#42 Alaskan Amber: Alaskan Brewing Co., Juneau, Alaska
State: Secretary of State William H. Seward purchased the land now known as Alaska in 1867 in an agreement affectionately remembered as Seward’s Folly. What was once a rugged, uninhabited area rich in natural resources is now a government-subsidized, rugged, mostly uninhabited area rich in natural resources.
Brewery: Thrill-seeking chartered accountant Marcy and Geoff Larson, a chemical engineer, founded Alaskan Brewing Co. In 1986, Juneau first brewery since Prohibition. They got the idea when a friend asked them, “Why not start a brewery?” Why not, indeed.
Beer: Alaskan Amber is based on a Gold Rush-era recipe Marcy unearthed from an extinct brewery’s shipping records.
Difficulty of obtaining in Oregon: Easy. It’s everywhere, just don’t look for it in Washington.
True to its name, Alaskan Amber has a beautiful amber color. The off-putting aroma thankfully does not match the flavor within. Rich, malty and full-bodied with an aftertaste that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, it’s easy to see why this beer could capture the hearts, minds and wallets of the Alaskan people.
The state of Alaska doesn’t place any strict regulations on beer. Following in the vein of rugged individuality prized throughout the state—a welfare state where people live fat off our generous gift of federal tax dollars—a brewer can sell small amounts of beer directly to consumers and he or she has the right to sell unlimited quantities of beer to wholesalers and retailers. Beer, along with all other kinds of alcoholic beverages, can be purchased on any day of the week. You can even drive with an open container. The only thing the state won’t let you do is serve booze to a moose. Really.
Alaskan Brewing Co. made it big with an old beer recipe, what’s to say some of these other old beer recipes can’t also pay off?
1) George Washington’s Porter: Founding Father, President of the United States and beloved toothless, old drunk, George Washington was an avid homebrewer and a confirmed porterhead. Here’s his prized recipe as preserved in the New York Public Library:
“Take a large Siffer [Sifter] full of Bran Hops to your Taste. -- Boil these 3 hours then strain out 30 Gall[ons] into a cooler put in 3 Gall[ons] Molasses while the Beer is Scalding hot or rather draw the Melasses into the cooler & St[r]ain the Beer on it while boiling Hot. let this stand till it is little more than Blood warm then put in a quart of Yea[s]t if the Weather is very Cold cover it over with a Blank[et] & let it Work in the Cooler 24 hours then put it into the Cask -- leave the bung open till it is almost don[e] Working -- Bottle it that day Week it was Brewed."
2) Cheap Treacle Ale: While PBR, Hamm’s, and Olympia duke it out to determine who can make alcoholic piss water the cheapest, this 1825 recipe could be a game-changer. Named simply “Cheap Beer,” it would cost about 11 pence a pint—or 17 cents in real money.
3) Gruit Ale: There is a hoppy arms race going on in the beer community today. Aromatic, bitter and very flavorful, it’s easy to see why these flowers are so beloved. But hops aren’t for everyone. Luckily, we’ve found the beers for you: a 2,500 year old Celtic recipe using gruit—a mixture of yarrow, carrot seeds, mugwort, and henbane—for bittering instead of hops.
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