Beer Man is a weekly profile of beers from across the country and around the world.
This week: Alaskan Barley Wine Ale
Alaskan Brewing Co., Juneau, Alaska
Alaskan Barley Wine Ale,Alaskan Brewing Co., Juneau, Alaska; 10.7% ABV.
If there is any state that could use a barleywine, it would be Alaska. In fact, its residents should insist that their state government name it the state drink.
Its strength gives a warming sensation in chilly temperatures and the mental mindset to put up with it — plus it goes really well with game and spicy dishes.
I was pleasantly surprised last year when Alaskan Brewing beers became widely available in the continental U.S. Its Alaskan Amber is one of the better examples of the style and I can actually drink it on tap in my central Wisconsin hometown of 350 residents.
The brewery did not disappoint with its 2011 Barley Wine. It is definitely an American version of the British style, stronger and loaded with piney, orangey hops that enhance the ale, not destroy it by overpowering the malt flavors or leaving a harsh aftertaste.
A fruity, toffeeish aroma was noticeable from the bottle even before the pour, which produced a foamy tan head. The amber body was marked by red highlights from the caramel malt - always a good sign.
The caramel transformed more into toffee in the flavor, backed up with a bit of vanilla. The malts also gave off some fig or date flavors, as opposed to the plum or raisin flavors you get with the darker malts used for imperial stouts.
While the body is medium and the mouthfeel is full without being heavy or cloying, hop bitterness pops up to brighten the beer a bit and cut the sweetness. The hop flavor is more like tangy orange than grapefruit, with pine still present, but in the background. It all made for a mostly well-balanced barleywine.
I say mostly because although the bottle label says this beer is from 2011, it still seemed rather young to me, with a slight bit of alcohol hotness at the end. A year is a general rule of thumb to age a barleywine, based on my homebrewing experience, so storing this several more months would improve it even more.
Year-round Alaskan Brewing beers are generally available in the northern and western U.S.; the Barley Wine, part of the brewery's Pilot Series, will be more limited.
Alaskan Barley Wine is a fine example of an American-style barleywine.
Many beers are available only regionally.
Contact Todd Haefer at
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