At the beginning of each year, ratebeer.com publishes a list of "Gold Medal" breweries, heralding the top 100 breweries in the world while also shinging the spotlight on promising up-and-comers. Among the most recent selections is Alaska’s Anchorage Brewing Company, selected as the number one craft beer newcomer of 2011.
Just founded in March of last year, the brewery has so far released a small set of unique, flavorful, chardonnay barrel-aged brews that sometimes defy convention and never disappoint. Each label in their current roster is triple-fermented: first in the traditional fermenting container; second in French oak chardonnay barrels; and then finally in the corked and caged 750-ml. bottles in which the beer is distributed and served. Though the brewery’s vendor list does not yet reach beyond Alaska and California, Anchorage is one of the only U.S. brands to be distributed by Euro-focused importer Shelton Brothers of Massachusetts. I had the opportunity to taste two of Anchorage’s much ballyhooed brews.
Love Buzz is a fresh, crisp saison treated to the thorough triple fermenting process. Poured from the bottle into a small snifter, the beer is a lustrous golden color, slightly cloudy with a lingering thin white head. The nose is full of funky Brettanomyces, the chief wild yeast strain favored by Anchorage.
As expected with the wild yeast, this beer has a slightly tart flavor, like that of an American wild ale or Flanders as opposed to a saison. Amid the tart flavors are hints of peppercorns, oaky white wine and a subtle bitter hop bite. The finish is very dry with slight lingering tastes of pepper and tartness. Despite the lighter flavors, Love Buzz does have a relatively strong alcohol content of 8 percent ABV, making it great to share at dinner or for a tasting.
If spiciness and a hoppy bite aren’t your thing, Anchorage Brewing Company’s Whiteout — similarly aged and fermented, but a witbier — is a great option. Poured into a snifter, Whiteout has a clear golden yellow color with a thin white head. The nose of this beer is full of funk (again provided by the Brettanomyces wild yeast strain), and a hint of chardonnay from the barrel aging. This brew is a slightly lighter option compared to Love Buzz, though still strong for a witbier at 6.5 percent ABV. Bright citrus flavors balance out the funky yeast in this delectable brew. The time Whiteout spent in oak barrels leaves a rich wooden flavor on the palate with hints of chardonnay coming through as well.
Trying two brews from this distinct new brewery is quite a treat. Both present a very unique perspective on two tried and true styles. The triple fermentation process (in fermentation tanks, oak barrels and the storage bottle), creates a distinctively funky and complex flavor profile. Look for these great quaffs at any place dedicated to craft beer, especially places with a leaning towards imports, alongside the impressive roster of Shelton Brothers European beers.
— Mike Lorenz, The Drink Nation
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