Christmas, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July.
Everyone has their favorite time of the year and mine happens to be “white whale” week here at Tenemu. That magical time of the year when we pull out the good bottles and cans that have been hiding in the back of the fridge all year. And for the second time in a row I am pulling out a bottle from one of my favorite breweries, Anchorage Brewing Co.
A Deal with the Devil is a monstrous 17.3 percent ABV American-style barleywine brewed in the great state of Alaska by Anchorage Brewing Co. The beer was first brewed in 2013 and won first place in the Alaskan Barleywine Festival. The following year it was bottled for the first time and was snatched up the moment it hit the shelves. The 2014 batch was not without its awards as it took first place in the prestigious Hardliver Barleywine Festival at Brouwer’s Cafe in Seattle, Wash. In 2015 a larger batch was released and that also disappeared from shelves the moment it was released.
I first learned about this beer when it took first place in the Hardliver Festival and it immediately went to the top of my must have list. When the 2015 batch was distributed a few cases ended up coming to my home county. I was on a mission to acquire a bottle or two and I struck out completely. Sadly I thought I was going to have to wait until next year but, once again being a beer reviewer comes in handy and I have a bottle in front of me tonight.
As I anxiously crack open the bottle I am hit by a massive wave of aroma. This is a beer that needs no burying of the nose to appreciate the aroma, you can smell it the second it comes out of the bottle. Once I finish the pour I raise the glass to take a whiff and am amazed at the bouquet. A wonderful mixture of dates, figs and toffee. I also get a huge brandy/Cognac character along with malty sweetness and candied nuts. Even though this beer is several months old I was still expecting some character from the hops,1 but there is no trace of hops in the nose. The beer scores near perfect marks for its bouquet due to its intensity and complexity.
The time has come and I finally get a taste of this elusive elixir. My first sip of this beer is even bigger than I anticipated. The beer is massively sweet with an incredibly complex cast of supporting players. Notes of burnt caramel, dates, figs and port wine and vanilla are all prevalent. I also get woody barel, alcohol, molasses and Cognac. It seems like every sip brings a new nuance that all add up to a very complex brew. After a few sips I start drawing the comparisons to Black Tuesday. Obviously a completely different type of beer but both have a massive level of sweetness that dances the line between enjoyable and cloying. The finish of the beer lingers forever as you would expect with a beer of this magnitude. The multitude of flavors partner with an alcohol bite that seems to grow as I work my way through the bottle.