Recently I had a chance to sit down with the new company president, Chris Rice, and our beer wrangler, Adam Harold, over three different vintages of Alaskan Smoked Porter. Just to add to the pleasure, I brought out some Alaskan salmon and some smoked salmon. The beer reviews will be published in the January issue of All About Beer Magazine.
However, the reviews just focus on the beer. What is always missing from these reviews is the context. Take this tasting. It was a beautiful fall afternoon with the crisp bright light. We were all still a bit pumped from the previous weekend’s World Beer Festival—Durham, which is to say we were amped up on memories of good beer.
The vintages (2008, 2013 and 2014) were served in separate chalices starting with the youngest first. This allowed each of us to follow sensory threads back and forth through time. With Chris and Adam along, this turned into a time traveling adventure.
There is no doubt that someone labored mightily with the experience we were having foremost in their mind. Somewhere in the Alaska brewery is a satisfied brewer knowing the final products were savored, discussed and relished.
The three of us kept moving between the vintages with different ideas percolating to the surface. Consensus on the pattern of aging from youngest to oldest was quickly achieved. Our similarity in vocabulary was a pleasure, like musicians tossing a theme between us, we honed in on the attributes of each beer and the collective voyage they described.
It is such a joy passing observations back and forth, expanding the experience with suggestions from others. These two guys have great palates, but mostly they were able to put words to sensations, even if only a vague hint.
This is the best part of memory; remembering a flavor, aroma or sensation and linking it to what you are experiencing with the beer. This is how, just a beer, can become an experience and, like all good experiences, it is best when shared.
A characteristic of beer, uncovered whenever beer lovers come together
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Daniel Bradford is Associate Publisher of All About Beer Magazine.