On Monday 21 September I got to do a vertical tasting of three vintages of the acclaimed Alaskan Smoked Porter in Sloan Square, a leading craft beer bar in Milan. The occasion was partly because of the second edition of Milano Beer Week that took off that day, and partly to celebrate one of the world’s best beers. Those who attended were in for a treat!
Milano Beer Week is an initiative of Italy’s leading beer journalist Maurizio Maestrelli and the second edition saw over thirty venues participating in a great variety of beer events. For example the initiation of the first Italian bar serving ‘brewery fresh’ Pilsner Urquel, the presentation of a book on Franconian beers by Manuelle Collona of Rome’s “Ma che siete venuti a fà” (translates as: “But why did you come here?!, a.k.a. The Football Pub) and then there was our vertical.
Alaskan Smoked Porter is still the most award winning beer – in the world, and rightfully so. With only 6,5% ABV it proves to be such a versatile and impressive beer it’s almost beyond belief, and to see how it can develop is a stunning thing. We presented three vintages to a crowd of enthusiasts: ASP 2013, 2012 and 2008. Sloan Square owner Andrea had his team prepare accompanying dishes that made it an even greater occasion!
The 2013 vintage, which is still dominated by smoke, was paired to “Tartare di Speck, crema di cetrioli e rafano” or “Cucumber cream with horseradish and bacon”. I never would have thought the fresh cucumber being able to unlock intensely fruity notes in the beer – the bacon is of course a no-brainer with the smoke – and it turned out a perfect pair.
The 2012 was accompanied by “Tagliolini alla crema di Blue Stilton e Cozze” or long pasta with mussels and Blue Stilton Cream. The smokiness already subdued and the first signs of portofication noticeable in the beer, again this combination hit it right on the head.
The 2008 vintage showed that remarkable Alaskan Smoked Porter phenomenon of the smoke actually returning after some years! Not as intense as a fresh version, but unmistakably there and in the presence of dark, dry and red fruits it went superbly with “Beer Me Up (Tiramisù) e Smoked Irish Coffee” or Tiramisù with a cup of Irish Coffee mixed with ASP. It was probably the best pairing of the evening as every flavor seems to interlock with the next, creating a never ending circle of interactions.
From my personal stash I brought a bottle of Alaskan Smoked Porter 2000 – an American Pint size, so we had to share little bits with some lucky winners of a pub quiz we arranged on the spot. It demonstrated again the remarkable development this beer undergoes as the smoke was almost completely gone and strong hints of madeira, vanilla, licorice and chocolate suddenly appeared.
Vertical tastings: a great way to discover the versatility of a beer and undergo the hidden secrets in a beverage you will only discover if you’re patient enough to keep the beer long enough! Did you ever try a vertical, and if so, what beer was it and how did it turn out?