Quick, name the 11th largest craft brewery in the US.
Well, you've probably never heard of it if you live in New York, which all of the 5 people who read this blog do. Alaskan Brewing Company was founded in 1986 in Juneau, Alaska, and makes badass beers that unfortunately only make it to the western United States. A recent last minute business trip put me in Arizona, which is one of the ten states where ABC distributes. My misfortune was quickly turned into fortune when I saw this wonderful beer in a Phoenix health food store.
I first heard of the Alaskan Smoked Porter while reading Sam Caligione's book, Brewing Up A Business. Apparently this small brewery started across the street from a smoked salmon business. Alaskan smoked salmon is one of the most well known culinary exports of the area. The head brewer wandered over to where they do the smoking one day with a bunch of malt and asked to smoke it using the same process they use for salmon. The result was a wonderfully balanced smokey porter.
The aroma of the smoked porter is more complex than most smoke beers I have tried. Sometimes smoke beers are all smoke(gross), and sometimes the smoke is an afterthought. I remember a friend in college getting a smoke beer that literally smelled like burnt bacon. It was disgusting. In this case, the smoke is a strong supporting actor, very forward but not dominating. The malty aroma also comes through quite well, and I even get a hint of hops in the smell.
The smokiness is finely balanced with the sweet coffee like malt flavor. This being a vintage bottle from 2008, the smokiness has melted into the background somewhat compared to a newer edition. The creamy full bodied head that this beer pours with remains throughout, and provides a surprisingly delicate mouthfeel for such a big beer. The aftertaste is mostly sweet but the smoke is still there lingering in the background. Interestingly enough, ABC claims that after 5 years the smoky flavor comes back to the foreground. It would be nice to compare a few different years of this, but I think the likelihood of that happening is rather slim unless you make it to the brewery itself.
This is really a fantastic beer, and is certainly the best smoke beer I have ever tried, even though that list is rather short. I highly recommend trying this if you see it for sale on the west coast. It should also be high on your list of things to do while in Juneau, Alaska, along with going moose watching. I give this beer 9/10 "moose humping a buffalos".