Tuesday, June 30, 2015

My Five Minutes of Fame

Andy Warhol famously said: "In the future, everyone will have their fifteen minutes of fame." In my case, it was more like five minutes, when I was interviewed on KTVA Channel 11's Daybreak Show yesterday. The show regularly has local authors in to talk about their new releases, so I was there to talk about my new book, Alaska Beer.  In case you haven't seen it yet, here is the video clip:



All-in-all, I'm pretty happy how things went.

If you are looking to purchase a signed copy of my book, I will be at the Soldotna Wednesday Market tomorrow, and on July 8th and 15th. Or you can simply send me an email and we'll work something out with regards to me signing and mailing a copy to you.

Besides being in Anchorage on Sunday evening & Monday morning for this interview, I was at Midnight Sun last Wednesday, doing another book signing. Didn't end up signing very many, but I had a great time chatting with folks.

Drinking beer and signing books at MSBC's The Loft

The side benefit of going to Anchorage twice in one week is that I got to sample several new brews from Midnight Sun Brewing Company and Anchorage Brewing Company, which are reviewed below. I also popped into King Street Brewing for a few minutes to drop off a book and snapped a photo of its current offerings:

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I also got a photo of what's on tap at Anchorage Brewing Company when I stopped in to try its new session beer, The Juicy Pounder (reviewed below).

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I'm a bit late on this piece of news, but the Brewers Guild of Alaska (the trade organization to which most of the commercial brewers in our state belong) has just hired a new Executive Director, Ryan Makinster.  Here's the text of the press release:

Anchorage, AK - The Brewers Guild of Alaska (BGA) recently named Ryan Makinster as Executive Director. Makinster brings more than 16 years of non-profit administration, public relations, communications, and government relations experience to BGA. His primary responsibilities include member relations, industry education and advocacy, and managing the day-to-day operations of the organization. He will also be responsible for communications, development and government relations.

Prior to joining BGA, Makinster served as Chief of Staff to Representative Mia Costello. He has also worked as Communications and Events Director for the Alaska Chamber and Communications Director for the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation. Before that, he spent 5 years as a legislative aide in the Alaska House of Representatives and Senate.

“This is a great opportunity to represent a growing industry in the state that has exploded in recent years. Not only is this exponential growth good for our members, it also adds to the unique character and quality of life in Alaska. I believe this is an important component in AEDC’s Live.Work.Play. initiative that can be expanded statewide,” says Makinster.

BGA Board President, Rick Armstrong, is excited about solidifying the organization and moving the Alaska craft brewing industry forward "It is important, that as the craft brewing industry expands in the state, we have a strong, unified voice especially in light of the Title IV rewrite proposed in Senate Bill 99.”

 Makinster holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from the Edward R. Murrow School of Communications at Washington State University.

Here's wishing Ryan the best of luck, and hoping he can do great things for all the craft brewers in Alaska.



Speaking of announcements, Baranof Island Brewing Company in Sitka is looking for a new head brewer. Here's the job posting:
 
"Job opening: Baranof Island Brewing Company (BIBCO) is currently hiring a FT head brewer/ production manager. Duties will include all aspects of operating a production brewery from grain to glass as well as managing production employees. BIBCO is located in Sitka, Alaska and has been in operation since 2009. Last year we produced 2000 bbls and we are continually growing so candidate should expect to be involved in additional expansion projects. We have a taproom and package products in cans, kegs and bottles for distribution. The ideal candidate must have a brewing degree or equivalent experience, be a good leader, pay attention to detail, self-starter and well versed in brewery operations. Pay DOE. Send resume to jobs@baranofislandbrewing.com."
So if you're qualified and willing to move to Sitka, here's your chance.


49th State Brewing is planning a new beer fest in Healy on Saturday, July 18th. No word yet on which breweries will be there, but the fest will take from 6pm-10pm, with the band 40oz to Freedom (Sublime cover band from CA) beginning to play around 9 pm. Unfortunately, this is the same day as the Golden Days Beer Fest in Fox (see last week's blog), but due to last minute changes in the band's schedule, the fest had to be moved to this date.

Speaking of 49th State Brewing, I bumped into its head brewer, Jay Bullen, at the Anchorage Brewing Company on Sunday afternoon. Jay was showing off some of his new crowler cans, which I neglected to get a photo of, but which looked great. Given how perfect cans are for both tourists and Alaskans looking to take beer hiking or fishing, I predict more and more places will seriously consider moving into crowlers.



I got some info from Darcy Kniefel, Midnight Sun's Beer Ambassador, about an event at Sub Zero this Thursday, July 2:

Thursday, we kick off the celebration of Independence, with a freedom of FUNK! Sub Zero Microlounge will be graciously hosting us for the Funky Town Tap Take Over.The beer goes on at right as they open and pours until it is gone. This is the last known keg of Jungle Boogie, and that alone makes it worth a quick stop by. The beers in the line up include: 

Sex Machine Sour Brown
Matanuska Thunder Funk Barrel Aged Brett Saison
Suicide Run Flemish Sour Red aged in Malbec Barrels
Funky White Boy Berliner Weisse
Jungle Boogie Sour Ale
Also I can finally say that we have an incredible brew about to crawl out of the barrels. SLOTH Belgian Style Imperial Stout is at long last finishing it's barrel time, I will have an exact release date for this guy next week, but in the mean time I thought I should put it out there so you can properly budget your stout servings. Originally brewed in the 7 Deadly Sins series, Sloth is a much loved edition back to our beer boards.

I'd personally echo the excitement regarding the return of Sloth. The original release of this beer predates the start of my writing this blog, so I have no review to refer you to, but take it from me, it was an outstanding beer and I'm tremendously excited about its return!



The 4th Annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival is barely a month away. It will be on August 8th this year, from 5 to 10 PM at the Soldotna Sports Center. Tickets are already on sale at the website. This fest seems to just get better and better every year, so you should really plan to be there!

Last week, Denali Brewing Company installed new 240 bbl fermentors and a brite tank. Here are a couple of photos of the operation, courtesy of DBC.

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Resolution Brewing Company now offers Bike Friday. Ride you bike there on a Friday and get $2 off a growler fill. Last Friday, Resolution re-released its excellent Father Dyer Porter.



Arkose Brewery in Palmer has announced two new events. The next Beer Meets Canvas will be held on Saturday, July 11, while the next Beer Meets Chocolate will take place on Friday, August 14th.



All About Beer magazine has a nice article by Tom Acitelli about Alaskan Brewing Company's fast approaching 30th Anniversary next year. I particularly like that in it Tom quoted from my latest book!  You can read the entire article here.

Geoff & Marcy Larson in the 1980's. Photo courtesy of Alaskan BC.
Alaskan Brewing and Kinley's Restaurant will also be having a Beer Dinner on Wednesday, July 22, at 6 PM. I don't have details on the price yet, but here is the menu:


Greet Beer: Alaskan Summer (Kolsch Style Ale)

Alaskan Raspberry Wheat

Raspberry salad


Alaskan Rough Draught White IPA

Seafood mulligatawny


Alaskan Imperial Red

Thai noodle with salmon and crab


1995 Alaskan Smoked Porter

Bacon wrapped Lamb


2013 Alaskan Barley Wine

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake



Take careful note of the beer which will be accompanying that second to last course: 1995 Alaskan Porter. Cellared for twenty years, this will be a truly remarkable pairing. I was fortunate enough to participate in one of Kinley's Owner/Chef Brett Knipmeyer's beer dinners a couple of years ago, and it was easily in the top three such dinners I've been to in my entire life. So if you're interested in an amazing evening of beer and food, call Kinley's Restaurant and make your reservations now.



Bleeding Heart Brewery in Palmer just announced the date, time and location for its party for all the folks who backed the brewery on Kickstarter. The Backer Party will be on Sunday, July 12th, from 6 to 10 pm, at the Paradise Alaska Event Venue, 16105 E Outer Springer Loop Rd, in Palmer. So if you are a backer, check you email for your invitation.


Here is what's currently on-tap at St. Elias Brewing Company.

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That's all the news for this week, so let's do some reviews.


Midnight Sun Brewing's Nanook White Ale. This beer was aged in chardonnay casks. It poured the color of honey with a nice, off-white head. There was a bit of citrus in the nose, very summer-like. Carbonation was good, and the mouthfeel was light. Flavors were very clean, with the clean citrus elements working well with the woody, slightly tart chardonnay contribution. A very enjoyable beer for a warm, summer day. 6.2% ABV.


Midnight Sun Brewing's C-Bock Eisbock. Not the first style of beer you think of as a summertime drink, but this was an excellent eisbock. It poured opaque, with a small light tan head. The aroma was of sweet malt and caramel flavors. Carbonation was good, and the mouthfeel was excellent. As you'd expect, this beer was a malt bomb, with a flavor profile that emphasized good, clean flavors. Highly drinkable for a 9.5% ABV brew, with none of the hot, solventy flavors you sometimes get with this style.

Anchorage Brewing Company's Expiration IPA: Back on 5/5/2015, I mentioned that Gabe Fletcher would be brewing this beer, with the idea that it should be consumed while extremely fresh so as to get the maximum hop flavor and aroma. "Drink it Now or Never" is the catchphrase that accompanies it, and when it is bottled it will have a large date sticker on it. I picked up a growler of it on 6/24/2015, and dutifully consumed it the very next day. It poured a slightly cloudy gold, with a large pillowy white head. The aroma was what you'd expect: tons of citrusy and piney hop notes. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was pretty light. There was excellent up front bitterness, followed by plenty of clean, crisp hop flavor. This is exactly what you want in a fresh, bright American IPA. 6.0% ABV.

Anchorage Brewing Company's The Juicy Pounder: This  beer represents Fletcher's entry into the
growing category of session IPAs, which are beers designed to provide plenty of hop aroma and flavor, without palate wrecking bitterness of head-spinning alcohol. This beer is hopped with 100% Mosaic hops, which give it lots of juicy, tropical fruit notes. It poured a clear gold, with a lovely white head. Carbonation was excellent and the mouthfeel was light. The hop flavor and aroma were outstanding, but the bitterness was restrained. At only 4.5% ABV, this is the sort of beer you could drink several pints of in a single sitting. In that respect, it reminded me of a good British bitter, though it has a much bigger hop profile than even the hoppiest of bitter I ever had in London. This is the beer for hop-lovers who want to have more than one.

St. Elias Brewing Company's Wild Fire Farmhouse Ale:  I mentioned this beer back on 6/14/2015. It was brewed using several varieties of rice, fermented using only brettanomyces, and then dry hopped with Sorachi Ace hops. It poured a cloudy straw color with an average white head. The aroma had hints of lemon mixed with a touch of brett funk. The carbonation was good, with a nice light mouthfeel. The flavor profile was only slightly funky from the brett, with more hints of lemon from the hops. Overall, I thought it a wonderfully light and refreshing beer, perfect for a hot summer day, and superior to any shandy or radler I've ever had.


Gigantic Brewing's Ginormus Imperial IPA: The 88th beer to be produced by the eccentric little brewery, Ginormus poured a deep, clear copper color with a big, cream-colored head. The aroma had lots of American hop notes. Carbonation was very good and the mouthfeel was nice. An excellent straight-ahead Imperial IPA, with tons of good, clean hop flavors and bitterness. 8.8% ABV

That's it for this week. More news and reviews next week.

Until Next Time, Cheers!



Sunday, June 21, 2015

Smoky Summer Solstice

It's the longest day of the year, and in Alaska that's always a cause for celebration. Down here on the Peninsula, we have all been keeping one eye on the Card Street Wildfire, which started last Monday and has burned more than 8000 acres and several homes. Fortunately, it looks like the prevailing westerly winds have pushed the active part of the fire well into the Kenai Wildlife Refuge, so there's no longer any big threat to anyone's home. Meantime, the rest of us have just been dealing with the smoky haze coming off the fire. Makes for a good excuse to have a nice. cold craft beer, if one is ever needed...

However, while all the fire excitement has been happening, I've been trying to generate a little heat of my own, about the release of my newest book, Alaska Beer: Liquid Gold in the Land of the Midnight Sun. It's now available locally at River City Books in Soldotna, at Midnight Sun Brewing Company in Anchorage, or via Amazon at the link above. You can also get a Kindle version as well, if you prefer it in electronic format. Or come by the Soldotna Wednesday Market on 1 July and I'll be happy to sell you a copy!

The glamorous life of a freelance author

I had a nice Book Launch Party at Kenai River Brewing Company on Friday. Thanks to Doug Hogue for hosting it and to my many friends who showed up.


I will also be signing copies at The Loft at Midnight Sun Brewing Company from 4:30 to 6:30 pm this Wednesday, June 24th, so if you are in Anchorage, this is a chance for you to stop by and get an autographed copy.

Moving on from my personal news to beer news in general, I received an email notice about a new Kickstarter campaign. This one is for The Beer Connoisseur Club, which is being started by The Beer Connoisseur magazine. Some of the benefits of membership include:

  • One-year subscription to The Beer Connoisseur® magazine
  • One-year ALL ACCESS to the newly revamped BeerConnoisseur.com AND interactive Beer School
  • Full access to The Beer Connoisseur® Network, a world-wide program that provides discounts and incentives provided by a global network of partners (think: breweries, brewpubs, cideries, meaderies, restaurants, gastropubs, specialty foods and grocery stores, retails stores, homebrew supply stores, beer tastings and events)
  • Membership to the online club forum that serves to be a collective voice for beer by being a place to discuss the latest beers and trends
  • A dedicated staff to assist with beer-related travel and event arrangements (VIP service!  Hard to come by event tickets!) 

All this for $35 a year. If you are interested, check out this Kickstarter page for more info.



Alaskan Brewing Company has revamped its website and webstore. If you haven't visited recently, click on over to www.alaskanbeer.com to check out the new look.

As mentioned in my Breaking News blog last week, Anchorage Brewing Company released its latest batches of Bitter Monk DIPA and Love Buzz Saison on Friday. These are both amazing brews; I reviewed them both back in my 10/12/2011 blog.

Photo courtesy of Anchorage Brewing Company


Resolution Brewing Company has expanded its hours. It will now be open Wednesday to Sundays, from 3 to 8 pm on Wednesday and Thursday, and from noon to 8 pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Plus the patio is open, and it's an awesome place to enjoy a beer in all this summer sunshine!




Snow Goose Pub/Sleeping Lady Brewing has a new beer on cask as of today: Fish On! IPA dry hopped with Citra and jalapeno peppers.

Photo courtesy of Snow Goose/Sleeping Lady

At HooDoo Brewing Company in Fairbanks, the Bavarian Weissebier is back, just in time for summer.

Photo courtesy of HooDoo Brewing Company

Here on the Peninsula, the Seward Brewing Company has released a new beer: Police and Thieves Pilsner, a Czech-style pilsner, with sweet orange peel added.

Photo courtesy of Seward Brewing Company

I was at Kenai River Brewing Company on Friday for my Book Launch Party and had a couple of glasses of the new Apollo Imperial Rye Pale Ale (see review below). KRBC is also pouring in the Beer Garden at the (A)Live After Five, taking place each Wednesday evening this summer in Soldotna Creek Park. Along with Kenai River, the Bear Creek Winery is also pouring.




That's about it for news this week, so let's do some beer reviews, as promised last week.

Firestone-Walker Brewing's 2015-vintage Sucaba Barley Wine: Another one of those big, bourbon-barrel-aged barley wines that are so prevalent these days. It poured a translucent ruby with a small, cream-colored head that dissipated to a collar. The aroma was of sweet malt and oak notes. Carbonation and mouthfeel were both good. Overall flavor profile was a bit too bourbon-like for my tastes; the beer elements seemed overwhelmed and lost amongst all the whiskey flavors. 13.3% ABV, 42 IBUs.


 North Coast Brewing's 2012-vintage Grand Cru: I pulled this brew
after three years in the cellar. It was brewed with an addition of agave nectar and aged on bourbon barrels. When I removed the cork, there was only the lightest of pops, so carbonation was clearly going to be low. It poured a cloudy honey color, with a small, off-white head that dissipated rapidly to a collar. The nose was of oak and agave, very reminiscent of tequila. Mouthfeel was good. The flavor profile was not at all beer-like, but was much more tequila-like, though without the alcohol burn I associate with that spirit. There was a bit of heat present on the finish from the 12.9% ABV. Once again, not really my cup of tea. I prefer my beers to taste like beer, rather than bourbon or tequila.

Baranof Island Brewing's Sitka Spruce Tip Ale: You can't get much more iconic that spruce tip ale in Alaska. This one poured a clear ruby with a nice cream-colored head. The aroma was of sweet malt and the piney spruce tips. Carbonation was good , as was its mouthfeel. The flavor profile had a good malt backbone, balanced by the piney, resiny spruce notes. Hops were unobtrusive. A real "taste of Alaska" beer. 6.5% ABV.



The Bruery's 2014-vintage Rueuze Sour Blonde Ale: Anyone who says you can only brew a proper gueuze in Belgium should try this beer. It poured a cloudy gold with a lovely white head. The nose had all the tart funkiness you expect from the style. The carbonation was excellent, which combined with the light mouthfeel to give the beer an effervescent quality. It was light and tart on the palate, the perfect quencher on a hot summer night! An outstanding beer from an exceptional brewery. 5.6% ABV

Kenai River Brewing Company's Apollo Imperial Rye Pale Ale: The latest in the series of Imperial Rye Pale Ales from Kenai River. This one is hopped with the Apollo variety. It poured a dark, clear honey color with a cream-colored head. There was plenty of hop nose, but none unusual aromas associated with some of the newer varieties. No tropical fruit, mangos, or citrus. The carbonation was good, and so was the mouthfeel. The beer was well-balanced, with plenty of malt backbone to support the excellent hop bitterness. I found it surprisingly drinkable for a 9.2% ABV, 103 IBU beer, even to the point of having a second glass. If you like big, burly, well-hoped beers, this one is for you!

Well, that's it for this week. Look out for wildfires and keep enjoying this great summer.

Until Next Time, Cheers!




Thursday, June 18, 2015

Breaking News: Beer Release Event at Anchorage Brewing Company!

Just got word from Gabe Fletcher about an event taking place tomorrow, Friday, June 19th, at Anchorage Brewing Company. Gabe will be releasing the next batches of both Bitter Monk DIPA and Love Buzz Saison! To celebrate, there will be live jazz music at the brewery from 5 to 9 PM.  If you will be in Anchorage tomorrow evening, this sounds like a great time!

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Back From Seattle

If you have been wondering why there have been no blog posts since Memorial Day, it's because I have been down in the Seattle area for the birth of my second grandchild. Madelyn Mae Thompson arrived on June 4 and is doing fine, as is her mother. But now I'm back in Alaska and it's time to try to get caught up on all the beer news I missed while I was gone. I'm sure I'll forget to mention something, but here goes...

Diamond Knot Brewery & Alehouse


First off, while the purpose of visiting Seattle had nothing to do with beer, I did get to stop by a brewery while I was there. Diamond Knot Brewery and Alehouse is located right next to the Mukilteo Lighthouse Park. We stopped in for a beer and a snack. I had a glass of its Barrel-aged Possession Porter:


Barrel-aged Porter

My son-in-law had the Industrial IPA. Both tasted like well-made beers. Here's the full beer menu:

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The food was very good as well. So if you ever find yourself looking for a beer and/or food north of Seattle, I strongly recommend Diamond Knot.

I also picked up a six-pack of a canned beer from the Hop Valley Brewing Company, its Alphadelic IPA. At 6.7% ABV and 90 IBUs, it was definitely on the high end of the IPA range. Taste was good, though perhaps slightly vegetal from the massive hop addition. I actually bought this in a Safeway; Washington is one of those civilized states where alcohol isn't kept segregated from everything else you eat or drink.


Moving on to Alaska news, as I mentioned in my last blog, my newest book, Alaska Beer: Liquid Gold in the Land of the Midnight Sun, has finally made it onto bookstore shelves around the state. I saw it at River City Books in Soldotna yesterday, so if your local bookstore doesn't have it, ask them to order it in for you! It has also just been released in Kindle, so if any of you were waiting to purchase an electronic copy, now's the time. I currently have three book signing events scheduled, two this week in Soldotna and one next week in Anchorage:

  • June 17th Soldotna Wednesday Market          11 am to 5 pm
  • June 19th Kenai River Brewing Company      4 to 6:30 pm
  • June 24th Midnight Sun Brewing Company   4:30 to 6 pm
You can bring your copy to be signed or purchase one at any of these events. I hope to schedule more soon. It makes a great Father Day gift, by the way...


Moving on to Alaska beer news, here's what's going on in no particular order:

Shawn Stanley, Denali Brewing's Beer Ambassador reports this year's Talkeetna Beer Fest has been schedule for September 19th. Tickets will be available thru the Denali Arts Council. Denali Brewing will also be pouring at the Highland Games in Palmer on Saturday, June 27th. He sent the following picture of DBC's tap list:


He also sent the following info on the beers:

Fusion Belgian White IPA 6.5% 70IBU: What do you call a cross between a Belgian Witbier and a Pacific Northwest IPA?  Delicious.  This unique and fragrant fusion brew borrows the best of both of styles, creating a synergistic combination sure to please.  The aromas and flavors of warrior, Cascade and Simcoe hops are brought to new heights by the addition of lemongrass, rose hips and orange and grapefruit peel.  Fermented with a traditional Belgian Witbier yeast.
 
Autumn Stupor Belgian Quad with Brett 10.3% 28IBU:This big Belgian style beer began by mashing French Munich and aromatic malts along with chocolate malt and flaked wheat.  Hopping was subtle, with Chinook and Saaz at the center.  But what really sets this quad apart is its nod to the yeast strain known as Brettanomyces.  Following a primary fermentation with Belgian ale yeast, keg conditioning with Brett took place.  This technique naturally carbonated the beer as well as imparted the "wild" flavors and aromas associated with this exciting addition to the brewer's palette.
 
Tropical IPA 7% 55IBU: Utilizing first wort hop additions and burst hoping techniques, this brew showcases the lime, pineapple, melon, and grapefruit characteristics of New Zealand Wakatu, German Huel Melon, and American Chinook hops.
 
Denali Blonde 5.5% 24IBU: An lighter spin on our Mother Ale.
 
On deck:
Tinderfoot von Scotch Scottish Ale
Purple Haze Blueberry Wheat
Flagstop #4 Imperial Red aged on oak
Abaddon Belgian Golden Strong
There's a new card game being produced via a Kickstarter campaign; it's called Thinking and Drinking. Among the 312 craft breweries being featured are four in Alaska: Alaskan Brewing, HooDoo Brewing, Gold Rush Brewing, and Kassik's Brewery. It sounds like and interesting game and it's good to see Alaska represented. It met its goal on June 11, so it should definitely come to pass.

The 2015 Golden Days of Summer Festival at Silver Gulch Brewing is only a little over a month away. This year it will be held on July 18th, from 3 to 10 pm in Silver Gulch's Beer Garden. I was able to attend this one in 2013 and had a great time, so if you'll be in or around Fairbanks next month, definitely put it on your calendar.

Speaking of festivals, the next one up is 49th State Brewing's Solstice Brewfest. Here's the flyer for it:

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For what it's worth, I have also received notice that Monday, June 22nd is National Radler Day. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of this mixture of lemonade and beer, but if you are, be sure to get out and celebrate on the first day of summer.


Speaking of summer, here in Soldotna the city has kicked off a new event, called Summertime in Soldotna. Each Wednesday, there is a market held in Soldotna Creek Park, from 11 to 6, then from 6 to 9, a beer/wine garden opens and there is free live music. Kenai River Brewing is supplying the beer and I believe Bear Creek Winery is providing the wine. You can learn more on its Facebook page.

Back on National Donut Day, June 5, Craft Beer.Com published an article pairing different beers with different styles of donuts. One of the styles was Alaskan Fry Bread, and they selected several barley wines from our state to pair with it. You can read the entire article here. Besides being National Donut Day, Friday was also Baranof Island Brewing Company's fifth anniversary, so congratulations to them!



On the new brewery construction front, it seems everyone is making excellent progress. In the last couple of weeks, Haines Brewing, Bearpaw River Brewing, Cynosure Brewing, and Odd Man Rush Brewing have all posted pictures to Facebook documenting what they have accomplished. The only question is which one of them will get their new brewery open first.

Yesterday, June 13th, was the 21st anniversary of the opening of Humpy's Great Alaskan Alehouse. A hearty congratulation to Bill Opinsky and the rest of the Humpy's team on finally making it to legal drinking age.  Well done!


 Here on the Peninsula, the local breweries have been busy at the Beer Garden of the Kenai River Fest, which concludes today. Also, if you haven't been to Kenai River Brewing Company recently, you might be surprised (as I was) to learn that the entire street in front of the brewery has been dug up and is expected to remain so throughout the summer. to get to the brewery, you have to go into the back of it's parking lot, via E. Corral Ave.

Over at St. Elias Brewing Company, Zach Henry has a couple of his perennial summer favorites back on tap: his Hefeweizen and Island Girl Raspberry Kolsch.  Here's the beer board as of Friday, June 12th:


He has a new beer coming, as yet unnamed. It's brewed using wild, jasmine, and red rice, is hopped and dry-hopped with Sorachi Ace, and is fermented 100% with brettanomyces. I had a small sample on Friday, and I think it will be an excellent summer drink: light, lemony, and with a slight tartness from the brett. I'll take it over a radler any day...

No beer reviews this time around, but I will definitely have some for the next blog. Get out and enjoy this great summer weather we are having.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend

This weekend is the unofficial start of summer, and judging by the traffic I saw yesterday here on the Kenai, I'd say a lot of folks in Anchorage got an early start on it. That's good news for all our local breweries and brewpubs, as more visitors mean more demand for their beers. Of course it also means they have to serve fruit-laced brews like Island Girl and Kumquat Kolsch Ale, so it's not all beer and skittles as our British friends would say. Still, it's good to see tourist flocking in to enjoy our fine local beers.

And let's face it, our local brewers can use all the business they can get, to help pay the heavy taxes the state of Alaska imposes on them. In case you don't know, Alaska has the second highest state beer taxes in the nation. We were #1 for the longest time, until a couple of years ago when Tennessee jacked theirs up significantly and finally passed us.  Here's a graphic from the Tax Foundation which shows just how big a bite of state government (you know, those buffoons who can't even pass a budget) take from our hard-working local brewers.

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As successful as craft beer has been in Alaska, I can't help wondering how many more excellent breweries we'd have if we taxed them like Wyoming, at $0.02 per gallon, instead on $1.07. Just to be clear, by far the single most expensive component in the retail price you pay for a beer is the combined federal and state taxes on it, to the tune of over 40%. So the next time you want to gripe about the price of beer, be sure to remember whose fault it is!

Let's move on to happier thoughts. Last night was the Brewers Dinner in Haines and today is the Beer Festival. I was able to attend both in 2012 and 2014, and hope to make it there again next year (what's with the even numbered years? Beats me.). After our local festivals, it's easily my favorite one. Here's the menu from last night courtesy of Dave Short:

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Photo courtesy of Denali Brewing Company


Based on my prior experience, I'm sure it was delicious. The festival today is sold out, so if you are planning to attend, I hope you already have your tickets.



Speaking of festivals, it's not too soon to mark your calendar for this year's Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival. It will be held from 5 to 10 pm on Saturday, August 8th, at the Soldotna Sports Center. This festival just keeps getting better and better each year, and all profits go to support local charities. I have been to every one so far, and have no plans to miss this one. Tickets are on sale on the website.



And if you are dwelling in Southeast and think Soldotna is too far to go for an August festival, how about the 4th Annual Capital Brewfest? It will be happening on September 26th.

More news: Last Saturday, Bobby Wilken of HooDoo Brewing announced that the brewery is releasing its beers in cans. HooDoo is going with 16 oz. "tall boy" cans and is using the "360End" design, meaning the entire top of the can comes off when it is opened. The cans feature a photo of downtown Fairbanks in 1916, and are designed to the labels can be easily modified for different beers. The first beer on offer is HooDoo's excellent Kolsch. The cans are being sold in four-packs at the brewery taproom. When I asked Bobby about possibly distributing cans elsewhere in the state, he replied: "Only on site for now.  We'll be playing it by ear as far as distribution.  In the short term, I suspect the demand in the taproom will take anything we can package.  A little further out and hopefully we can build enough inventory to share with more of the state!" Congratulation to Bobby and the rest of the HooDoo gang on reaching this milestone.

Photo courtesy of HooDoo Brewing

From Midnight Sun Brewing Company, Darcy Kniefel reports that the tickets for the Big Stout Camp-out will go on sale next Saturday (5/30) at 2 PM at the brewery.  The camp-out will take place on the nights of Friday 8/28 and Saturday 8/29 in Cooper Landing. There are a total of 50 tickets available with packages for RVs and campsites. The ticket price includes 2 nights of camping, and dinner, stouts and cigars on Saturday night. Read more about it in my 4/4/2015 blog. She also reports that the brewery will be releasing a new beer, Powerline Pilsner, soon.



Speaking of pilsners, St. Elias Brewing Company has a new one on tap, AK Pilsner. This brew is the counter-part to the AK ESB brewed by Kenai River Brewing Company and reviewed by me on  5/5/2015. Both beers were brewed using only Alaska Grown hops, the first commercial beers ever to be produced that way. See below for my review, but I know that Zach only brewed a half batch of this beer, so if you want to taste this historic brew before its gone, don't delay. St. Elias Brewing is also finishing up an expansion of its outdoor patio seating, just in time for summer.

Beers on tap at St. Elias on 5/22/2015

As mentioned above, Kenai River Brewing Company also has a new brew on tap, Kumquat Kolsch Ale. If you have it at the brewery, you can get it infused with even more fresh kumquat flavor.

Photo courtesy of Kenai River Brewing Company

Snow Goose/Sleeping Lady has two new beers on: its Honey Cream Ale is back, along with a firkin of Scotch Ale aged on vanilla beans and American oak chips.

Photo courtesy of Snow Goose/Sleeping Lady

Alaskan Brewing Company picked up two more awards, this time at the 2015 Australian International Beer Awards. Hopothermia earned a silver medal, and its Smoked Porter took home a bronze.


Bearpaw River Brewing only has three days left in its Kickstarter campaign. As part of the campaign, the brother Wade posted a video describing the beers they plan to brew. You can check it out here.


Finally on the news front, I wanted to give you an update on the availability of my new book, Alaska Beer: Liquid Gold in the Land of the Midnight Sun. For reasons which aren't worth going into here, the book won't be arriving at the Alaska distributor, Todd Communications, until next Thursday, May 28th. Hopefully, it should reach the retail outlets around the state the following week. So if you have been holding off buying a copy from Amazon because you want to support local Alaskan businesses, you should not have to wait too much longer. Jim Roberts, AKA Dr. Fermento, wrote a very nice review of it in The Anchorage Press, which you can read here.



I have already planned some signing events in June. You can either purchase a book at these events or bring a copy you have already bought, and I'll be happy to sign it. For the latest info, check out my Amazon author page, but here is a list of what I've scheduled to date:

  • June 17th Soldotna Wednesday Market          11 am to 5 pm
  • June 19th Kenai River Brewing Company      4 to 6:30 pm
  • June 24th Midnight Sun Brewing Company   4:30 to 6 pm
As I schedule more events, I'll update my author page, so if you can't make one of these, keep checking it for others.

Now let's move on to some beer reviews.

I had to go down in the crawlspace in my home the other day, which is always the signal for me to review my "Beer Cellar" Book, to see if there are any beers aging down there which are ready to drink. I brought up several, and I will review them in this and future blogs as I get around to drinking them.

Alaskan Brewing's 2006 Smoked Porter: Over 8.5 years old, this beer is still in very good shape. Most 6.5% ABV porters would have crashed and burned years ago, but the smoke seems to keep these wonderful brews fresh. It poured opaque with a small tan head that dissipated to a collar. There was still a little smoke in the nose, along with some faint roasted malt notes. The carbonation was on the low side, but the mouthfeel was still good. The smokiness on the palate was muted but still present. Flavor profile was good, with no hints of oxidation. A real tribute to the brewer's skill to have a beer this old, which such low alcohol, taste so good.

Alaskan Brewing's 2007 Smoked Porter. A year younger, this beer tasted much smokier than the
2006. It also poured opaque with a small tan head that dissipated to a collar. Much more smoke apparent in the aroma, along with the roasted malt. Carbonation was also better than the 2006, with mouthfeel about the same. More smoke on the palate and a flavor profile closer to the fresh beer. Hard to believe that it's just the difference of one year, so I surmise that for whatever reason, the 2007 was made slightly differently than the 2006, which caused it to retain its smoky notes better.


Midnight Sun Brewing's 2012 Berserker Imperial Stout: Over 2.5 years on this beer. It poured opaque with a small but persistent brown head. The aroma was of sweet and roasted malt, with hints of the bourbon barrel-aging. Mouthfeel was excellent, and carbonation was still good. The flavor profile was rich and complex, as you'd expect, with notes of chocolate, coffee, and molasses. The elements from the bourbon barrel seemed to have reduced over time, which actually brought the beer into even better balance than when fresh, in my opinion. The 12.7% alcohol was slightly noticeable on the finish. This is a beer that definitely seemed to improve with at least two years of cellar time.

St. Elias Brewing's AK Pilsner: As mentioned above, this beer was brewed solely with AK Grown hops. It poured a crystal clear gold with a small white head. The nose was balanced between biscuity malt and hops. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. There were good clean malt flavors, balanced by a decent hop bitterness. I'd call it more in the style of a German than a Czech pilsner, but its an excellent summer beer and a historic brewing achievement for our state. 5% ABV.

Well, that's it for this week. Enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend and the start of summer.

Until Next Time, Cheers!