Brewery: Alaskan Brewing Co.
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 9 percent
To last a quarter century in the beer industry takes a lot of perseverance. So does consistently producing award-winning brews in temperatures that would make Sub-Zero from Mortal Kombat bundle up. But Alaskan Brewing Co., based in frosty Juneau, has done both, and recently released the aptly-named Perseverance to celebrate.
Brewed in the style of Russian Imperial Stout -- because, you know, you can see Russia from there -- Perseverance is made with birch syrup from Alaska Birch Syrup Co., fireweed honey from BeeAlaskan Apiaries, brown sugar and oats as well as Alaskan's famous alder-smoked malt (the same stuff used in their Smoked Porter, which has won so many gold medals it should be entered in the Olympics).
Along with the reasons above, the name comes from the connection between brewing and mining in Juneau. Early brewers in the city once stored their ales in the tunnels of area mines to sell to thirsty prospectors. One of the best-known of these mines was called the Perseverance Mine. Though it's now closed, Perseverance Trail still tops the lists of Juneau's favorite hiking trails.
Persevere in your quest to find this beer on shelves (it's somewhat limited), pour it into a snifter, and you'll find a brew black as an oil slick and topped with a small, dense head of cocoa-colored bubbles. The nose, sugary and rich, reveals a deep chocolate character not unlike black forest cake. Hints of anise, maple and wood smoke fuse with the sweet, malty notes. It's an incredibly smooth, manly scent.
Alaska birch syrup from Wasilla lends a deep, almost tart character to the dark malt profile, while fireweed honey from Delta Junction adds a delicate sweetness and floral notes to the aroma and finish. The slight addition of our in-house alder-smoked malt alludes to the distinctive roasted flavor of turn-of-the-century malting practices, without overpowering the more subtle flavors of this dynamic anniversary brew.
Given the glorious nose, it might seem at first blush the flavor will let you down -- it's not as rich as the aroma, and not as obviously awesome. Its greatness is subtler, revealed by more intense inspection. The journey begins with drizzles of melted dark chocolate, sweet and floral honey, and the birch syrup. The same flavors that make Alaskan's Smoked Porter one of the best in the nation show up mid-palate, the smoked alder wood blending with spicy anise notes and green hops. After the swallow, fruits emerge in the form of dark cherries and plums. The body may be a bit thin, but the alcohol is buried under a gold mine of flavor and is fairly undetectable.
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Perseverance is a smooth, sweet, smoky stout. Though it's good now, time will improve it. Find a deserted mine nearby and store an extra bottle there for unearthing in a year. Your perseverance will be rewarded.
Food Pairing Suggestions:
Try Perseverance alongside barbecue chicken pizza. The syrup and honey of the beer will stand up to the bold, sweet barbecue sauce while the smoked malts echo the char on the meat.
Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone, a recognized expert on beer.