You know the kids who insist on getting every unholy topping under the sun on their ice cream sundae? How about those irritating S.O.B.’s who think they have the nerve to get off on national TV talking about how the house they’re viewing doesn’t have enough office space, or enough bathrooms, alcoves, walk-in closets, exposed brick, windows, linoleum tiles, or strands of carpet? Well, if you could take that level of self-indulgence and attention to detail and force it, bend it, jam it and fold it into a brewery, you would have Anchorage Brewing Company, based in Anchorage, Alaska. Anchorage Brewing is the brainchild of Gabe Fletcher, who split from Midnight Sun Brewing in 2010. Fletcher, known for his quirky, funky, experimental beers started his brewing project in early 2011.
The toddler brewery recently pumped out three new beers for the Green Mountain State this summer (the other two being “Anadromous” and “AK Alive!,” a collaboration beer with Mikeller– perhaps more on these later); one of them I’ve had the pleasure of trying: “Darkest Hour,” a Belgian style imperial stout fermented not just once with Belgian yeast, not twice once in Pinot Noir barrels, but three maddening times when emptied in rye whisky barrels only before put in the bottle with a wine yeast for bottle conditioning. It is the kind of behavior of those who find playing with a Rubik’s cube in the dark at gunpoint an enjoyable, albeit mundane, experience. Rivaling the potency of wines, Darkest Hour boasts a massive 13% ABV.
Price point, you ask? Well, let’s just say they charge by the percentage. Is it worth the cost? Luckily, for you, I was bold and bourgeois enough in spirit enough shrug my shoulders and buy the damned beer.
As I slumped down at my dinner table and stared at the bottle, I became transfixed upon its mysterious contents. I popped the cork. Silence. I bent my head over the neck of the bottle, eyeball into the beer socket. There was lifelessness—and then I poured it into the glass. I was actually quite surprised by the level of head that the beer produced. Easily one of the darkest beers I have ever seen, the head was the color of coffee with only a little added cream. The pour was thick, viscous. The said head, about two fingers worth, receded almost immediately. Swirling around in the tulip glass, there were noticeable alcohol legs that would put a pin-up to shame.
I kind of stuck my face in the glass, I was so intrigued. First, there was coffee, and then there was toffee and caramel, vanilla and booze. There may have been a little lingering cardamom as well, paired with dried date and chocolate-covered banana. The yeast was the very last thing on the nose, and it was very faint.
Taking a first sip, I got big, fat, toffee flavors. Coffee came in the middle of the mouth. Vanilla, most likely from the whisky barrels came next. The wine notes were not actually quite apparent until the end with its estery finish. However, if you were not already informed, you probably would not have known there was any wine barrel aging to begin with. You had to search for it.
On the tongue and cheeks, the beer left a very thick coat. It’s a sensationally creamy beer, and the alcohol does well to clear it up. Sure, it’s a bit sticky and quite chewy, but it’s really for sipping purposes only. It certainly warms on the down, but you’d expect that from a beer in the double digits.
Overall, Anchorage’s Darkest Hour is a daring beer. It’s a Hollywood car chase in the mouth, full of high octane twists and turns, excitement, and intrigue. Rich and powerful, it’s worth a try even just once. So far, it’s safe to say it is one of my favorite stouts of the year. Kicking myself for having already killed the bottle, I know I’ll have to pick up another to try to cellar for a cold, pitch black winter’s night.
I’d give this beer a *9.0 out of 10*