Nick Carr on January 25, 2016 3 Comments ALE TALE Quick Characteristics Brewery: Alaskan Brewing Co. Location: Juneau, AK Style: English Olde Ale ABV: 6.4% IBU: 22 Appearance: Light & clean copper colored with half-finger of off-white foam; Low carbonation; Excellent clarity. Aroma: Sweet caramel is strong; Notes of berry; Spruce tips or hops are absent. Flavor: Caramel candy with hints of fruitiness; Notes of wood, berry & spruce tips; Mild hop presence and warming; Clean finish with faint bittersweet aftertaste. Special Ingredients: Sitka Spruce tips Shelf Life: 9 months to a year Suggested Glass: Mug or Pint Serving Temp: 50°F – 55°F Availability: Winter Seasonal Pairs With: Grilled Lamb, Roast Goose, Honey glazed Ham, Stilton Cheese, Buttered Squash Bread, Créme Brulee The row boat knocked against the side of the Resolution one last time as the rope was thrown and the men put their backs into each sweeping oar stroke. The beach stood off about 400 yards. A crescent of rocky sand snared between the water and dense evergreen forest. The sun glinted off a small stream, created a shimmering silver line that bisected the narrow strip into two not-quite-equal halves. Nathan Hopwood glanced over his shoulder as he dipped the oar and hauled back. The beach was deserted, at least for now, though there were likely to be natives soon. He looked at Bligh. The man glanced at him, smiled, and returned to his slow survey of the trees. Nathan knew that Bligh was itching to explore and he would have done just about anything to be able to accompany the other four sailors in their mission of discovery, but he would have to make-do with his own small exploration of the tree line. The captain had sent him ashore to gather spruce tips, nothing more. But, he reasoned, at least he was going ashore. All the men wanted off the ship after such a long haul. Safety took precedence over anyone’s comfort for the captain though, and so a small landing party was sent first. The boat scrapped sand, with a practiced ease, the oars were taken in and the men leapt into the shallow water, dragging the boat up onto dry ground. Bligh let go of the boat and brushed his hands across his shirt front. “Ok, lad. Go hunt out the Captain’s spruce tips. If trouble comes swim for the ship.” A couple of the men snickered quietly. Nathan felt his face flush. “Alright gentleman, let’s see what’s around.” Bligh turned and the men followed as he headed toward the place where the stream exited the trees. Nathan stared after them for a moment then turned and plodded toward the tree line further down the crescent. Sure they laugh at me, but they have no problem drinking their fill of the spruce beer. It was funny walking on firm ground again, the sand under his feet sliding and collapsing. He reveled in the strange but familiar sensation and by the time he reached the trees his sudden flush of embarrassment and anger was forgotten. Stepping into the trees was like stepping into another world. The barren beach gave way to greenery everywhere. He could hear the chirp and whistle of dozens of bird songs overhead. The trees were a mix of spruce and hemlock and the ground was hidden under the fine lace-cut fronds of hundreds of ferns. Thick moss carpeted the ground. The spruce were in full growth, the end of each dark tuft of older needles showing the lighter soft tip of new growth. This was what he’d come for. He pulled the old flour sack out of his pocket and walked to the closest tree. A thin smell of old pine sap and citrus washed up from the bag as he began to pluck the new, slightly sticky growth and drop them into the opening. He popped one in his mouth and chewed thoughtfully. It was tangy with the clean astringent taste of citrus and pine. He imagined the taste mixed with dark sugary molasses and smiled. THE TASTING Below are the tasting notes I took while drinking Alaska’s Winter Ale. If you tasted this beer, please share your thoughts with me in the comments below. Pour and Aroma: Pours a light clean copper, like a newly minted penny. It is topped with a half finger of soapy off-white head, which holds for only a minute before disappearing completely, leaving only thin skiffs riding the surface. Carbonation is low, fitting to the style, and clarity is excellent. Aroma is quite sweet upfront. Big caramel from the malt and a sort of candied sweetness. It’s hard to find much hidden behind it. Some low berry notes which just reinforce my perception of candy. Neither hops nor the spruce tips are recognizable in the aroma. Mouthfeel and Taste: Body is pretty thin for a winter warmer, with a fullness on the shy side of medium. Carbonation is minimal in the mouth letting the low warmth work across the palate. This tastes much like a caramel candy with hints of fruitiness. Malt shows big and sweet, wrapping the front of the palate. Beyond there’s some very subtle wood and fruity berry notes with the spruce tips working delicately to meld hints of clean citrus into the whole. Mid palate I also catch slight biscuit presence from the malt and it almost tastes buttery at times. Mild hop presence and warming on the swallow. The finish is clean with a faint bittersweet aftertaste. FINISHING THOUGHTS Historically, sailors and colonists made this beer with molasses because of a shortage of brewing grains. It was sometimes used on ships as a cure against scurvy, though there is some dispute whether enough of the vitamin C made it through the brewing process for this to actually be an effective remedy. Whether it was effective or not, in general, beer was safer to drink on voyages then any stores of fresh water, making this type of beer an excellent choice for a sailor either way. Overall I enjoyed this beer. It tracks away from the regular winter warmers in its bright clean flavors and medium-to-light body. But it also has a lot to offer, especially if you are looking for a winter warmer without the heavy, chewy, very high ABV characteristics that seem to make up most examples in this field. It’s still malty, with nice — though subtle — warming qualities and a nice candy/fruity sweetness. It may not make the top of my list of winter beers, but it’s not a bad beer either. Cheers!