REVIEW: Hopothermia by Alaskan Brewing Company

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Alaskan Brewery Company
Location: Juneau, AK
Style: American Double IPA
ABV: 8.5%
IBU: 70
Appearance: Fresh, Shiny Copper with Fluffy Off-White Foam
Aroma: Citrusy, Fruity Mix; Notes of Apricot & Pineapple
Flavor: Balanced, Surprisingly Smooth & Mellow
Availability: Year-Round
Pairs With: Spicy Food, Bitter Salads, Pizza, Wild Game (you caught yourself)

Most everyone knows the on-going love affair between the American craft brew industry and their IPA’s, Imperial IPA’s, and Double IPA’s. So, it will be no real surprise that here I sit reviewing another offering to this already crowded arena. Don’t get me wrong I’m right there with most hopheads in the feeling that “the more the merrier.” This latest addition comes to us from the far, cold north. Alaska. That’s right far to the north they labor to bring us their love affairs, their versions of the common styles.

Alaskan Brewing Company opened in 1986, but remained unknown to a large portion of the lower 48, until recently, when they widened their distribution. I didn’t know a thing about them until they expanded into New Mexico in 2013. This brewery is one of the most decorated Great American Beer Festival entrants and continually turns out high quality beers without taking themselves too seriously.

“A glass to the northern country, and a beer bearing hidden bounty.”

Hopothermia comes in a nice four-pack. The artwork is understated and nice. The cartoon is green with a frozen hop cone making up the degree sign between hop and thermia. There are funny things to read all over the cartoon (like I said, seems they don’t take themselves too seriously). They even wrote a poem to go with this beer. These guys are men after my own heart.

Pour and Aroma

It pours a fresh new copper color, like a shiny penny right out of the mint. It is topped by two fingers of off white loosely-packed fluff that slowly drops away leaving nice lacing on the glass as it settles down and surfs the beer’s surface as a much thinner, bubbly layer.

Dipping the old nose to the glass I catch the usual freshness of an IPA, which abides well with the fresh feeling in the air as spring begins to “spring” outside my door. The smell of resins, big citrus, and a subtly fuity mix of something like apricot and pineapple ride the 8.5 ABV warming air currents above these coppery depths.

Mouthfeel and Taste

Hopothermia by Alaskan Brewing Company

Sipping and slushing, I find Hopοthermia medium-bodied and well balanced. Mouthfeel runs surprisingly smooth and mellow for an IPA, without the harsh bitterness of a lot of other IPA’s. There’s a viscous slide of hop oils and a thickness to it (probably due to the higher alcohol). There is nice bitterness here, but it is well controlled and doesn’t present itself fully until the end of the taste, remaining controlled by what I can only imagine is a substantial malt bill.

On the website they compare the malt backing to a massive grizzly in winter, moving in harmony with the hops. I can’t think of a better comparison. The notion of being in the pitch black, not able to see a hand in front of my face, and suddenly becoming aware of the movement of an incredibly large animal pacing around me. I know it’s there, I feel its movement, sense its padding steps and flexing muscles, but I never get a full and clear view of it. The slight sweetness the “bear” brings is more then you would expect to find in most offerings of this style, but it helps to produce a beer that down-plays the hop bitterness, instead concentrating on the flavor of the late addition Amarillo, Citra, and Centennial hop varieties.

The aftertaste shows the true legs of the bitterness, hanging around on the back of the throat with just the right amount of piney-jump every time I swallow.

Impressions

Not only does this brewery make some award winning beers but they have become a major leader in sustainability innovation. Their very unique, pristine environment and very limited access, has become a key driving factor in how these northern-most brewers practice their craft. They have implemented a couple very exciting ground-breaking processes to allow the brewery to, like the malt grizzly of this beer, operate in the shadows of environmental impact. Way back in 1998 they installed a CO2 reclamation unit, which allows them to use this by product of brewing to carbonate the beer and purge O2 from holding tanks.

After specially drying spent grain and shipping it to farmers in the Pacific Northwest for almost 20 years, in 2011 they engineered a first-of-its-kind steam boiler that is fueled by spent grain. When fully operational this innovation is expected to reduce their oil use by close to 65 percent. Not only that, but they were the first brewery in America to use the Belgium-based technology of a mash filter press, which netted a savings for the environment and brewery of close to 2 million gallons of water and 6% less malt annually. Just as they are trying to lead the way in sustainability they try, and have succeeded on several fronts, in producing leading examples of a number of beer styles.

To this single, humble, imbiber of the fine art of craft beer they have, at the very least, brought a beer worthy of the style to light. Though it may not be hoppy enough for many of the hardcore “hop-heads” out there it does have a lot to offer in the way of a nicely warming, even-keeled, drinkable, sipping beer. I just can’t get over how smooth it is!

Cheers!

More IPA Reviews:

Nick Carr

About Author

Nicoli Carr has been tinkering with homebrewing for over 10 years and is currently enrolled in the American Brewers Guild (CBA). When he’s not studying or working, he is likely out foraging wild brewing options, writing, or hunting stillness in remote places.

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