Recently in Midnight Sun Category

Midnight Sun Termination Dust

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These days, anytime I get a chance to snag a bottle of barrel aged Midnight Sun beer, I jump at the opportunity. This Belgian Style Barleywine aged in High West bourbon barrels was no exception. Looking into it a little more, it seems like this has a pretty interesting heritage. A little over ten years ago, Midnight Sun celebrated their 1000th batch of beer with, you guessed it, a Belgian Style Barleywine aged in bourbon barrels called simply "M" (I knew Roman numerals were good for something). These days, this concept isn't particularly noteworthy. Everyone does this sort of thing. Hell, even I've homebrewed a bourbon oaked barleywine (that I'm positive is drastically inferior to anything produced by Midnight Sun, I'm the worst). But back in 2005? It was apparently a revelation. Bottles of M are among the most prized beers in existence, going for thousands of dollars at auction. Why? Partly it's the rarity, but it is also supposed to be uniquely well suited to aging. Ratings are still sky high, even a decade after bottling.

Of course, I have not had M, nor does it seem likely that I ever will. However, as you might imagine, the requests to Midnight Sun to rebrew it are numerous. A couple years ago, current brewer Lee Ellis answered some questions about M and let a few interesting nuggets slip. To bring this digression into relevance, here's a few quotes:

Hmmm, I'll just say that if we did re-release it, we wouldn't call it M. It is impossible to re-create it exactly. While Gabe Fletcher was an amazing Brewer, he sure sucked at documentation.

...As for more M, I'll say that Termination Dust is probably the closest re-creation we have done to date. Fairly similar malt bill, and very similar yeast blend. But again, it's kind one of those "that time, that place" beer. I love making big, dark, barrel aged belgians, stouts, and barley wines. Our Alaskan clientele demands it. As we say, session beers start at 8% up here.

Well that's nice to hear! Naturally, this beer doesn't seem to be making the waves that M did, but perhaps in a few years, these bottles will emerge as a wale, bro. Or M was just that ephemeral, one of a kind brew that will never be replicated.

Hope springs eternal though, so let's take a closer look. Termination Dust is basically the first light snow that signals the end of summer, something that generally carries more weight in a land of extremes like Alaska than it does for us doofuses down here. Brewed with a blend of Belgian yeasts and aged in High West barrels, this clearly isn't an exact duplicate of M. For one, it's a little stronger, and for another, High West didn't exist back in 2005 (and presumably, higher quality barrels were much more widely available back then). Still, this is Midnight Sun we're talking about here, so let's dig in:

Midnight Sun Termination Dust

Midnight Sun Termination Dust - Pours a very dark brown color with half a finger of tan head that is relatively short lived. Smells of caramelized brown sugar, bourbon, oak, some fruity esters, faint hints of spice. Taste hits those brown sugar notes hard, toffee, caramel, maybe even some Belgian yeast spice, and that boozy bourbon, vanilla, and oak. Very sweet, and even moreso once it warms up, though the spicy phenols also come out more. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, moderate and smooth carbonation that fits well, a little boozy heat. Overall, certainly another winner from Midnight Sun, though I don't think it's better than Arctic Devil. Yet. I think this could age fabulously, so let's check back in a few years, shall we? Still, this ain't no slouch, so we'll go A-

Beer Nerd Details: 13% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 4/15/16. Bottled: 9/16/15.

I shall have to track down another bottle of this stuff to age. In the meantime, I'm sure we'll be seeing more from these Alaskan ballers soon enough.

Midnight Sun TREAT

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Welcome to autumn, fuckheads! I'm not going to say that I'm a huge pumpkin beer fan, but I don't really get the disdain for them either. Of course there's no accounting for taste, and some people genuinely don't like it, which is fine. My answer to that is the same as my answer to pumpkin beers showing up on shelves in August: if you don't like it, don't buy it. It's pretty simple, really, and I find it hard to get worked up about pumpkin beers either way. Every year, I attempt to go out and try something new. What has aided this in recent years has been a diversification of base styles. It used to be that the grand majority of pumpkin beers were a simple amber base with lots of spices and pumpkin added in. Nothing wrong with that, and there are some great examples out there. But nowadays, we've got stouts, weizenbocks, barrel-aged wonders, heck, Tired Hands even made a sorta pumpkin spiced Seasonal IPA (It was decent!)

What we have here is our Alaskan friends' entry into the fray, a chocolate pumpkin porter brewed with pumpkin, cocoa nibs, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Seems like a pretty hearty take on the pumpkin beer, so let's dive in:

Midnight Sun TREAT

Midnight Sun TREAT - Pours a deep, dark brown color with half a finger of off white head. Smell sweet with lots of those pumpkin spices, cinnamon standing out more than anything else, but if you really look for it, you can get some chocolate too. Taste starts off sweet, but drops off a bit as the spices take over, notes of chocolate in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, thinner than expected actually, well attenuated but not quite dry. Overall, a solid pumpkin porter, if a bit one-note and I have to admit, I thought I'd enjoy this a little more than I did. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7.8% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter glass on 9/26/15.

As always, I have to wonder if the oak aged version would tweak my fancy a little more. We may yet find the answer to that conundrum, though no current plans. Up next in this decorative gourd season jamboree will be a pumpkin sour beer? You betcha.

Midnight Sun Berserker

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Alaska is a cold place, so I guess it makes sense that brewers situated in that bleak environment would resort to big, heavy malts and lots of booze. And thank God that they do, because I love those beers. Midnight Sun exemplifies this approach, with a line of impressive imperial stouts, one of the best barleywines I've ever had, and now this barrel aged monstrosity.

In Old Norse literature, Berserkers were warriors who dressed in bear pelts and fought with an uncontrollable, trance-like rage. It's speculated that they entered this state of wild fury through the use of drugs, though probably not a depressant like alcohol. These days, it's mostly a cheesy reference or way to describe comic book characters like Wolverine. And also this beer, a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout brewed with maple syrup and molasses. I sure do enjoy me, well, all of those things, so let's get to it. My love for you is like a truck, Berserker!

Midnight Sun Berserker

Midnight Sun Berserker - Pours a deep black color with a beautiful cap of dark brown head (maybe even a sorta amber tint to the head, very pretty, but short-lived). Smells of dark, roasty malts, vanilla, sweet brown sugar, dark chocolate, and a touch of bourbon. Taste starts with a nice, rich caramel that quickly yields to brown sugar, syrupy molasses, almost fruity, vinous flavors, a little oak and vanilla, boozy bourbon, then dark chocolate and more traditional roasted malts emerge towards and into the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, well carbonated, a little boozy heat. The closest thing I can compare this to is The Abyss, but with a little more barrel character. Overall, this is a rock solid Bourbon barrel aged stout, right up my alley. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12.7% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 5/15/15. Vintage 2015. 30 IBUs.

There is a beer called Son of Berserker that is made from the second runnings of Berserker's no doubt large malt bill, and honestly, at this point, I'm down for just about anything from this brewery, the bigger and burleyer, the better.

Midnight Sun Arctic Devil

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Founded in 1995, Anchorage, Alaska's Midnight Sun Brewing Company was the brainchild of Mark Staples, a former computer nut who claims he became "obsessed with beer". Sounds familiar. While perhaps not a pioneering giant like Anchor or Sierra Nevada, 1995 was pretty early on for American craft beer (for instance, that was a year before the infamous class of 1996, which includes Victory, Stone, and Dogfish Head), and they were making this barrel aged barleywine pretty early on. At least as of the year 2000, if this Michael Jackson article is to be believed. He was part of a blind taste test and had this ranked third:

Arctic Devil is an extraordinarily creamy barley wine, aged for six months in a red wine barrel and its unusual flavours were deemed excessively rich and lacking in hop balance by some of the judges. Not a typical barley wine, but I gave it points for individuality.
How things have changed. As barrel aged barleywines go, this is actually a pretty good example. It's not typical, but only in that it's better than most.

He mentions that it was aged in Red Wine barrels, which could have something to do with the perceived atypicality (is that a word? It is now.) These days, the label sez that the beer is aged in Bourbon Oak Barrels, though the brewery also claims they've blended the spawn of diverse barrels, ranging from wine and port to bourbon barrels (seems heavy on the bourbon to me, which perhaps yields something more typical than a red wine barrel). On the other hand, clocking in at 20 IBUs, this definitely is on the extreme low end of the bitterness spectrum for barleywines (even if it didn't feel that way to me). Whatever the case, this is a pretty spectacular barleywine, well worth seeking out:

Arctic Devil

Midnight Sun Arctic Devil Barley Wine - Pours a murky brown color with a cap of tan head. Smells fantastic, candied fruits, toffee, caramel, vanilla, oak, and bourbon. Taste has rich caramel, toffee, a hint of dark fruits, oak and vanilla, bourbon, finishing with a touch of bitterness that is offset by some boozy bourbon (surprising, given the low IBUs - this seems very well balanced). Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, a hint of boozy heat, well carbonated, a little sticky in the finish. Feels along the lines of §ucaba or Bourbon County Barleywine, which is good company to be in. Overall, this is a delicious, superbly balanced, top tier barleywine. A

Beer Nerd Details: 13.4% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 4/17/15. Vintage: 2015 (I think?)

Midnight Sun continues to impress. I will be seeking out more from them, post haste! I should also be looking into some other top tier barleywines that I've not managed to tick just yet. Patience, friends, all in good time.

Midnight Sun Moscow

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Midnight Sun has some notoriety in beer nerd circles due to a few of their beers showing up on the pretty ridiculous White Whale list. So they had a pretty good run at one point, and while I'm pretty sure I'll never get to try Midnight Sun M (and at this point, 5 years later, that's probably a good thing), I was interested enough to check out some of their other offerings. Moscow was first brewed as part of their 2011 World Tour series, and it must have struck a nerve, since they're still brewing it. A hefty imperial stout brewed with rye. Funny story, the TTB (the government agency which approves labels on alcoholic beverages) gave them gruff about the name and required them to put "Product of the USA" on the label. Thank goodness for government regulation. So let's open this sucker up and see what's inside:

Midnight Sun Moscow

Midnight Sun Moscow - Pours black as a politician's heart with cap of slowly forming but quickly disappearing brown head (would be really pretty if it stuck around a while longer, perhaps I just needed to pour a little stronger). Smells lightly of roasted malt with a certain rich sweetness, maybe a little caramel, perhaps some of that herbal, spicy rye. Taste features much more in the way of roasted malt, more bitter dark chocolate than coffee, with that rye spice and dryness kicking in towards the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated and as a result, not as rich or decadent as the nose may imply (not entirely a bad thing, to be sure), and indeed, the finish is almost dry (at least, for a beer like this). Overall, what we have here is a rock solid imperial stout, roasty with enough additional complexity to make it worth the stretch. I feel like I'm saying this a lot lately, but on the upper end of a B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 11/1/14.

A very welcome start, and I hope to seek out some of Midnight Sun's more prized regular releases, like Arctic Devil and Bezerker (No idea how easy or hard it will be to land those, but I'm an optimist). I'm glad the weather is turning cooler, as the seasonal stouts are starting to come out and play.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Midnight Sun category.

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