I hate smoke. As I sit here in my apartment writing this, it’s wafting in through the open window, making the air thick with stink, dirtying my window sill, contaminating my clothes, and burning the insides of my nostrils. I’ve never understood why anyone would enjoy the taste of that noxious stuff on their tongue… that is, until I tried the Alaskan Smoked Porter.
Unlike other ‘smoke beers’ I’ve had (or rauchbiers, as they’re called in their homeland), this porter is more than a one-trick pony. Sure, there’s the smoky wood taste coming through, and yes, it’s dry, but it’s balanced ever so delicately on roasted malts with little hints of chocolate and coffee and just a twinge of sweetness. Body-wise, it’s as thin as a porter should be, not delving too deeply into thicker stout characteristics, and aside from the smoky flavor, it remains a fairly subtle and mellow drink; it doesn’t hit you over the head with big flavors. Even so, this is a beer that was made for sipping.
The version we have on tap at Bailey’s right now has been aged since 2006, and I think this accounts for some of the subtleties. It remains smooth all the way through, but you keep picking up on different nuances the longer you spend tasting it; that’s usually a sign that you’re dealing with an aged product that has had time to pick up additional flavors and work them into the overall character.
Apparently, this isn’t a beer for everyone. It’s a love-‘em-or-hate-‘em type, I’ve been told. That was in evidence last week when a couple ordered a taster tray and they couldn’t get through half a 5 oz sample between the two of them.
Bottom line is this: if you’re strictly an IPA fan, or like your beers light, mild and creamy, this probably isn’t the pint for you. But if you’re the adventurous sort and dig the darker end of the beer spectrum, give it a shot. While cigarettes aren’t allowed in Bailey’s, you can smoke this beer all you want.