Alaskan Pumpkin Porter (2013)

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Alaskan Pumpkin Porter is 7.0% ABV.

I poured some of a 22 oz  bottle into a porter glass.

Appearance: After a steady pour, I got a finger or so of thinnish light brown head which dissipated over the course of a few minutes. This has a dark brown color mostly impenetrable by light. This appears to have carbonation on the light side.

Smell: This smells sweet, roasty, and lovely. There is some dark roast, some notable vegetable pumpkin, and some sweetness and spices. The sweetness has some definite brown sugar to it, while the spices I get are cinnamon and clove. This smells like it will have a lot of flavor, and will be rich. I also get some vanilla-sweetness which pairs great with the dark and roasty malt. Just a great and somewhat sweet aroma. It is so nice to be able to taste this for the first time. I’ve been looking at this in my fridge for too long without tasting it.

Taste: This has just wonderful flavor. It has great strong pumpkin that is mostly vegetal, but also has some roasty tones. The dark, smokey, and roasty malt flavors are there, but don’t overtake the palate. The spices and sweetness are well balanced. The spice I am getting is cinnamon and clove, and some definite brown sugar. I am also getting some smooth vanilla. What is really impressive about this is that it has the roast of a porter, a nice spice profile, and great pumpkin flavor. This has more pumpkin flavor than any other pumpkin porter or pumpkin stout I’ve ever had. It is wonderful. This finishes to let some more of the fruit of the pumpkin shine through. The aftertaste has some of the roast and spices and a bit of the vegetal pumpkin flesh hanging on for a good bit. Just great flavors.

Feel: This is medium bodied,with light carbonation. The feel is lighter than I was expecting. It is smooth and has some roast that gives it some texture. The bit of brown sugar also adds some texture to the feel. Finally there is some warmth from the pumpkin pie spices. So, good marks here.

Drinkability: This is quite good here. It is smooth and velvety, with nothing too coarse or caustic on the palate. The sweetness is also not too pronounced or overpowering. The alcohol is also tame. This is very smooth and easy to put a dent in without realizing it. Great marks here.

Overall: This is the best pumpkin porter that I’ve had, and has more pumpkin flavor than any darker pumpkin beer I’ve ever tasted. The flavors are all good, and nicely balanced. I love the powerful vegetal pumpkin. I also like how the dark and roasty malts pair with the pumpkin and the other spices. This beer has a whole lot going for it. I am a big fan, and would certainly get some more of this for myself or for a seasonal tasting with friends. I wish it was easier for me to get! It is a must-try, especially for those folks that love pumpkin in their pumpkin beers.

Overall Rating: ****

image (10)Alaskan Brewing Company and their Pumpkin Porter: Alaskan Brewing Company was founded in 1986 by Marcy and Geoff Larson, who were then in their 20’s! This was the first brewery in Juneau since Prohibition. Marcy and Goeff aimed to make beers that were inspired by and similar to some of the beers made during the Gold Rush Era, where beer had a central role in the lifestyle. Geoff was a chemical engineer as well as a homebrewer. His wife Marcy was an accountant and adventurous pilot. When doing research about the beer history of Alaska, Marcy discovered some records from the Douglas City Brewing Company, which existed from 1899-1907. These records detailed ingredients for its historically popular brews, and included a newspaper article that had information about how their beer was brewed. Geoff brewed a batch of this beer at home.This beer would later become Alaskan Amber. Alaskan Brewing now distributes to 14 states, and is among the most decorated winners at the Great American Beer Fest. They have won over 100 major medals across the big beer competitions, where over half of these are golds. One of their most popular beers, which I really hope to try some day, is their Alaskan Smoked Porter. This beer has won many medals. At the Great American Beer Festival alone, it has won 6 gold, 6 sliver, and 6 bronze medals since 1990. This beer brought a real gold rush for them between the years of 1991 and 1995.

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The Alaskan Pumpkin Porter is part of their pilot series of limited edition specialty ales. Being brewed in Juneau, it can be a serious challenge to brew real ales. But they’ve done it, and done it well. They use over 11 pounds of Red Hubbard pumpkins per barrel for this delicious pumpkin treat! The water is  glacier-fed, and soaks up a big grain bill. 6 different malts are used, including the Alaskan alder-smoked malt. For more of the pumpkin pie flavors, they throw in brown sugar and a spice blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove.  Magnum and Goldings hops takes this to 25 IBU’s.

I spoke with Andy Kline from Alaskan Brewing, who was quite generous. Everyone else I talked to along the way was also so helpful with this project. My girlfriend often jokes that great breweries are how she gets me to travel. Bankrolling this trip might be  a bit more difficult, at least right now! If you get the chance to grab this beer, grab a couple. The beautiful label shows a pickup carrying some giant pumpkin. This is a reference to the Alaska State Fair, known for growing some of the worlds largest vegetables, including pumpkins weighing in at over 1200 lbs. Hey, Alaska is massive! And Alaskan Brewing has massively good beer.

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