Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Anchorage Brewing - The Tide and Its Takers Review

Brewery: Anchorage Brewing (AK)
Style: Tripel
ABV: 9%
Grade: A-

I appreciate when breweries have something common to all their beers — a theme, you might call it. I especially like when a brewery manages to craft a line of highly unique ales that are individually nothing like most of the beers on the market, yet have consistencies — tendencies, maybe — within the lineup. Anchorage Brewing, as you might have guessed by now, is such a brewery.

Lots of breweries do a line of sours with a signature house flavor from local wild yeast, but Anchorage tends to be more specific. (Also impressive: Anchorage is basically a one man operation run by Gabe Fletcher. Check out this interview for a bunch of interesting info on his operation.) For one, all Anchorage beers are finished with Brettanomyces, so they aren't exactly "sours." (There's no good genre name yet for beers that are vaguely Belgian in style but are aged with Brett. Orvals? Funkies?) The way Fletcher uses Brett allows the original base style to shine through in a way that's not possible with most full-on sours, so his beers have a theme of being "Belgian Style _____ + Brettanomyces." Then, his beers are aged in a specific type of oak barrel for even more specialness. The guy doesn't mess around.

All this production side complexity belies the fact that Anchorage beers — of of the two I've had, at least — are coherent, balanced, and drinkable. There's no mistaking them for ordinary beer, but they are surprisingly satisfying, smooth drinkers. You know how people are often saying: "it was really good, but I wouldn't want to have more than one"? Not an issue here. Belgian Tripels are designed to hide their high ABV with a light, clean, fruity body; The Tide And Its Takers hits that mark. Bretty funk dominates the nose, while the mouthfeel is creamy and rich, with a powdered sugar-like sweetness, a buttery fullness, and a tangy, tart finish. The Belgian yeast aren't nearly as phenolic or spicy as in many other examples of the style, which is just fine with me. (I like my Belgian yeast fairly subdued.) Where the Belgian yeast trail off, the Brett adds even more.

This is far from the Brett-iest beer I've had, though, and the oak-aging adds an equally strong dimension that very nicely balances things out. The barrel aging imparts a buttery, toasted oak character, with hints of the expected vanilla and spice. The mouthfeel is almost slick. Chardonnay comes through, though it's not overpowering, and there's a nice bit of citrus / lemongrass / fruit character with it.

This is the sort of beer you could easily gulp down without flinching, yet it rewards any amount of savoring with its subtle complexity. Well done, Gabe.

Availability: 750 ml cork and cage bottle. Limited release.

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