In 2018, Alaskan Brewing will be changing up their rotating seasonal offerings, launching a new focus on three products that will not be strictly tied to seasons. The new packages and beers will concentrate on beer style and the Alaskan brew crew’s dedication to local ingredients and brews that are long-standing fan favorites. The new rotating beers will feature labels with iconic symbols of Alaska, with the Snowy Owl representing Spruce IPA debuting this January.
“We have been brewing with Sitka spruce tips for years, and we started getting interested in how well they can complement the hop flavors” said Plant Manager Curtis Holmes. “In the past we’ve used spruce tips in sweeter beers, which brings out a citrus or berry quality, but when used in hoppy beers like IPAs, we found the evergreen and woody character played a more prominent role in producing the complexity of flavors and aromas in our IPA.”
The Snowy Owl on the label is a symbol of Alaska’s cold winter and early spring months and has been attributed with mythical properties, seemingly appearing from out of thin air on frosty cold days because of its ability to fly silently. Slightly bitter and bracing, a lot like January in Alaska, Spruce IPA is imminently drinkable, with aromas of pine and tart berries. The taste maintains a berry like, fruity, slightly floral and tart quality, but the bitterness brings out the similarities to the hops.
“Over the past few years, as we’ve brewed more beer varieties with Sitka spruce tips, we analyzed how Sitka spruce tips compare to different hop varieties and found that there are many similarities between spruce tips and hops,” remarked David Wilson, quality assurance manager. “Both ingredients contain B-Pinene, which imparts a citrus, pine character. We try to brew with local ingredients whenever possible, and it’s been pretty cool to discover that this indigenous Alaskan tree has some comparable properties to hops.”
Wilson noted that Spruce has been used as an ingredient in brewing for hundreds of years. In some instances, entire boughs are soaked during the brewing process. By using only newly budded springtime spruce tips from the Sitka Spruce tree, which have a delicate citrus, sweet character, Alaskan Brewing spruce beers have an unmistakable aroma and flavor.
“We think it’s a great fit to expand our IPA selection with Spruce IPA this spring — with a nod to our Alaskan roots,” Wilson said.
A change coming later this year will be in name only — Alaskan Summer, a Kölsch-Style Ale that has been a fan favorite for more than 15 years, will be renamed to Alaskan Kölsch. The beer’s recipe, iconic Orca and vibrant orange label, all stay the same. In the fall of 2018, fans can look for a brand new seasonal offering — Alaskan Cranberry Tart Ale — which was inspired by Alaskan high bush cranberries and features Sitka spruce tips in a refreshing wheat-based beer.
Spruce IPA will be available where Alaskan beer is sold through April 2017.