Nick Carr on May 25, 2015 1 Comment Quick Characteristics Brewery: Alaskan Brewing Co. Location: Juneau, AK Style: American Imperial IPA ABV: 8.5% IBUs: 70 Hops: Apollo, Nugget & Summit (Dry hopped with Mosaic, Amarillo, Calypso) Malts: Pale, Rye, Briess Victory Appearance: Robust Copper Similar to Dark Maple Syrup; Off-White Foamhead; Brilliant Clarity Aroma: Citrus & Fruit with Spicy and Woody Notes; Sweet Malt & Bourbon Character Balances It Out Flavor: Lightly Sweet on First Sip; Roasty Malts; Fruitiness Pops Midway; Bitterness Rises to Finish; Availability: Limited Edition / Pilot Series Pairs With: Green enchiladas, Samosas, Stilton cheese, Crème brûlée Like many good brewing companies, Alaskan Brewing has an ever changing rotation of limited release experimental brews. Called the Pilot Series it is an expression of the craft and inspiration of this Alaskan brewery and its innovative, ever-seeking staff. These beers are released in 22 oz. bottles, but only after running a gauntlet of tinkering on their 10-barrel pilot system, and discerning taste buds during a draft only period. If a beer weathers this storm of criticism and fly’s true it will graduate to the limited release of the Pilot Series. Some of these beers go on to garner enough of a following that they become a year-around offering, such as the imperial red IPA. But most have their brief moment in the sun before being replaced by the next new release. No doubt any who have followed this impressive series feel some combination of giddy anticipation and impending loss whenever a new release makes the shelves. What craft beer drinker doesn’t jump at the chance to try something new? What craft beer drinker wants to see a favorite disappear? But, like the imperial red, I guess we can always hope that our favorites will slip into the year-round. This Imperial Rye IPA is the newest in the Pilot Series. Rye is a much underappreciated brewing grain. Adding a layer of depth, it’s a grain that can offer something to almost any beer style; I’ve tasted excellent rye blondes, rye IPAs, and rye porters. Rye is heavily farmed in Russia, which makes an Alaskan beer made with the grain rather apt, what with these lands shared history and proximity to one another. “Of pepper and spice I do sing, when lowly rye takes flight’d wing.” Alaskan Brewing Company seems to take special care when designing their beer labels, most have some sort of pleasing artwork and many incorporate the wildlife just outside the brewery door in Alaska’s vast wilderness. This one is no different. It is a peaceful depiction of a Great Blue Heron standing at the edge of a lake or marsh. It is no secret that this brewing company has taken a great interest in sustainable brewing and sustainable living. Great Blue Herons use the coastal waters, lakes, and streams of Alaska as its spring range. To help protect these coastal waterways the brewing company started Coastal CODE, a donation program to fund organizations doing honest coastline preservation and restoration. So, I tip my hat and raise my glass to these efforts… The Pour and Aroma Pours a robust copper color, like buckwheat honey or dark Vermont maple syrup. A small off-white head tantalizes the surface before dropping away. It has brilliant clarity with moderate carbonation rising off the bottom. A beautiful beer to look at. The nose brings bright citrus (tangerine?) and fruit, some spicy/peppery and woody notes. The darkly sweet scent of deep malt and a slight bourbon alcohol/wood/nut character lends a balance to whole. Mouthfeel and Taste Mouthfeel is oily and warming, with a robustly pleasant and satiating medium-full body. Medium low carbonation creates a slightly drying end. Lightly sweet at the front, but with a unique peppery quality brought on by the rye. Nice lightly roasty malts. The fruit begins front palate but really pops midway; tangerine, and to a lesser degree pear and maybe even hints of apricot. Warming alcohol washes front to back. Bitterness rises with resiny assuredness, though it is contained well in the beer’s “bigness” and isn’t overly intense. The finish is astringent, slightly fruity and an impressively long-lasting bitter pleasure. Finishing The Impression I’m a fan of rye. Like I said earlier it can fit anywhere if a tempered hand is used. With the slow disappearance of Ruthless Rye IPA from Sierra Nevada (it is now only available in variety pack), it’s nice to have this one around, though again for how long? It’s a nagging question and I can only hope it’s awhile. I love the woody dense quality to this beer, with its bright fruit and citrus; like dappling sun penetrating a primal forest. Definitely worth a try before it gets relegated to annals of Pilot Series history. I know I’ll be doing a little more tasting. Happy Memorial Day! Raise a glass and Remember.