Friday, August 2, 2013

Anchorage Anadromous

Type: Black Sour Ale/Wild Ale
Origin: Anchorage, AK
Price: $15.40/750mL
ABV: 8.5%
NSP: 4.14
website (no specific Anadromous site)

Another one from my favorite low-NSP but high-mindfuckery brewery, Anchorage.  By mindfuckery, I mean that I haven't had anything from Anchorage that hasn't been both completely baffling and highly educational.  'Anadromous' isn't exactly a word that's in common usage, so I had to look it up- apparently it refers to fish that spend most of their lives in salt water but migrate to fresh water to breed.  I'm not sure how that relates to beer, but I'll take some creative license and assume that it refers in some manner to swimming against the current- and that's definitely something a lot of brewers seem to take pride in attempting (even if a lot of them end up getting exhausted and drowning, or just munched by a big-ass bear).  It also explains why there's a nightmarish piranha-looking SOB on the bottle.

So, a black sour.  That's definitely not something you see every day.  The Bruery's Tart of Darkness is the only other one that I can think of off the top of my head.  As is Anchorage's hallmark, there's an intricate fermentation process- three stages, first in stainless with a regular Belgian yeast, second in pinot noir barrels with lactobacillus, pediococcus, and brett, and then finished in the bottle.  Put all that together, and it smells like exactly what I'd ensmellened (the smell version of envisioned...I hope I just coined that word) it- a sour porter.  There's a good tanginess, a bit of bretty funk, and a whole bunch of roasty malt.  It immediately tells you it's not going to be a simple beer, but of course if you wanted that you sure as hell wouldn't be buying Anchorage.  Unfortunately, though, I found the pinot character to be a bit concealed- not much fruitiness or anything associated to speak of.

The flavor follows the nose closely- it's nice and sour, but countered by the roasted flavors, with some funky brett.   The pinot character again falls by the wayside to an extent- you can faintly detect it, but the roastiness stifles it enough that you have to dig a bit.  Even though this is my first run at this style, it's immediately clear that there's a very, very thin wire to be Wallenda-ed here, representing a precarious balance between mouth-coating roastiness and palate-cleansing sourness.  And it does indeed seem to walk the tightrope successfully.  But there's also a deeper issue- if the balance reflects real complementation, or if it's more of a stalemate.  The wife felt like it was the former, but I thought it was more the latter- as if the roastiness and the sourness were combatting each other.  The sourness is doing its damnedest to cut through the porter flavors, but the roastiness just keeps punching it down, sort of an unstoppable force vs. an immovable object kind of deal.  That's nitpicky as hell, and has little to no bearing on the enjoyment of the beer, but it was a sentiment to which I kept returning.  I do feel like an enhanced pinot character (or maybe barrels from a weightier wine) could be a good mediator here, since winy dark fruit flavors can be commonly found naturally in both porters and sours.  

Well, that review got way more philosophical than it needed to be.  I could've just cut to the chase and said that the beer's really excellent and is an impressive effort at expanding the frontiers.  But Anchorage just isn't one of those breweries that lends itself to brevity...which is unfortunate when your wife is sitting next to you wondering why she ever agreed to stop by Bottlecraft with you in the first place.

1 comment:

  1. I really loved the Anadromous, it inspired me to brew a Belgian beer/wine hybrid with pinot noir must