Monday, December 15, 2008

Just in time for winter, a homegrown Baltic beauty

Had this, the newest entry into Alaskan Brewing's celebrated coterie of craft offerings, arrived on my doorstep a mere month ago, any mention of it would have warranted inevitable, innumerable references to the visible proximity of Alaska to our neighbor country, Russia. But that was then, and this is December, a cold December to be sure, one when dark and roasty beers hovering around the 10% alcohol level make themselves quite at home. With a nearly luminescent label depicting an onion dome set afront a star-filled winter's sky, this ale, like their takes on alt and kölsch, is a decidedly stateside iteration of the Baltic Porter style. Like their barley wine and smoked porter, too, it's a reminder that this is a brewery that can do great things when free to take a big and bold approach. Without an overly heavy feel, this beer doles out dry fig and licorice in spades, with a compliment of hop and roast bitterness that doesn't dominate the taste as has become increasingly common like burnt coffee in American strong dark ales, Imperial stouts and the like.

Brewed with Madagascar vanilla beans and black cherries, and aged on toasted French oak, it respectfully doesn't punish the taster with these novel touches, marrying the effects of each quite well into the fabric of the malts. A textbook fireside ale, it demands to be paired carefully, deliberately. Good thing my two-year old daughter had just helped make a batch of gingerbread cookies. Between the molasses and the vanilla, you couldn't ask for a more perfect fit. Don't believe me?  Try it:

1 cup shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark molasses
2 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup hot water
6 cups flour, sifted
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tbsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves

Cream the sugar and shortening together. Add molasses, vinegar and vanilla. In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Mix in wet ingredients, alternating between the hot water and creamed mixture. Chill the dough for one hour before rolling out to 1/8" thick. Cut into awesome shapes. Bake 10-15 minutes at 350º F. Let cool on rack (or not) and enjoy.


Anonymous said...

Frankly, I was a bit dissapointed with this beer. I thought it was a bit on the sweet side, and definately needed a bit more time to condition. Maybe it's just me though, I've bought a few $10 bottles of various beers lately that just haven't lived up to my expectations.

Alpha King said...

I have only tried a couple Baltic porters and want to try this. We have sat many times in Muncie Indiana craving for the Alaskan Smoked Porter. I had an IPA of theirs in OR and was not impressed. Smoked Porter alone makes me want to try more of this brewery.