Monday, July 16, 2012

Whiteout Wit – Anchorage Brewing

                WhiteoutWit is an interesting twist on a traditional Belgian Wit beer in that it has the addition of Brettanomyces during secondary fermentation.  This beer showed up in Wisconsin earlier this year and I had been contemplating picking up a bottle since the first time I saw it.  I was definitely intrigued, but the price tag kept deterring me at $25 for a corked 750ml.  That was until I stopped by a different liquor store and found the same bottle for $15 at the end of this review I will let you know if it was worth it, and possibly whether or not it would have been worth it at $25.  Before getting into a review of Whiteout though, let’s backtrack and discuss Anchorage Brewing, a relatively new brewery and one with a pretty cool story.  Thank you to Gabe Fletcher for providing tons of great information that helped me do additional research for this write-up.

                At 21, Gabe Fletcher started brewing for Midnight Sun Brewing in Anchorage, Alaska.  A year and a half later he had paid his dues and was promoted to head brewer, a position he held for 13 years before leaving to open his own brewery, Anchorage Brewing.  While at Midnight Sun, Gabe quickly developed a reputation for producing outstanding, adventurous beer and became internationally recognized.  So, why leave a great job at a successful brewery to branch out on his own, he was following his passion of course.  His years of experience allowed him to develop a good understanding of the business side of brewing as well as the requisite experience brewing on a commercial scale.

                Where many brewers would go out and buy a brand new stainless brew house, Gabe went a decidedly more creative route, all oak.  Yes, that includes two oak mash/brew tuns, 60 barrel French oak Foudres for primary fermentation and over 250 barrels for secondary fermentation and extended aging.  None of his beers touch stainless until it’s time to blend and bottle.  Now that’s some crazy old-school stuff, and definitely provides an added house-characteristic to his brews.  Prior to opening, his plans were to produce 360 barrels a year.  All his beers are triple fermented, first in the 60 barrel Foudres, secondary fermentation in oak barrels and then every beer is bottle conditioned in corked and caged 750ml Belgian bottles.  Oh, and did I mention that he is his sole employee?  Yup, that’s right, he brews, transfers the beer, blends, bottles, markets and runs all brewery operations without hiring additional help.

                Gabe founded Anchorage Brewing in September of 2010 and released his first beer, Whiteout Wit in June of 2011 shortly before Anchorage Brewing’s grand opening launch party on June 19th on the upstairs pub deck of the Snow Goose Restaurant, in the Snow Goose Complex.  Funny story, the building also houses a well-known established brewery the Sleeping Lady Brewing Company.  Opening a new brewery in the same building as an established one is an interesting choice, but Gabe Fletcher did his homework and realized that he could have success opening another brewery in the same building as an existing one if developed a line of non-competing brews, in other words focusing on interesting, funky, one of a kind brett beers.  According to the Anchorage Brewing website the goal is to take “extreme steps to produce some of the most unique beers ever made.” Hopefully Gabe can continue to be successful at his new brewery.

                On to the reviews, and thanks again to Gabe Fletcher for providing additional information regarding the malt bill on his inaugural beer, Whiteout Wit.

                On Beeradvocate, Whiteout Wit has an 88.  Over at ratebeer it has a 98 overall and a 100 for style.  I can’t believe I am actually saying this, but I agree with ratebeer.

They say:

                Unique to the north and feared by man and beast, the WHITEOUT comes without warning.

                With quiet ferocity, how quickly this force erases the sensations and reduces any creature to its most basic elements. When enveloped in one, sight, sound and even tactile sensation are ripped away, as snowflakes in motion swallow all sense of being, leaving one to cower, hunker down and wait it out, hoping that it passes quickly or that the end is merciful. Of variable and unknown duration minutes seem like eternity in a whiteout.

                But when it eases, and those final snowflakes drift in the blue sky, any survivor is changed. Suddenly, life is fuller and more robust. The thirst for this new life can be slaked in many ways. Whiteout Wit compliments the experience in both intensity and a rewarding calm. The quiet delicacy of the light malts are like those vanishing flakes. Sorachi Ace hops contribute the lemony aroma and flavor, imparting additional life to the brew, reminding you of how good it is to be alive. Lemon peel, Indian coriander and black peppercorns add the same invigorating zest whiteout survivors feel when stepping from the world of white. Triple fermentation, the long slumber in French Chardonnay barrels and a shot of brettanomyces provide an explosion of flavor when combined with the other swirling, enticing elements. It's okay. Stand up, shake it off and feel alive; that's what Whiteout Wit is all about.

                20 IBUs

                6.5% ABV

The Bottle adds:
                 Ale  brewed with lemon peel, black peppercorns and corriander.  Triple fermented - First in the tank with a Belgian yeast, second in french oak chardonnay barrels with brettanomyces, and finally in the bottle with a third yeast for natural carbonation.

Gabe Fletcher adds information on the malt bill:

                The whiteout uses German pils, malted wheat, Flaked Barley, Flaked Wheat and a touch of acidulated malt.

                The hops are all Sorachi Ace.

I say:

                Whiteout is gorgeous in the glass, it pours pale straw with a very impressive rocky white head.  The head held great retention and produced exquisite lacing in the glass.  It was like a work of art.  The aroma was even more intriguing.  It started out slightly wheaty with a very slight amount of brett funk, followed up by chardonnay grapes, a bit of oak and just the slightest hint of lemon.  I wasn’t sure how much brett to expect in the aroma, but it definitely did not disappoint.  It smelled wonderful!

                Everything in the aroma was present and even more enjoyable in the flavor, although the order of the sensations was a bit jumbled.  The funkiness of the brett became immediately apparent as I sipped, although as with the aroma the flavor was complex and multifaceted.  The brett remained, but faded slightly, revealing a bit of wheaty goodness, a hint of lemon, slight bits of pepper (likely from the peppercorn addition), chardonnay grapes (like in the aroma, but oh so much more powerful and enjoyable), followed by a hint of oak and a nice smooth finish, that made me anticipate my next sip. 

                Not satisfied with leaving well enough alone, I thought back to almost every other Belgian-style Wit that I have had.  I figured what the heck, stirred up the sediment in the bottle, and poured it and the remainder of the beer into my empty glass.  The addition of the sediment added a whole new level of citrus and chardonnay grape to the beer, but the end of it I was almost convinced I was drinking a high end chardonnay rather than a high end Belgian Wit.  This beer truly was an epic experience!

                Whiteout Wit is medium bodied with a moderate level of carbonation, and a thoroughly enjoyable beer!

                So, I promised that I would come back to whether or not this beer was worth it for the $15 that I paid for it, or maybe even the $25 that I saw it listed for first?  Well, that’s a hard question.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and would happily buy another bottle for $15, it was a an excellently brewed beer and a was completely satisfying.  My wife on the other hand was not a fan, although she did like it after I swirled up the dregs.  So, if you are someone who enjoyed a fine handcraft beer then by all means head out and pick up a bottle.  If you are a craft beer noob, this beer may be too advanced with you and you should probably work your way up to it.  I would definitely pay $15, and I might even pay $25 for a special occasion.  All I hope is that Gabe Fletcher continues to work his magic for many years to come.

Thank you Gabe Fletcher for producing this excellent beer!!!

                That’s all for today, check back later this week for my next post, I would love to say that it will go up Wednesday, but I am not too sure, I will try to get two posts up by Friday though.

Happy Drinking!!

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