Friday, September 28, 2012

Anchorage Brewing Company - Bitter Monk

When most people think of Alaskan beer, they think of the beers from Juneau's Alaskan Brewing Company. While there's nothing wrong with Alaskan, I would argue that there are much better beers being made right now about 800 miles away in Anchorage. It's there that you'll find Midnight Sun and Anchorage Brewing Company. The latter is the spawn of one of Midnight Sun's former brewmasters, Gabe Fletcher. Anchorage Brewing Company may be young, but in their short existence, they've churned out some absolutely incredible beer. I was able to find their Double IPA, Bitter Monk on a recent trip to Bottlecraft.

Just like all of their other beers, Bitter Monk is barrel aged with Brettanomyces. The process to make this beer is pretty extensive. First, the beer is fermented with a Belgian yeast strain, then fermented again in French Chardonnay barrels and then fermented again in the bottle. During the aging process, it's dry hopped with my favorite hop variety, Citra. I've never really had an oak aged IPA that I liked, to the point that I've made a point not to buy them, but because of my positive experience with Anchorage in the past, I decided to give this one a try anyways.

Bitter Monk pours a hazy apricot color with a huge and fluffy white head. The color of this beer was absolutely awesome and the head left loads of lacing down the glass. I picked up a huge citrus hop aroma as soon as I poured this one, with notes of vanilla, lemon and grapefruit as I leaned in closer for a smell. Deeper down, I picked up some Nilla Wafer, just a touch of Brett and a bit of oak.

I'm a huge fan of Citra hops, so I was pretty happy that the first thing I picked up when I took my first sip of this was a huge blast of Citra-y goodness. Along with the Citra were big notes of mango, white grape and pink grapefruit. The middle sweetened up with some honey and caramel malt before a finish of peppery and earthy hops. The finish brought just a bit of oak and a bit of Chardonnay-like dryness. Off the top of my head, it's hard to come up with a beer with a more complex taste than this one has.

You can really taste everything that went into this beer and, despite everything fighting for attention in here, it all works really, really well. The aspect of this I was most worried about was the oak, as most of the oak aged IPAs I've had were completely dominated by the oak. This one used the oak brilliantly. It was an afterthought in the taste without being completely forgotten. Another fantastic beer from Anchorage. I'm very excited for whatever they come up with next.

Final Grade: A

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