Alaskan beers; however, the Smoked Porter is bottled as a vintage 660ml single and will be found hanging out with the speciality beers.
This beer is a bit of an overachiever when it comes to the festival circuit: it has won 47 awards since 1988, including the gold medal in the Aged Beer category at the 2010 World Beer Cup, the world’s largest-ever commercial beer competition.
In addition to a large trophy room, this porter also boasts a really swell backstory: the staff at Alaskan Brewing Co. used to meet up with the staff of Taku Smokeries for Friday beers, where they would drink Alaskan Amber and eat smoked salmon.
One momentous afternoon, ABC’s cofounder Geoff Larson asked the owner of Taku if they could smoke some of their grain over local alder wood, using the same commercial smoking process that Taku used to smoke their fish.
They bartered a case of the finished product and the trial and error began. The beer was released on Christmas Eve 1988, and sold out by New Year’s Eve.
Yes, it’s THAT good.
This beer sparked a rejuvenation of the smoke-flavoured beer style in US craft breweries, and it has spread like wildfire.
Tastewise, this beer is freaking amazing. It’s massively smoky. It’s like a hoodie after a fall bonfire, but in the best possible way.
Mixed in with the smoke, are bitter chocolate and roasted coffee, but it’s smoke through and through.
The brewery is not exaggerating when it says “dark, robust body”, and the hop flavour/aroma in this porter is minimal.
The brewery does recommend ageing this one, so consider buying a couple and stashing one away in a cool closet for a year or two. Also, check out the ABC website – www.alaskabeer.com – for suggested food pairings … they look awesome.
Visit Skagway or Haines where this 6.5% ABV bottle is available for around $6 for 660ml. Serve slightly cooler than room temp for maximum smoky flavour.
Please enjoy this article responsibly.