Friday, August 16, 2013

Anchorage Darkest Hour

Style: Barrel-aged Belgian-style Imperial Stout
Origin: Anchorage, AK
Price: $15.40/750mL
ABV: 13.0%
NSP: 6.33
website

Yup, prepare yourself for another unnecessarily long-winded review, because Anchorage is back.  This one's a Belgian-style imperial stout, triple-fermented as usual- Belgian, barrel, bottle- with the second stage using both pinot noir and rye whiskey barrels.  That sounds like quite a maze, and relative to other breweries, it certainly is- but for Anchorage, the degree of difficulty may be slightly lower on this one, because I don't see any mention of brett or bacterial (lacto or pedio) fermentation anywhere.  Of course, that has no impact on the degree of difficulty of being sober after drinking it, which is impossibly high.  A random little thing I found entertaining about this version of Anchorage's always-cool labels- if you look very closely at the picture, where the style is noted under the "Darkest Hour" at the top- they spelled "Belgian" without the "l".  I guess there's no spell-check for bottle labels.

I'll say in advance that I have little hope or expectation of finding any pinot character in here, because it was so swamped in the Anadromous, and that one didn't have any of this rye whiskey barrel business going on.  The pour made me very unhappy- even with pretty aggressive glugging, there was no head whatsoever.  With this much alcohol, plus whiskey, flatness is almost inevitably a deal-breaker.  The smell is very coffee-heavy, plus a touch of spice from the whiskey, though the latter's not as potent as I expected.  It's also pretty astringent, though part of that could certainly be from the roasted malt instead of the whiskey...not that it matters where it's from.  The Belgian yeast aromas are pretty much nowhere to be found.  I admit, not a great start, especially compared to all other Anchorages I've had.

And...it's flat.  The seal on the cork seemed perfectly intact, but there's no carbonation.  I'm pretty close to stopping right here, because I don't know if I'm prepared to do battle with a 750 of flat 13% whiskey-aged imperial stout.  But I can't dump it.  Fuck.  Welp, shonk time.  The flavor's actually quite nice- lots of good stouty roastiness, really good rye flavors, some nice spice and vanilla from the rye.  And the stout's dry enough that the whiskey doesn't throw it into overboard sweetness, so it's decently well-balanced. As I expected, the pinot's kind of lost in the shuffle- there is a bit of winy fruitiness, but it's hard to identify as pinot-specific, since both the stout and whiskey bring similar enough dark-fruity flavors to mask it.  I don't really detect any obvious Belgian yeast flavors, but those might also just be melding with everything else so they're hard to pick out.  The alcohol's noticeable (hard to avoid that at 13%), but not intrusive.  All in all, I enjoy the flavor.

So, I really want to like this, but the lack of carbonation is just a killer.  I've only had the bottle for a couple of weeks, so something definitely went wrong in the corking stage. The flavor's really nice, though maybe not quite up to par with the other Anchorage beers I've had in terms of delightful confusion- it sort of feels like a beer that most good imperial stout makers could put together, provided they can get their hands on a good rye whiskey barrel or two.  Add flatness to it, and you're basically drinking a 750 of whiskey-stout liqueur, and nobody wants to do that.  I don't want to either, but such is the life of a Non-Snobber.  I'd say give this a whirl, but have some soda water (or Miller Lite, as Andy suggested) on hand just in case.

P.S. Or, as my wife did, you can use this in a really delicious Darkest Hour chocolate cake.

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