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Belt’s Beer Garden: Anchors away!

Spotlighting beers from Anchorage Brewing and Rivertown Brewery

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This week, as winter starting to rear its head, I bring you a beer from the northernmost state in the Union (in collaboration with a Michigan brewery) and another from a Ohio.

I’ll start with the coldest place in the US, Alaska’s own Anchorage Brewing Company.

Anchorage Brewing Company is now available in most of the US (the entire Midwest, West Coast, Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, and sporadically in the Northeast). They love using Brettanomyces in their beer…in fact I think every bottle I’ve ever seen has had the Brett yeast strain in it.

Well, they teamed up with Michigan’s own Jolly Pumpkin, who’s been brewing up artisan beer since 2004 in Dexter, Michigan, to give us an interesting saison: Calabaza Boreal.

Calabaza Boreal is quite the unique saison: it’s made with Galaxy and Mosaic hops, saison and Brett yeasts, and barrels of Jolly Pumpkin’s Oro de Calabaza. Then, they take that and age it in huge oak foudres with peppercorns, grapefruit juice, and grapefruit peel.

Can you see why I was instantly intrigued by this beer?

Attached to the 750 ml (25.4 ounce) bottle is a 7% ABV, 40 IBUs, and a $12.99 price tag. It’s not cheap but the intrigue was just too much for me to miss out.

This saison is a muted, slightly hazy, golden yellow color with loads of head building up as it was poured. The dense white foam easily got to three fingers high before finally slowing it’s pace. The blizzard of bubbles has some strong staying power too – lingering for quite a while before it diminishing enough for me to begin drinking.

On the nose Calabaza Boreal has that typical yeasty saison characteristic but it also has a nice tangy lemon and grapefruit zest to it that made my mouth slightly pucker before I even lifted it up to my lips. Ever so faintly in the background the peppercorn can be picked up in the aroma as well. The time spent in the oak tanks didn’t seem to impart anything on the smell.

When I finally tried the beer for the first time, it started off with a bold carbonation fizz that had huge Brett flavors coming out. From there the grapefruit and lemons added a slight citrusy zing that lasted just mere moments before the peppercorn and yeast cut into those flavors and ended everything on a smooth, balanced note.

The Mosaic and Galaxy hops come out on the backend, imparting a hoppy bite at the end. It almost has a zesty, white wine finish to it…but with some hoppy bitterness added.

During its entire stay in your mouth the yeast attacks your tongue, giving this beer a seemingly never-ending carbonated sparkle. Once everything is cleared from the palate, there is a lingering dryness left behind that coats your tongue between sips.

As I was the only one drinking this bottle, by the second half the beer had started to warm up a little. But that only helped the flavors. As the beer warms up, the bitterness fades some and the grapefruit flavors come out a tad more…making it even tastier.

Overall this is a pretty tasty saison with a nice high ABV and some nice flavors; the peppercorns and grapefruit mesh well together, with neither overpowering the other. The Brett and saison yeast strains give this beer a massive amount of carbonation…which I found a bit much the further I drank. But that didn’t take too much away from this otherwise tasty beer. 8.5/10

8.5

Next, from the banks of Mill Creek, right by Cincinnati, is Ohio’s Rivertown Brewing and Barrel House.

Rivertown began back in 2009. They have six year round beers (including a tequila apple cider, which sounds delicious!) and a handful of seasonal and specialty brews – including a lot of barrel-aged sours

Currently, you can only get your hands on their beers if you live in Ohio, Kentucky, Florida, Indiana, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Georgia, or the Virgin Islands.

I found their Lil’ Sipa, an easy drinking session IPA made with Cascade, Citra, Columbus, and Galaxy hops and has an lighter ABV of just 4.5% and a moderate 55 IBU. You can get a six pack for $8.99.

This session IPA pours a hazy golden color with copious amounts of head building upward. The bubbles are quite airy and yet form an incredibly dense shield of effervescence three fingers high. The eggshell white foam dissolves down very slowly but not before leaving its mark on the side of my glass as it does so.

On the nose, Lil’ Sipa has a nice hoppy aroma full of mango, pineapple, and passion fruit. Behind the hops there is a buscuity malt undertone and some strong yeast-like notes. It has the aroma of a hybrid IPA-Saison.

Once the barrier of head had faded away enough for me to access the beer easily, I dove right in.

At first you get that big rush of carbonation before the flavors really start to kick in. And once they kick in, they don’t last terribly long. It’s a slow subtle build that then pops on your palate and disappears…like a boozy fireworks show.

In those brief moments it’s the hops that come forward; as grapefruit, mango, and pineapple flavors all danced across my tongue before the sweet, slightly bready malt cut in and ended the sip on the drier side. There was no real aftertaste left lingering, just that dryness that made me want to go back for more.

The 4.5% ABV was hidden throughout and, as time went on and my glass got emptier, that huge screen of bubbles slowly whittled its way to just a dusting across the top. Most of the bubbles, however, remained clinging to the sides of my cup; creating well defined sip lines.

As Lil’ Sipa became warmer, the hoppiness came out a little more towards the end of each sip with a little bitter pinch that reared its head after the explosion of flavors. But it still made for a tasty brew.

This session IPA lived up to its billing. I could drink these all day (and would if I had more the just the one I found in Kentucky). There are great citrus flavors, it’s so easy to drink, and the biggest problem I have with Lil’ Sipa is the huge amount of carbonation…but that doesn’t really take away from this beer at all. 8/10

8 beers