Thursday, May 24, 2012

Anchorage Brewing Bitter Monk

Type: Belgian DIPA
Origin: Anchorage, AK
Price: $17.49/750 mL (!)
ABV: 9%
NSP: 3.86

A little while ago I had my first beer from Anchorage Brewing, The Tide and its Takers tripel.  As I said in my review, it was one of those beers that challenged what I knew about beer.  Most beers you drink, you have a pretty good idea what's going on with it.  When you open a bottle of stout, you pretty much know what you're going to get, give or take.  But The Tide and its Takers was a total mystery to me from beginning to end, and I liked it more for that than I did for the pure quality of the beer.

I said in my The Tide and its Takers review that I'd be going after the Galaxy IPA next, but I saw this at Clem's Bottle House the other day and couldn't resist.  I figured if TTAIT (I've had enough of writing out the full name) was confusing, this would probably be totally baffling, and why not push the envelope a bit further.  As far as I can tell, it's got the same fermentation process as TTAIT - primary with Belgian yeast, secondary in chardonnay barrels with brett, and tertiary in the bottle for a little carb boost.  But they also DIPA this one up to 100 IBU with a shitload of hops, including Citra dry hopping in the barrel.  Alrighty then.  I really hope it's good because it's freakin' expensive.  These dudes seriously bottom out the NSP scale.

First off, I'll say that I love Anchorage's labels.  Secondly, I'll admit that the bottle says this is from July made me pause in the store, because that's a pretty long time for an IPA to be in a bottle.  But I'm not sure if fresher batches exist, and Clem's only had one bottle, and beggars can't be choosers.  The beer looks delicious, nice and cloudy with a good frothy Belgian head.  The Belgian yeast is nice and strong in the smell, with a hefty brett funkiness (all in all, it's really yeasty) and a good bit of winy citrus, which is no doubt amplified by the dry hopping.  But I don't really get any florality from the hops at all, or anything that screams out that this is an obvious DIPA.

The brett funk is pretty forward in the flavor, but not so much that it overwhelms anything else (unlike piss-vomit-rubbery Brett Dream).  At the same time, it's a bit stronger than I recall it being in TTAIT.  There's a decent amount of tart citrus in there, but it's sandwiched in between the brett on the front and the finish, which is fairly bitter, though not to the point of an American D/IIPA or an obvious 100 IBU.  I don't get a lot of easily identifiable hop flavor beyond just straight bitterness, but with the potency of everything else that's not all that surprising.  It has a similar chemicality/astringency as TTAIT, but in this case it's not as strong, I think because the hops kind of run over the citrus at the end and hide the alcohol pretty well.  It's also really dry, which is a nice touch, because the strength of the flavors dissipates quickly, which means you can handle drinking more.

Well, as I expected, this is even more challenging than TTAIT, because the hops add an extra layer of complexity and thus another degree of difficulty for your taste buds. There's just nothing easy about this beer.  I mean, Belgianity, brett, DIPAness, and alcohol each present their own set of things to deal with, and this has all four, and none of them lightly.  But you know what?  I like it a lot and I'm glad Clem's had it.  More than TTAIT from a straight beer-drankin' perspective.

I would absolutely love to see something like this built as a collaboration with Alpine.  Two big-time up-and-comers, and with Alpine's mastery with bringing out really good hop flavors, they could make it completely over-the-top ridiculous. 

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