Nick Carr on April 25, 2016 3 Comments Quick Characteristics Brewery: Alaskan Brewing Company Location: Juneau, AK Style: Altbier ABV: 5.3% IBU: 18 Appearance: Deep amber hue with intense orange highlights; Off-white head; Brilliant clarity. Aroma: Malt-forward with caramel and toffee notes; Fruity esters make an appearance with banana-like aroma. Flavor: Rich and robust maltiness; Caramel and toffee with notes of nuttiness; Whisper of fruits and hops; Clean and mellow finish with malty backbone. Hops: Blend of European and Pacific NW varieties Malts: Two-row pale, specialty malts Special Ingredients: Sweet orange peel Shelf Life: 6 to 9 months Suggested Glass: Stange Glass Serving Temp: 46° – 48°F Availability: Year Round Pairs With: Gourmet Pizza, Grilled Salmon Fillet, Camembert Cheese, Maple-Walnut Cake While working on the altbier style profile this past week and trying to put together some recognized and easily available examples I realized the Alaskan Brewing Company’s Amber ale is made in this style. Now, I’ve had this beer before, but it’s been quite a long while, so either I’d forgotten its style or maybe I’d just never paid that much attention. I’m not sure which I’d rather be true; I’m either forgetful or not paying attention to details the way I should. But let’s move on before I consider this too deeply… I decided to revisit Alaskan’s flagship with an eye and taste toward how they interpreted this German hybrid style; a style rather obscure here in the U.S. For those of you not familiar with altbier it is one of two hybrids that have come to us out of the Rhine region of German, the other is Kölsch. Both are brewed with ale yeast at cool temperatures- much like the ale examples of America’s own Cream ale. The yeast is probably the most defining element of both these German ales because to make an authentic example of either your really have to use a kölsch/alt yeast. This yeast was selected for, over hundreds of years, to better withstand a lower temperature range, to create minimal esters, and have high attenuation. Alt uses a much darker and slightly more complex grain bill and is hopped at a higher rate than kölsch. This makes it quite malty with an assertive, but not overwhelming bitterness, and the highly attenuating yeast lends a crispness to the finish not often found in malty beer. For further details and more examples be sure to check out the altbier style profile. This is the first beer Alaskan Brewing made. They came across records from the Douglas Brewing Company, which operated during Alaska’s mining hay day. Looking through the papers they found an old 1907 recipe and decided to try a reconstruction. Alaskan Amber was born. In 1988, it was named “Best Beer in the Nation,” by a Great American Beer Festival Consumer Poll. As with all of Alaskan’s beers the label is classy. An Alaskan fishing boat graces the label and celebrates Juneau’s long standing ties to its coastal waters. “Amber” is written below the picture nice and big, than under it is “alt style ale.” And actually looking at the bottle here it would be quite easy to see “Amber,” not really have the “alt style” register, and make the mistake of thinking this is an American Amber beer… or maybe I’m still just fishing for excuses for myself. THE TASTING Below are the tasting notes I took while drinking Alaskan Amber. If you tasted this beer, please share your thoughts with me in the comments below. Pour and Aroma: Hits the glass with a deep amber color, going intense orange in bright light. Topped with an off-white head of half a finger; largely dissipating within a minute to leave a boiling center of carbonation. Brilliantly clear allowing a good few of the strong carbonation streaming up the middle of my glass. Nose is malt forward with caramel and toffee playing the big roles. Fruity esters too, play their part. Especially present is a banana-like aroma. Slight bubblegum also. Mouthfeel and Taste: Prickling carbonation pushes a medium body across the palate. The Mouthfeel smoothes out toward the back. Light bitterness, but the malt dominates. Taste is rich and robust with malt. There’s the caramel/toffee roundness in the front with just the barest hint of nuttiness. The fruit and hops kick in mid-palate; though it’s only a whisper. A little bit of banana and the barest hint of bitterness manage to balance the malt brilliantly. Finish is clean, mellow, with quickly disappearing whispers of the malt backbone. Aftertaste shows traces of the malt, but otherwise has little to say. FINISHING THOUGHTS I haven’t had too many altbiers, so I don’t have much to compare this one to in the style category. That being said, it’s easy drinking, nicely malty, with good balance. It isn’t anything over-the-top special, and packing only 18 IBU’s when the lower end of the altbier specifications is 25 IBUs, this beer would need a bit more bitterness to truly make it an authentic example of the style — which interestingly is in line with most of its awards coming in the Irish-style Red Ale and Amber Ale categories. But don’t let this discourage you from giving it a try it’s a solid beer and great choice when searching for something both sessionable and malty. A pub beer all the way this one is well worth a look.