Wednesday, July 27, 2016

BREAKING NEWS: The Culmination Festival Tickets on sale TODAY

In case you haven't heard already, tickets to this year's The Culmination Festival (Saturday, 20 August, at Anchorage Brewing Co.) go on sale at 2 PM today. There will be 200 tickets sold on-line at and 100 tickets sold at the brewery, for a total of 300. Tickets are $130 each. In past years this event has sold out very fast, so if you plan to attend, you'd better grad your tickets right away.  See you there!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

It's Crazy Days in Soldotna...

Well, it's the second half of July, which means it's crazy days in Soldotna. The reds are running quite well this year, which means we're hip-deep in dip netters here on the Peninsula. Fred Meyer's is packed constantly, and the breweries are seeing so much business that they are having trouble keeping beer on tap. On the (sort-of) plus side, the McHugh Creek Wildfire might slow down the deluge of people, at least for a day or two...

That's the price of living in paradise, I guess, so let's talk beer news. First up, Girdwood Brewing posted a video to show everyone where its location will be. The brewery is still scheduled to open "by ski season." Here's the video:

More exciting news: Midnight Sun Brewing Company is launching a new beer club. Here's the flier announcing it:

Click to enlarge

The Beer Club Kick-off Event will be on August 8th at 11 AM in The Loft. The brewery has also announced that its 21st Anniversary beer, Grand Crew Brew, which I wrote about in my last blog, will be released in August, rather than this month.

Arkose Brewery will be continuing its Small Batch series tomorrow:

Arkose has also released an new beer:

Odd Man Rush Brewing  won two Denali Awards by being selected as both the 2016 Best Brewery in Alaska and as the 2016 Best New Start Up in Alaska by Alaska Business Monthly. The brewery also has new growler labels in:

Photo courtesy of Odd Man Rush Brewing

The dates for the 3rd Annual Yukon Beer Festival in Whitehorse have been announced: 14 & 15 October.

Out at Gakona Brewing, Ed Miner has made several post on his progress of installing his new 3-barrel brewing system. Various problems have been overcome, including gas, exhaust, and electrical installations. No timeline yet, but I'm sure Ed will have his new toys up and running soon!

Tickets are now on sale for this year's Annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival. All tickets are being sold online, via the website. $32 per person. The event runs from 5 to 10 PM on Saturday, August 13, at the Soldotna Sports Center. I am certainly biased, but I still think this is one of the best festivals in Alaska!

The Culmination Festival at Anchorage Brewing Company is looking for volunteers with TAP cards to serve beer. The Festival will run from 2 to 6 PM on Saturday, August 20th. If you have the proper credentials and want to volunteer, contact Heather at Specialty Imports via email at The names of participating breweries are beginning to appear on the website, but tickets are not yet on sale, as of today. However, ABC has announced that the band Mos Generator will be performing after the Festival at the brewery.

Seward Brewing Company released a new beer on Sunday, July 17th:

Here on the Peninsula, the breweries have been working hard just to keep up with the demand of all the summer visitors, as mentioned above. Elaine and I stopped by Kenai River Brewing yesterday for lunch (outstanding burgers and fries from the Blue Moon Burger food truck), and I grabbed a sampler of four of beers:

From left to right, Kolsch, Chocolate Porter, Honeymoon Hefe, Russian Imperial Stout. All beers I've had before, but not recently. Check out the cool sampler tray, made from birch roots by a local artist.

As you can see from this photo, Kenai River currently has seven beers on offer, the four listed above, plus Naptown Brown, Skilak Scottish, and Sunken Island IPA.

I also stopped in at St. Elias Brewing. The delicious Sprout IPA that I reviewed in my last blog is already gone. Coming soon to replace it will be Ole's Cool IPA, brewed with Centennial, Crystal, and Simcoe hops. Only 5.8% ABV, so it's almost a Session IPA.

At Grace Ridge Brewing in Homer, there should be a new beer on tap this week: Bear Cove Berliner Weisse, a kettle-soured wheat beer made with raspberry syrup. The brewery's parking lot has was also paved last weekend.

Photo by Elaine Howell
That's it for news, so let's do a few beer reviews:

Ommegang's Three Philosophers Quad: A classic Belgian Dark Strong Ale from the excellent brewery in Cooperstown, NY. It poured a translucent ruby color with a nice cream-colored head. The aroma was of figs and plums. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was nice. The flavor profile was rich and complex, as you'd expect for such a big beer - more dark fruit notes, plus hints of sherry and tobacco, before gradually falling away to a long finish. An excellent interpretation of this classic style, and much more reasonably priced than imports from Belgium. 9.7% ABV, 19 IBUs.

Schlenkerla's Smoked Doppelbock: A new beer (at least to me) from the German brewery that's world-famous for its rauchbiers. For this beer, the malt was smoked using oak, rather than some of the more traditional woods. It poured a dark honey color with a small, off-white head that dissipated to a collar. The nose was of caramel and smoke. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was medium. On the palate, it was all sweet, clean caramel and malt notes, plus lots of smoke. A very tasty entry to the smoked beer category, and one I used to chase a dram of Lagavulin single malt Scotch Whisky. 8% ABV.

Alaskan Brewing's Smash Galaxy Double IPA: This beer is brewed using a single kind of malt and a single hop (SMSH or Smash).  In this case, the beer showcases the Galaxy hop. It poured a clear gold with a big, white head that left good lace on the glass. The aroma was full of tropical fruit notes from the Galaxy hops. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel as light. The initial bitter attack was good but not overwhelming, followed by plenty of clean Galaxy hop flavor and aroma. Overall, a very nice beer and one that does a great job showing off the characteristics of this popular hop variety. 8.5% ABV.

That's it for this week. If you dodge the McHugh Creek Fire and make it down to the Peninsula, please enjoy yourself. Be sure to stop by our local breweries. And if you're one of my neighbors down here, just keep reminding yourself that dipnetting only lasts until the end of July. Just grit your teeth, pour yourself a beer, and hang on 'til then.

Until next time, cheers!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

High Summer

Well, it's July here on the Kenai Peninsula. Sorry it's been three weeks since my last blog, but summers in Alaska are too short to spend much of them sitting at a keyboard when I could be outside doing stuff. But it's raining today, and it seemed a good time to catch up on the latest beer news around the state, so let's go.

First off, 49th State Brewing opened its new Anchorage location (the former Snow Goose Pub/Sleeping Lady Brewery) on Monday, July 4. I haven't been up to Anchorage to see it yet, but the photos I've seen posted on Facebook make the newly-renovated establishment look gorgeous. I can't wait to check it out, so if you're in Anchorage and haven't done so yet, I'd jump right on that. The soft opening will continue through Thursday with hours set from noon until 10pm. Beginning Friday, July 8th, the hours will be 11am -11pm for the full menu and 11pm-1am for an abbreviated, late-night menu. I also received this info about the band that will be in Anchorage on July 15 and Healy on July 16:

"July 15th-16th, Anchorage, AK - National jam band act, The Werks, are coming to Alaska for the first time. Fusing psychedelic shredding, wailing organ, and funk slap bass with synthesizers and modern dance beats, The Werks have quickly emerged as a national powerhouse, bringing a big dance party beloved by fans across the musical spectrum.This is their first venture into Alaska and the only chances to see them are at the 49th State Brewing Co in Denali and Anchorage."
As long as we're talking about bands, here's the info on the one that will be playing at 49th State's Healy location this weekend:

"San Francisco’s favorite musical misfits, Tumbledown House, are returning to Alaska for a string of shows in July. These purveyors of modern speakeasy music, or gritty saloon jazz, are wrapping up a new album and will be joined by some of Anchorage’s most talented instrumentalists as they head out on a two week tour around the state debuting new material. Tumbledown House will appear at the 49th State Brewing Company on Friday, July 8th at 10:30pm at The Denali Park Salmon Bake on Saturday, July 9th at 11pm."

Things are busy at Denali Brewing Company, with the heavy summer crowds in Talkeetna. Here's the latest tap list at the beer garden in downtown Talkeetna:

Click to enlarge

Denali has also announced the date for this year's Talkeetna Brewfest. It will be held on Saturday, September 17, with the Beer Dinner at Twister Creek Restaurant the night before. I attended this festival for the first time last year, and had a fantastic time. Check out my blog on 9/21/2015 for a detailed report on the goings-on. Mark you calendars now for this great fest. Denali has also announced that it will be releasing its excellent Louisville Sour in August.

Also on September 17th, the Rotary Club of Juneau will be holding the 5th Annual Capital Brewfest at the Juneau Arts & Cultural Center (JACC) from 12:30 to 5 pm. So here's an alternative for folks in the Southeast that can't make it all the way to Talkeetna.

Over at Midnight Sun Brewing Company, they are getting ready for a big event: the release of MSBC's 21st Anniversary beer, Grand Crew Brew. The beer will be released in about two weeks at $21 per bottle and will be available only at the brewery. It's 14% ABV, 59 IBUs, and should cellar very well. Here's the label art for it:

Old Man Rush Brewing in Eagle River now has a crowler machine, so you can get its beers in sealed 32 oz. cans.

Arkose Brewery in Palmer will be holding another Beer Meets Chocolate event of July 15th from 6 to 7 pm. $25 and be sure to make reservations.

Here on the Peninsula, Kenai River Brewing held its Grand Opening on Saturday, June 18th, with the ribbon cutting at 11 am and live music from 6 to 9 PM. I made it to the first but not the second, though I am told it was a great time.

Ribbon cutting at Kenai River BC on June 18
Over at St. Elias Brewing, they are extremely busy trying to keep up with the summer crowds. Here the latest tap list:

Speaking of tap lists, here's what's on at the growler bar at Three Bears in Kenai:

Here's what's on at Grace Ridge Brewing in Homer:

Photo courtesy of Grace Ridge Brewing
There's even a 6-tap growler bar in Ninilchik now, at the recently opened Ninilchik Trading Liquor:

Photo courtesy of Echo Lake Meats

Well, that about covers the news, so lets do some beer reviews.

Black Raven Brewing's Trickster IPA: It poured a clear copper color with a nice, cream-colored head that left goo lace on the glass. The aroma had plenty of crisp American hop notes. Carbonation and mouthfeel were both good. There was plenty of bitterness in the initial attack, followed by lots of hop flavors and just a hint of toffee. A very enjoyable IPA. 6.9% ABV, 70 IBUs.

Rochefort's 10 Trappist Ale: It poured a translucent ruby with a nice mocha-colored head. The nose was full of dark fruit notes. The carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was medium. The flavor profile was rich and complex, with plenty of dark fruit notes (plums, figs, raisins) mixing with sherry-like elements. A superb beer, as you'd expect from a classic. 11.3% ABV.

Logsdon Farmhouse Ale's The Conversion Sour Farmhouse Ale: It poured a clear gold with a big white head that left good lace. The aroma had a mixture of tart notes and some brett funkiness. Carbonation was excellent and the mouthfeel was light and effervescent. This continued onto the palate, where the beer was light and bright. There was a fine mixture of tartness and barnyard elements, falling away gradually to a long finish. A truly excellent sour. 7.7% ABV.

St. Elias Brewing's Sprout IPA: Advertised as "Green Giant DIPA's little brother," this beer poured a perfectly clear gold with a nice white head that dissipated to a collar. The aroma was tropical and citrus notes, from the Galaxy and Citra hops used. Carbonation was good, and the mouthfeel was light. The was a moderate amount of up-front bitterness, followed by big hop flavors, both citrus and tropical fruit. An excellent IPA for drinking in warm weather; it demonstrates how this style became so popular on the Indian subcontinent.

Anchorage Brewing's Crazy Ray's IPA: It poured a clear gold with a nice white head. The nose had lots of citrus and tropical fruit hop notes. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. Up front bitterness seems moderate, followed by lots of citrus flavor and aroma. A nice, workmanlike take on an American IPA. 8% ABV, 70 IBUs.

Black Raven Brewing's Wisdom Seeker DIPA: It poured a clear copper color with a big off-white head. The aroma was mainly of hops, plus hints of toffee or caramel. The carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light for such a big beer. On the palate there was a nice balance between the forceful bitter attack and the malt backbone of the beer. Then the hop flavor came through, slowly falling away to a long finish. Surprisingly drinkable for a DIPA. 8.9% ABV, 85 IBUs.

Midnight Sun Brewing's 5000 Berliner Weisse: It poured a cloudy gold with a white head that dissipated to a collar. The nose was a clean tartness, very appealing. The mouthfeel was light and the carbonation was good. The flavor profile was tart and refreshing, with no discernible hops. The perfect summer beer. 5.5% ABV, 15 IBUs.

Well, that's it for this time. I'll try to keep from making you wait three weeks until my next post this time around. Meantime, get out and enjoy summer (and good summer beers) while it lasts!

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Getting Ready for the Summer Solstice

We're getting close to the summer solstice here in Alaska. For a scientific explanation of what that means, see my blog way back on 6/22/2010. From a beer perspective, it means that there will be plenty of solstice festivals being held around the state, most of which will feature beer in some capacity.

We just had the Kenai River Festival last weekend here on the Peninsula. Elaine and I spent the majority of the festival manning our booth (and trying to stay dry during the intermittent showers), but I did pay a quick visit to the beer garden on Saturday. They were pouring beers from Kassik's Brewery, St. Elias Brewing, and Kenai River Brewing; about a dozen beers all told. The garden seemed to be quite popular.

Speaking of festivals, there will be a big one in Healy this Friday and Saturday, June 17 & 18, called Euphoria. It is being combined with 49th State Brewing's Annual Summer Solstice Festival. Here's what the press release from the brewery has to say about it:

The 49th State Brewing Co - Denali's annual Solstice Brewfest has merged with Euphoria. On June 17th and 18th, the international destination festival will be bringing a multi-genre festival with an electronic flare. Euphoria - Denali, Celebrating Solstice Brewfest has already begun the week-long pre-party with informational beer events at the neighboring Prospectors Pizzeria and Alehouse. The official pre-party called Surge at the Denali Park Salmon Bake (6/16 - 11pm) will give a taste of the music to come. One thing is certain, when the gates open on Euphoria, the music, beer, and atmosphere will be epic.
Euphoria began in Texas and has blossomed into an international destination festival that is reaching the shores of Australia, South Africa, and the Philippines. Now, Euphoria has reached Denali Park, Alaska and will be celebrating in conjunction with Solstice Brewfest at the 49th State Brewing Co.
Headliners are Muzzy Bearr and Blunt Force. Muzzy Bearr brings his Detroit, Electronic Soul Funk. His big guitar sound dips in and out of the electronic mix he produces on stage. You often find him partnered with GRiZ at festivals but Muzzy also plays his special brand of guitar with George Clinton.
Blunt Force is out of Austin and plays future funk, glitch-hop, livetronica. Live guitar and drums mix into Blunt Force’s dj set. Other EDM performers are Clark After Dark (Denali favorite flying in from the mid-west), Willgood, and Rupert the Duke. Live band infusion is coming from the legendary Denali Cooks, Jasper Chili, and Frank Beaumont.
Rounding out the festival are fire dancers, aerial performing artists, special beer releases from the 49th State – Denali, and beer seminars on Grilling with Beer, Intro to Brewing, and Transitions in Brewing (no additional fee for seminars). Week-long pre-parties include the daily (M-Th, 4pm) Brew Chats at Prospectors Pizzeria and Alehouse where attendees receive an informal lecture from a professional brewer and loads of beer for only $7 and the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) pre-party, Surge, at the Denali Park Salmon Bake (Thurs, 11pm, no cover, 21+).

Here's the schedule for the Brew Chats:

So if you'll be in Healy this week or weekend, you should check out Euphoria.

This Saturday, June 18th will also be the 10 Anniversary for Kenai River Brewing Company and the official Grand Opening of its new brewery. Here is the invitation that was sent out:

Click to enlarge

Midnight Sun Brewing has a new brew called Feast, brewed by Chef Chris Hilliard and local artist Scott Clendaniel. It's a bock that been aged in whiskey barrels. Here's a photo of the label.

Photo courtesy of Midnight Sun Brewing
It will be a limited bottling, so get yours before its gone.

I have also heard that the date for this year's The Culmination Beer Festival has been set. It will take place on Saturday, August 20, at the Anchorage Brewing Company. Mark your calendars and start saving your pennies now!

Denali Brewing Company has released its Agave Gold in cans. You can find them at La Bodega in Anchorage, and other places around the state. La Bodega will also be holding a tasting titled "IPA in the USA"  at its Northern Lights location on Tuesday, July 5, at 5:15 pm.

At Grace Ridge Brewing in Homer, there are currently four beers on tap: Sadie Peak IPA, Oystercatcher Stout, Kayak Beach Blonde, and Otter Bay Alt.

Photo courtesy of Grace Ridge Brewing

Winterlong Brewing in Whitehorse has expanded its hours. It's now open noon to 6 PM, Wednesday thru Sunday.

That seems to be about it for news, so let's move on to reviews. All of my reviews this time are of beers I either drank in or brought back from Washington state, so they may not be available here in Alaska.

PFriem Family Brewing's Belgian Strong Blonde Ale: It poured a clear gold with a huge white head. The aroma had both fruity and spicy notes from the Belgian yeast used. Carbonation was excellent, and the mouthfeel was good. On the palate there were some fruity notes, plus nice hop bitterness, very similar to Duvel, the classic example of this style. Overall, a very nice beer. 7.5% ABV, 30 IBUs.

Uinta Brewing's Hop Nosh IPA: It poured a clear copper color with a big off-white head. The nose had plenty of fresh American hops in it. Carbonation was good as was the mouthfeel. The initial bitter attack was good but not excessive, followed by a decent amount of hop flavor on the back end. A very balanced and drinkable IPA. 7.3% ABV, 82 IBUs.

Epic Brewing's Elder Brett (Release #10): It poured a clear gold with a small white head that dissipated to a collar. The aroma was nondescript, but with some slight notes of brett funk. Mouthfeel was light and the carbonation was good. On the palate the beer was quite dry and had quite a bit of brett tartness, enhanced by oak elements from the aging in wine barrels. No perceptible alcohol, despite the 9.4% ABV. Overall, a very well-made brett beer.

Logsdon Farmhouse Ale's Seizon Bretta: It poured a slightly cloudy gold with a white head that dissipated to a collar. The nose has notes of brett tartness and funk. The mouthfeel was light and the carbonation was good. The flavor profile was that of a saison, with the addition of brett elements. Very tasty and refreshing. 8% ABV.

Black Raven Brewing's Second Sight Scotch Ale: It poured a translucent ruby with a nice, cream-colored head that left good lace on the glass. The nose was of caramel and malt. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was a bit on the dry side for the style. The flavor profile was malt forward, as you'd expect for a wee heavy, with no perceptible hop bitterness. Overall, a good wee heavy, though I would have preferred a bit higher finishing gravity, I think. 6.9% ABV, 34 IBUs.

Well, that's it for this time. Get out and enjoy this nice summer weather while it lasts, and celebrate the summer solstice. Remember, once it's come and gone, the days will start getting shorter...

Until Next Time, Cheers!