Monday, June 24, 2013

Anchorage Brewing Company - Darkest Hour

I know they've only sent a handful of beers down to San Diego in their short existence, but I'm not afraid to call Anchorage Brewing Company one of my favorite breweries. Up until a few weeks ago, only five of their beers had made it to San Diego. However, of those five, there wasn't one that I didn't fall in love with. And one of them, Bitter Monk, was one of the best beers I had all year last year. So what would happen when they attempted the style that I love the most? I finally found out when their stout, Darkest Hour hit shelves this month.

Before we get into the actual review, it's important to point out that Darkest Hour (just like the other beers from Anchorage) isn't just any stout. It's a Belgian-style stout that is aged in both Pinot Noir and Rye Whiskey barrels and then aged in the bottle with wine yeast. Like everything else Anchorage has put into the market so far, the process is anything but simple. Let's see how this one turned out.

I broke in my new Lost Abbey stemware with this beer and, I've gotta say, it looked damn good in there. Darkest Hour pours a black color that's just a shade short of being jet black. A light brown head foams up initially, but disappears quickly, almost like the head of a soda. Right after the pour, I didn't smell much besides a lot of brandy-soaked raisin skins. The smell is intense, maybe even a little overpowering at first. But as it warms, the raisin notes fade and notes of molasses, a heavy, almost zinfandel-like wine aroma, some spicy oak, burnt brown sugar and leather creep into the picture. The booziness in the aroma is a bit overwhelming at first, but as this beer warms (and as the added elements in the smell enhance it), it becomes downright inviting.

The taste opens on a sweet, burnt creme brulee note, then moves towards flavors of molasses, dense, sour-tasting wine and toffee. The middle of the beer brings some dark chocolate covered raisins, whiskey and some new oak. Finally, the finish kicks in and shows some charred oak, burnt raisin, and just a hint of booze. The mouthfeel shows nothing of the 13%, but has a bit of a slickness to it, reminding you that pacing yourself with this one might be a good idea.

I thought Darkest Hour was a really interesting beer. It's a strange experiment, falling somewhere in between a great traditional barrel-aged stout (think Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout) and a sour stout (think Jolly Pumpkin's Madrugada Obscura). The elements of both these styles are present, and the beer seems torn on which it wants to identify with. By not really choosing one, I think it falls a bit short of what it could be. Still, this is another fantastic beer from Anchorage. If you see anything from them on a shelf near you, do not hesitate.

Final Grade: B+

Top 250 Beers Tasted: 127

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