50 States of Beer: Alaska
Panty Peeler Belgian Style Tripel, Midnight Sun Brewing Company
Anchorage, Alaska's Midnight Sun Brewing Company was opened in 1995 by homebrewers Mark Staples and Barb Miller. They operate a modest facility, Anchorage's only full time production brewery not associated with a brewpub. Their beers run the gamut, their style refusing any attempt at pinning down -- the kind of renegade spirit we've come to expect from the good old 49th. This is especially true when it comes to, of course, wild strains, according to a 2011 Beer Connoisseur interview.
Just as Seinfeld was a “show about nothing,” Midnight Sun’s pattern is to have no pattern. “We brew beers we want to drink,” says Barb. There is a lot of experimentation with ingredients, spices, yeast strains (25 this year) and barrel aging. They routinely make Belgian-style beers, use souring organisms, and allow Brettanomyces to make their beers wild. They also offer hoppy yet clean American styles. There are collaborations, commemoratives, anniversary brews, four quarterly Imperial IPAs, a wood-aged barleywine and two pumpkin beers.
While Midnight Sun is distributed throughout a handful of the lower forty-eight, the brewery itself seems like a really cool space and worth a visit if you find yourself up in our fair country's nether regions. Apparently the brew team keeps a tasting loft stocked with every draft beer they make and every bottle in distribution. And they hosted this rad Pink Boots event for the entire month of February! Sign me up.
The Brooklyn craft beer bar where I occasionally trade pints for tips happens to stock two varieties of Midnight Sun in 22oz bottles. Naturally, I opted for the one with the dumbest name -- the Panty Peeler Abbey Tripel -- took her home and after some mild conversation, well, peeled her open.
Ok, ok, I'm sorry. I'm over the name. Now you get over it. Ok, let's move on.
The beer pours a satisfyingly rich, deep amber color with a slight but frothy head thanks to the bottle conditioning. This particular bottle was taken home warm and then chilled overnight in the fridge, so I'm giving Midnight Sun the benefit of the doubt and blaming my low head yield on the temperature disruption.
The nose is refreshingly spicy for a tripel -- bitter orange and coriander instead of the sugary, Skittles-like scent many American style tripels exude. I also noticed layers of a bready, pit fruit yeastiness that added to the tripel's complexity. After experiencing the aroma, I wasn't wowed by the taste. The spice and sweet was extremely well balanced throughout, with subtle pear and apple softening the white peppercorn and clove, but maybe that was my issue. It didn't have that characteristic Sweet Tart lingering I was expecting. I can see this being a big plus for some drinkers -- probably thinner than me and with much better teeth -- but when I want a tripel, I kind of want a tripel, know what I mean? I appreciate the lack of sugar in the aroma, as it often masks or overwhelms the senses, but I do love that sting of sour-sweet that sits on your palate as the beer pours back. And I found this guy lacking in that department, not completely delivering the punch to the mouth the nose surely packs.
However, at a reasonable 8.5% ABV, this tripel is drinkable and smooth and should be enjoyed with a close friend alongside a crackling fire, a delicate snowfall and some fresh baked gingerbread cookies. Or you can do what I did and split a bottle with your roommate while watching Bar Rescue and eating chips. Whatever works.
Oh, and if anyone has leads on some good Arizona or Arkansas craft brews, please toss them my way! If I don't find a bottle soon, I'm going to have to skip over these As and head straight for California... Please, don't make me go to California. Not this soon.
P.S. This photo is what comes up when you do a Google Image search for "Alaska Beer"...