Nick Carr on February 18, 2018 0 Comments Photo Credit: Alaskan Brewing Co. Quick Characteristics Brewery Alaskan Brewing Co. Location Juneau, AK Style American IPA (w/ Spruce Tips) ABV 7.0% IBU 55 Hops Chinook, Citra, Denali Malts ? Other Ingredients Spruce Tips & Glacier-fed Water Shelf Life 3 to 6 Months Suggested Glass Tulip or IPA Glass Serving Temp 45 – 50°F Availability January – April Food Pairings Turkey/Cranberry Sandwich, Grilled Pork Chop, Sharp Cheddar, Raspberry jam cookies Having just finished writing an article about using spruce tips as a brewing ingredient, I really had no choice but to pick this one up. Plus, it’s a beer in its sophomore year. So, it’s still kind of new and offers something a little different, and hey it’s Alaskan Brewing…. that’s all the reason I need. Spruce tips have been used, both in brewing and cooking, for a very long time. Its history runs so deep, that many scholars believe that Vikings may have made use of the tree in their brewing. It also played a large role in colonial brewing; illustrated by just how many old American cookbooks have a recipe for spruce beer. It is an ingredient worth exploring if you’re a homebrewer, for both its health benefits and its ability to replace or highlight hop characteristics. This isn’t Alaskan’s first outing with spruce tips either. Actually, they’re an old hand with the ingredient. Their English Olde Ale, Winter, also contains the citrusy young green growth of spruce. It was first brewed 18 years ago. This IPA marks a change of focus for Alaskan’s rotating seasonal offerings to one of particular beer styles and local ingredients. A couple other changes to the seasonals will come later in the year. When Alaskan Summer is released this year it will be sporting a name change to simply “Alaskan Kölsch” (to better highlight the style). The fall season will bring another brand new beer; a tart ale, brewed with cranberries along with Sitka spruce tips. The label, like all of Alaskan’s labels, carries a story with it. It is a beautiful picture of a Snowy Owl, which speaks to the Spruce IPA’s winter availability. And, quoting from the Alaskan Brewing Company website, “The bold, unexpected appearance of snowy owls aloft in the Tongass forest mirrors the bold hops and surprisingly tart, berry-like bubblegum character of the Alaskan Spruce IPA.” THE TASTING Below are the tasting notes I took while drinking Alaskan’s Spruce IPA. If you tasted this beer or have one in front of you as you read this review, please share your thoughts or tasting notes with everyone down in the comments below. The Pour: In the glass, Alaskan Spruce IPA is a beautiful bronzy golden color. Head is thick, forming a two finger pillow of tightly knit bubbles. Clarity is superb and carbonation medium. The Aroma: Nice bright bold aroma; big citrus and pine. The spruce presents whispers of raspberry, strawberry, even hints of blueberry. Lightly herbal and floral. Malt stays mostly hidden. As it warms the spruce/pine aromas liven. The Mouthfeel: Body plays a low medium. Mouthfeel shows low creaminess, some spritz, pulled by the medium carbonation. Light astringency toward the back. No sense of the alcohol. The Taste: Berry flavors and low hints of sweet bubblegum come through strong at the front along with pulpy citrus and pine notes. The fruit esters play nice with the bolder hop flavors laying a complex but not overpowering profile. Malt is there but gentle; a backdrop of sweet bread running through to mid-palate. Astringency rises toward the back, but it actually stays pretty mellow; good dank elements, but only giving restrained bitterness. However it plays just right in easing that pop of sweetness. Finish is semi-dry. Aftertaste…. when I breathe through my nose all I can think of is Christmas trees. FINISHING THOUGHTS I enjoyed this beer. It isn’t your everyday IPA; bold and brash, with bracing bitterness. It relies more on the aromas and flavors, something that is definitely becoming more of a consideration these last couple of years, in contrast to the “in-your-face bittering” you may expect from an IPA.. The spruce tips add a citrusy, bubblegummy, almost candy-like fruit element, which works flawlessly with the hop bill. It maybe could have done with a stronger malt element; just a little, nothing major. But as it goes, the doughy malt profile gives a nice enough backdrop to the hop flavors. Foraged and local ingredients are becoming more and more of a thing in the craft brewing world. Expect to see a lot more of this kind of experimentation, embrace it, and give it a try. It gives each beer a bit more of a sense of place, and if you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary, this sort of “local” flavor will give you exactly that. What do you think? Let me hear it below. Cheers!!