Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Happy National Beer Day!

Yesterday was National Beer Day, though as far as I'm concerned, pretty much every day should be
Beer Day!  I was hoping to get this blog on then, but things go away from me, as they often do.

For those of you who don't know, National Beer Day commemorates April 7, 1933, which was the day that beer became legal again after over a decade of Prohibition.  That's certainly something to celebrate in my book!

Lest we become complacent, it's worth remembering that the same anti-freedom forces which foisted Prohibition on this country almost a century ago are still with us.  If you want to hear them, just listen to anyone who's opposing the legalization of marijuana, though they'd outlaw alcohol again as well, if they thought they could get away with it...

There have been plenty of goings on at the various breweries around the state since my last blog.  This past weekend the Talkeetna Beer Trippin' and the Beer & Swine Festival took place, both of which were huge successes, judging by what I've seen posted about them.

At Silver Gulch Brewing and Bottling Company, they have a new batch of Snowhook IPA on tap; this one has been increased to 75 IBUs!  also, tonight, Tuesday, April 8th is they are having a Scotch Tasting. They will be pulling a couple gallons of their 2013 Barley Wine that has been aging on High West whiskey barrels for the last three months.  Sounds delicious!

HooDoo Brewing Company released another new brew on Thursday, April 3rd: their UK IPA.  Here's how they describe it:

Photo courtesy of HooDoo Brewing Co.
"Brewed in the style of an English IPA from the 1800’s, our UK IPA is distinctly English. A simple malt bill of 100% English Maris Otter malted barley lends the beer a humble base that perfectly carries the distinct flavor and aroma of Golding hops. Goldings have been cultivated since the mid-1700s and are revered for their sweet, fruity contributions to English Ales"
It weighs in at 6.5% ABV and 67 IBUs.  Sure wish I could taste it!

I'm a little late on this one, but Arkose Brewery has replaced their Olde Colony Winter Ale with their New Colony Hefeweizen, in anticipation of spring.  I say in anticipation, since it snowed again last night...

King Street Brewing in Anchorage released a new brew last Wednesday, an Oatmeal Brown Ale.  Here's their description:

"Inspired by the brown ales found in traditional English pubs, this rich, yet restrained beer is not to be missed. A heavy dose of English crystal malts lends predominant caramel, toasted nut, and toffee flavors, while the flaked oats and a late addition of black strap molasses kicks the beer into a rich creamy-smooth decadence. East Kent Goldings hops give balance by reigning in the malt and provide the faintest floral aroma. At 5% ABV, this is a great ale for your next session with friends!"
At Midnight Sun Brewing Company, Meltdown Double IPA is back on tap for 2014.  Pleasure Town IPA will be released in cans any day now. They have also released Unite Strong Ale, an 8% ABV beer brewed with hibiscus and aged on sweet cherries and more hibiscus to celebrate International Women's Brew Collaboration Day. Finally, this week they will be releasing the first in their new Alaskana series of beers. This series will be 8 beers that represent our great state.  First up will be Hibernator, a smoked doppelbock.  Look for the bottles to be released at The Loft late this week.

When I was at Kassik's Brewery a few days ago, Frank told me that they have plans to brew an English Mild soon. Mmmmm...

Yesterday, Kenai River Brewing put their Hoppin' Salmon Wheat Ale on tap again. This super hoppy American Wheat beer features Amarillo hops and is a sure sign that spring is on its way...

At St. Elias Brewing Company, their Dos Lobos Vienna Lager is back on tap, and Zach reports he'll be putting a new beer, Yeti White IPA, on tap soon.

Photo courtesy of Baranof Island
Finally, Baranof Island Brewing Company in Sitka was awarded the 2014 Business of the Year Award by the Sitka Chamber of Commerce.  They also purchased Kenai River Brewing Company's used two head manual canner until they can take delivery of their new automated model.  Congratulations!

Now let's do some beer reviews:

I received a care package from Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon, with samples of three of their beers inside.  so far, I've only tried two of them.

Pine Mountain Pilsner:  This beer poured a crystal clear light gold color with a big white head that left good lacing on the glass.  The aroma had some nice crisp hop notes, in the noble European vein, rather than the citrusy American elements we get so used to.  Carbonation and mouthfeel were good.  On the palate there was a nice balance between good clean malt flavors and a crisp hop bitterness.  More in the style of s German than a Czech pilsner, this beer also received two thumbs up from my wife Elaine.  Having spent several years living in Germany, she is even more a connoisseur of German pilsners than I am.  Marvelously drinkable, this is an excellent beer. 5.2% ABV, 40 IBUs.

Armory XPA: Billed as an experimental pale ale, this beer has all the American hop elements that the preceding one did not.  It pours a clear copper color with a big off-white head that left good lacing.  The nose was all citrusy American hops.  Carbonation was excellent.  There was plenty of nice, clean bitterness up front, followed by more citrusy hop flavor, that gradually palls away to a nice finish.  A textbook American Pale Ale, experimental or otherwise. 5.9% ABV, 58 IBUs.

McEwan's Scotch Ale: As a sucker for a good Scotch Ale, I couldn't pass on this one when I saw it a La Bodega in Anchorage. It poured A deep, semi-translucent ruby color a big cream-colored head.  The aroma was of malt and caramel, with hints of toffee.  Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was nice.  The flavor profile was rich and complex, with the emphasis on the malt elements, and no discernible smoke.  It fell away to a long, warming finish from the 8% ABV.  A classic Scotch Ale; next trip I'm getting a six pack...

Anchorage Brewing Company/Crooked Stave collaboration Between the Staves Sour Ale: Managed to find a bottle of this at The Grog Shop in Homer. It poured very dark, almost opaque, but there were some ruby highlights. There was a small, cream-colored head that dissipated fairly quickly to a collar.  The nose was tart, with elements from Brett and oak noticeable.  Carbonation was medium.  The initial attack was quite sour, followed by notes of oak and cherry.  It reminded me quite a bit of Rodenbach Grand Cru, the classic wood-fermented sour ale.  You really have to like sours to enjoy this one, but if you do, you'll love it.7% ABV, 20 IBUs.

Finally, Victory Brewing's Storm King Imperial Stout: Another beer from this excellent East Coast brewery that I picked up at La Bodega. It poured opaque with a small tan head. The aroma had lots of roasted coffee notes plus some malt sweetness.  Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was fairly heavy.  On the palate there was plenty of nice roasty bitterness up front, then balancing a bit as the malt sweetness kicked in, before gradually dropping away to a long, lingering finish.  A very nice imperial stout, and with only 9.1% ABV, this one is scores higher on the repeatability scale than many.

Well, that's it for this week.  Hopefully I'll be able to post a it more regularly for the next month or so. Meantime, let's all keep hoping that spring really does get here, at least by the time the law says we have to take off our studded tires...

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Friday, March 21, 2014

New Beer Releases for Spring

Spring definitely went on hold last weekend, with a big snow dump in Anchorage.  Wee didn't get nearly so much down here on the Peninsula and the last few days have been beautiful and sunny, if still a bit cold.  This will be a bit of a short blog, as I've been running behind this week, but there are some new beer releases out there that I want to write about before they are "old news".

But before I start talking about new beers, here's a tip of the hat to Gabe Fletcher of Anchorage Brewing Company.  His A Deal with the Devil Barley Wine just took 1st Place at the Brouwer's Hard Live Barley Wine Festival in Seattle, beating out 56 other entries.  2nd place went to Lost Abbey's Angel Share Grand Cru and 3rd place to Firestone-Walker's Sucaba.  Congratulations, Gabe!

Moving on to the new releases, HooDoo Brewing in Fairbanks released a Scottish Export Ale on Wednesday.  Here's how they describe it:
Photo courtesy of HooDoo Brewing

This is our take on the strongest of the Scottish Ales - the Scottish Export Ale. Rich and malty, but clean and dry. These beers often have a slight peat smoke character, so in addition to the nine varieties of Scottish, English and Belgian malts, we included a small portion of peat smoked malt to the grist for a hint of earthy smoke. OG: 13.6 // IBU: 26 // ABV: 5.6

I love Scottish and Scotch Ales and this one sounds excellent.  Too bad I'd have to drive 600 miles to try it!  There is also a very nice one-page spread on HooDoo in the latest issue of Alaska Magazine.

Barb Miller at Midnight Sun Brewing Company sent me some info about their upcoming releases.  Here's what you can expect from them in the next couple of months:

Friday, April 4th at 11 AM: Release of Unite (Strong) Pale Ale, brewed with hibiscus and aged with dark sweet cherries. This beer was brewed on March 8th, International Women's Day, as part of Pink Boots Society's inaugural International Women's Collaboration Brew Day.  8% ABV, 50 IBUs, late Cascade hops, plus the hibiscus and cherries.  Draft only.

A new beer series: ALASKANA- MSBC has 8 beers slated for this series at this time but this is an "open-ended" series so they can add beers as they go… The first 3 to be released in APR are Hibernator Double Smoked Bock, Matanuska Thunk Funk Saison aged in red wine barrels with Brettanomyces, and Bore Tide Wheat Wine aged in High West rye bourbon barrels.

Friday, May 2: For First Firkin Friday, MSBC will be tapping a firkin of a big beer (like Lust or Sloth).  Stand by for further details.

Saturday, May 3: Midnight Sun's 19th Anniversary Party.  They will be a tapping a  firkin of their 19th Anniversary beer,  a saison brewed with yarrow, dry-hopped with New Zealand Rakau hops.

Monday, May 5th: MSBC's actual 19th anniversary, along with Cinco de Mayo.  To celebrate, they will be  tapping a firkin of Pleasure Town IPA, cask-conditioned with jalapeños, serranos, coriander and lime zest.

Finally, Monday May 12th thru Sunday May 18th is American Craft Beer Week.  Look for food specials and and different brews on tap in The Loft all week long.  Midnight Sun will participate in the national toast to American Craft Beer at 4 PM on Monday May 12, so why not stop by and join in?

In my last blog, I wrote about some of the upcoming releases from Broken Tooth Brewing.  Well, they've been good enough to create a nice graphic showing off their new bottle releases, so here it is:

Click to enlarge

Alaskan Brewing has announced a change in both the label and the recipe of their IPA.  First released in 2007, Alaskan's IPA will now be called Icy Bay IPA and the label will feature a photograph of a surfer on that body of water, rather than a drawing.  Here it is:

Click to enlarge
The recipe will now showcase more hop intensity in aroma and flavor, and more hop complexity with Bravo and Calypso in addition to the Cascade, Summit and Apollo hop flavors that have always been in Alaskan IPA.There’s also a higher IBU without losing the balance of a great malt backbone. 6.2% ABV, 65 IBUs.

Finally, Glacier BrewHouse has just released two new beers for spring:

Kristal Weizen -- South German-style filtered wheat beer. Clear straw in color with aromas of banana and clove. Made with premium German Pilsner Malt and German Weiss yeast. 6.07% ABV.

Saison -- French-style Saison with fruity and spicy flavors supported by a soft malt character and slight tartness. Made with special French Saison yeast. Definitely a smooth operator. 8.26% ABV.

Photo courtesy of Glacier BrewHouse
Some more news of the not-a-beer-release variety:

49th State Brewing Company in Healy has announced that they will open for business this year on April 25th, which is earlier than last year.  Now word yet on what they will be offering, though several of their Hibernation series should top the list. 

No date yet for the Seward Brewing Company's opening.  I understand that it is under new management, but I've been unable so far to contact the new owner to get any details on his plans for 2014.  I'll keep working on it.

Kenai River Brewing Company has sold their two-head manual canning machine to Baranof Island Brewing Company in Sitka.  My understanding is that it's to serve as a stop-gap measure until they can get their new canning line installed later this year.

That's about it for news.  How about a couple of quick reviews:

Alaskan Brewing's Jalapeno Imperial IPA: I mentioned this beer in last week's blog.  Since then, I've had a chance to try it.  It poured a deep clear copper color - very pretty, like a fine Scotch whisky - with a big, cream colored head.  The aroma was of citrusy American hops; I couldn't detect the peppers in the nose. Carbonation was good, and the mouthfeel was medium.  The initial bitter attack was good, then hop flavor, then the pepper heat, which increased toward the finish.  To be honest, I've never been a big fan of chili beers, but this one from Alaskan is one of the best I've ever had.  The pepper notes are restrained enough to compliment the beer, rather than dominate it.  If jalapenos are your things, definitely give it a try. 8. 5% ABV.

Gigantic Brewing's Bang On Pale Ale: Another deep clear copper brew, with a nice white head. The nose had lots of enticing hop notes.  Nice mouthfeel and good carbonation. Good up front bitterness, a touch of toffee, falling off to a nice, clean finish.  Very moreish as our Brit cousins would say.  An excellent pale ale. 5.6% ABV.

Victory Brewing's HopDevil IPA: One of the classic East Coast IPAs out there.  Poured the classic copper color with a big off-white head and a nice aroma of American hops.  Good lacing on the glass. Nice lingering bitterness, plenty of good clean hop flavors, but more restrained than its West Coast cousins. Very drinkable and an excellent IPA. 6.7% ABV.

That's it for this week.  Hopefully we'll have more spring-like weather next week.  Meantime, keep drinking good craft beer!

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Not So Fast on That Early Spring...

Since in my last blog I speculated on a possible early spring, we had to get more snow.  Not a lot, but enough to remind everyone that winter's not quite done yet.  So batten down the hatches and stand by for some more heavy weather until we can finally escape this weird winter we've been having.

I wrote about the Beer and Swine Festival on April 5th in my last blog.  Nothing really new to say about them, but they do have a new poster out, which is a bit easier to read than their original one, so here it is:

Click to Enlarge

Last time round I also wrote about the Talkeetna Beer Trippin' that the Great Northern Brewers will be holding the same weekend as the Beer and Swine Festival.  The menu for the Beer Dinner at Twister Creek on Friday, April 4th has now been released.  Here it is:

Click to enlarge

Looks like there will be plenty of delicious food paired with outstanding beers and exceptional company.

Baranof Island Brewing Company is still on a roll after receiving their $350k loan from the city of Sitka.  They'll be holding an event at Nome's Arctic Native Brotherhood Club the Friday, March 14th, to raise money for the ANB.  Besides their beer, their will be food and live music.  Here's the flier for that event:

Click to enlarge

Midnight Sun Brewing Company has a nice new ad in this month's Beer Advocate magazine.  Here it is:

Sunday, March 8th, was National Brew Day for the Pink Boots Society.  I'm looking forward to tasting their collaboration brew.

Anchorage Brewing Company is working on Batch #2 of Arctic Soiree (see my review of Batch #1 in my last blog).  Look for #2 to hit shelves in about a month.  They also said to expect more Love Buzz Saison in June.  Gabe was also trying to enter Batch #2 of The Tide and Its Takers Tripel in the World Beer Cup.  If he was able to scare up enough of it to do so, I suspect ABC will have another award to hang on its wall soon.  Tickets for The Culmination Festival have still not yet gone on sale, but when they do, I will make a Breaking News post (after I've bought my own, of course!).

I had a data dump from Tyler Jones at Broken Tooth Brewing regarding beers that are on tap at Moose's Tooth.  Rather than paraphrase it, I'll just give you the whole thing:

Better Off Red (India Red Ale) When you’re down to one ski and you need fuel to tackle an untamed slope like the wicked K12, look no further. Takeoff with a burst of lavish flavor from Amarillo, Challenger and Crystal hops. Then ride the fortified base of pale and Munich malts, and finish with a touch of roast malt to score a luscious crimson hue. Go that way really fast, if something gets in your way, turn! You'll be the hottest thing since sunburn! Brewed by Sean Heyer. OG 1.058,  ~65 IBU, 6.2% ABV

Vanna Brown (American Brown)  Still missing the Midtown Brown? Solve the puzzle with this smooth, malt-rich roasty brown ale! Brewed by Sean Heyer OG 1.055 ~38 IBU ABV 5.4%
Something Red (Red Ale)  A beautiful single-hop red ale featuring fruity/citrusy Simcoe hops. Brewed by Dave Parker OG 1.064 42 IBUs ABV 6.1%.

Let It ESB (Extra Special Bitter)  A big ESB which straddles the fence between a traditional ESB and a contemporary IPA. Brewed by Sean Heyer OG 1.068 ~50 IBU ABV 5.9%

Méprise (Belgian Brown)   A fortuitous accident while loading grain yielded this Belgian Beauty. Spiced with Coriander & Orange Peel. Brewed by Dave Parker OG 1.084 ~26 IBU ABV 8.4%

Wheatwine ’14 (WheatWine) You all know by now what a BarleyWine is. A WheatWine is similar, only it’s brewed with, you guessed it: Wheat.Brewed by Dave Parker OG 1.091 ~65 IBU ABV 10.1%
C’est Chic (Belgo-Amero IPA) Auhhh - Freak Out! Le Freak - C’est Chic… Freak Out! Le Freak - C’est Chic... Brewed by Dave Parker OG 1.078, ~87 IBU, 8.4% ABV
Smokin' Willie Porter (Smoked Brown Porter) Based on our Prince William Porter, this beer begins very subtly and (slowly) develops into a filling, rich and adventurous experience. A beautiful balance of chocolate and brewery-smoked malt character that’s flavor-forward without being overwhelming. Brewed by Aaron Benolkin OG 1.065 29 IBU ABV 6.0%
Darth Delirium 2014 (Belgian-Style Stout) Bold, Black & Beautiful. Brewed with love and chocolate and aged for a year. Brewed by Sean & Dave    OG 1.099 ~78 IBU ABV 10.1%

Devil’s Thumb Double IPA (Double IPA) 6 Varieties of American hops balanced with strong citric and tropical flavors. Brewed By Dave Parker OG 1.082, ~86 IBU, 9.4% ABV
Cheechokoholic (Brown Ale plus Cocoa) Chocolatey and Fresh in Alaska!Brewed by Sean Heyer OG 1.057, ~28 IBU, 5.2% ABV

Tyler also reports that Broken Tooth should be releasing their bottle-conditioned beers soon, perhaps as early this week. They had some problems with the labeling, but that's been taken care of.

Silver Gulch Brewing and Bottling Company will be having a First Tap Party this Saturday, March 15th, at 5 PM.  In homer of St. Patrick's Day, they will be serving Kachemak Bay Oysters and corned beer and cabbage to pair with their news Dry Irish Stout.  Here's how they describe it:

 Stepping Stone Stout
(Irish Dry Stout)

Stepping Stone is a tip of the hat to the Yukon Quest and one of the most inviting hospitality check points on the trail. Congratulations to Mandy Nauman and her dogs for their 2014 Quest finish!

This stout should not be feared. While it is dark and roasty it is smooth, easy-drinking and ‘session-able’. This stout starts with hints of coffee and chocolate then gives way to a clean and dry finish leaving you yearning for the next sip. Sláinte! 4.9% ABV, 30 IBUs.
South on the Parks Highway from Fairbanks, 49th State Brewing has begun to stir to life after a long winter's nap.  It may be -22F in Healy, but that's not stopping them from taking delivery of new tanks which will triple their production capacity.  Still a month or so until they open, but it looks to be another banner year for them.

Alaskan Brewing has released the latest beer in their Pilot Series: Jalapeno Imperial IPA.  I've seen it on sale locally, but I haven't had a chance to try it yet.  Their release notes describe it as an "Imperial IPA made from glacier-fed water, the finest quality Centennial, Sterling, Magnum, and Apollo hops, premium two-row and specialty malts, and a whole lot of fresh jalapeños."  I'm sure I will have a review done soon.

Speaking of reviews, I only have two for this blog, as I haven't been drinking a lot of new beers lately. But first, I want to do a quasi-review of the latest batch of Czech Point Pilsner from St. Elias Brewing Company.  I reviewed this beer back on 4/12/2013, and this year's batch is just as excellent.  The only difference is that this year, Zach Henry used Sterling hops, rather than the traditional Saaz.  Comparing the present beer to my memories, I couldn't taste a difference. It would be interesting to taste them side by side to look for changes, but alas, that's not possible.  Regardless, it's an excellent pilsner, so get it while it lasts.

Midnight Sun's 3000 Belgian-style Barley Wine: I reviewed this beer on 2/15/2013, shortly after its release, so how has a year in the cellar changed it? It poured opaque with a mocha-colored head that was much bigger and denser than is typical for such a strong beer; it was also surprisingly long-lasting and left excellent lacing.  The red-wine & oak notes in the nose had eased off a bit after a year, but they were still there, while the alcohol and malt notes seemed to have increased.  Carbonation was excellent and the mouthfeel was good, though a bit drier than its typical for such a big beer.  The flavor profile was just a complex as you'd expect, with the rich caramel and toffee notes contrasting to the vinous oak notes, before falling off to a nice finish.  A year in the cellar has definitely improved this beer, but I still don't think it's reached its peak. 13.% ABV, 25 IBUs.

Mikkeller's Beer Geek Breakfast: Brewed at the Anchorage Brewing Company, this is an oatmeal stout made with coffee and fermented in oak.  It poured opaque with a nice tan head that left good lacing.  The aroma was a blend of roasted coffee flavors and sweet malt notes, like a cup of black coffee with sugar in it. The carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was medium.  On the palate there was a silky smoothness from the oats and a roasty bitter bite, that grew even stronger as the rest of the flavors fall away at the finish. An excellent example of a coffee stout. 7.5% ABV.

Well, that's it for this week.  I should have more beer reviews next time around.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Early Spring?

It's hard to believe it's still February, what with daytime highs in the upper 40s and snow melting left and right.  Of course, Mother nature is probably just setting us all up for a killer late March cold snap, once everything has started trying to bloom.  Still, we might as well enjoy this good weather while we can.

I'm a week behind on this blog due to having to prepare and deliver a couple of presentations.  I gave on last Thursday as part of the KPC Showcase series and I've got another one tonight.

If you'll be out on the town tonight, I'll be giving a presentation at the Kenai Fine Arts Center, starting at about 6 pm, entitled "The Impact of Beer Upon History".  Yes, I know it's rather ambitious to try to cover 10,000 years in one evening, so why not come on by and see how I do it.  I'll be signing copies of my books afterwards, so if you missed out on getting them signed last week at the KPC Showcase, here's another chance.

Speaking of events, Green Star's Beer & Swine Fest will be taking place at the Snow Goose in Anchorage on Saturday, April 5th.  There will be two tasting sessions, one from 2 to 5 pm, and one from 6 to 9 pm.  Each session will be limited to 150 tickets, which will go on sale at the Green Star website on Tuesday, March 4.  Look for beverages from Midnight Sun, Bear Creek Winery, Odom Corp., Specialty Imports, Anchorage Brewing, Kenai River Brewing, Sleeping Lady Brewing, and 49th State Brewing, along with appetizers from various restaurants and a silent auction.  Here's the flier for it:

Sounds like it should be a fantastic time and it's for a great cause, so get your tickets next week.

The same weekend as the Beer & Swine, the Great Northern Brewers will be having their Talkeetna Beer Trippin' Event.  Here's the schedule for that:

Click to enlarge

I've yet to make one of these, but I keep hoping, as it sounds like a great time.

Up at HooDoo Brewing in Fairbanks, they tapped a new beer yesterday: HooDoo Tripel. Here's how they describe it:

HooDoo Tripel is a strong, effervescent ale brewed in the Belgian tradition.  One of the strongest styles of Belgian beer, Tripel is deceiving in its light color, and inviting in its aroma and candy-like sweetness.  Made with only the finest European malts, fermentable sugars are also derived from an addition of Belgian Candi Sugar during the boil.  This sugar addition results in not only a higher alcohol content, but also allows the yeast to ferment the beer to a high degree leaving a clean, dry finish.  Flavors from the yeast and malts compliment each other with peppery, fruity flavors dominating, and an occasional hint of bubblegum.  ABV: 8.3% // IBU: 30 // OG: 18.1

Photo courtesy of HooDoo Brewing

Unfortunately, we never get any HooDoo beers down south; they're so popular in Fairbanks, that there's none left for us!

Due to not getting a blog out last week, I missed spreading the word about another great event, which took place at Glacier BrewHouse Wednesday night.  I think the flier speaks for itself:

Kudos to Jeff King and Glacier for supporting such a worthy cause.

Anchorage Brewing Company has released the label for their Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales collaboration beer:

Click to enlarge

At Kenai River Brewing, they've been quite busy pumping out 305 cases of Peninsula Brewers Reserve.  Here's the proof:

Photo courtesy of Kenai River Brewing
At  St. Elias Brewing Company, there's both good news and bad news.  The bad news is the H&H Winter Warmer, the Burton Ale that Zach Henry and I brewed, has gone the way of all flesh.  All that's left is a single cask which Zach plans to put on handpump in the second half of March.

The good news is that it's been replaced by two new beers:  Insidious XPA and Queen of Hearts.  There's a review of the XPA below.  The Queen of Hearts is described as "a blackberry lambic style ale aged in red wine barrels with wild yeast for 8 months."  Zach also tells me that there should be a new Czech pilsner on tap by early next week; the twist of this one is that he used Sterling hops, rather than the traditional Saaz variety.  It will be interesting to see how it turned out.

OK, let's do some beer reviews.

Grassroots Brewing's Arctic Soiree: A collaboration between Anchorage Brewing and Hill Farmstead Brewing, you know this brew is unusual as soon as it hits the glass, since it pours a clear pink (!) with a small white head that dissipates to a collar.  The aroma has the distinctive Brett funk.  Mouthfeel is light and the carbonation is moderate.  On the palate there are floral notes from the hibiscus added, no perceptible hop flavor, followed by some tartness from the Brett and lime juice on the finish. 6% ABV. A very unusual brew, to say the least, but I enjoyed it.  To a certain degree, it reminded me more of herbal tea than beer.

Anchorage Brewing Company's 2014 Rondy Brew Saison with Lemon Grass & Brett: Another brew from the wooden world of Gabe Fletcher, this one tasted much more like beer than the preceding one.  It poured a slightly cloudy gold with a big white head that left good lacing.  The nose was a pleasing blend of funk from the Brett and citrus from the lemon grass.  Carbonation and mouthfeel were both good, and the beer was tart on the palate without being truly sour, thanks to the combo of Brett & lemon grass.  There was a touch of excessive bitterness on the finish, but overall I liked it a lot.  6% ABV, 30 IBUs.

Green's Gluten-Free Dry-Hopped Lager: I must admit, I only tried this beer at the request of Jhon Gilroy of Merchant du Vin, as I have not had much luck with gluten-free beers in the past.  Still, I am always willing to experiment, so I gave this beer a try.  It poured a slightly cloudy gold with a decent white head that dissipated to a collar.  The aroma had plenty of citrusy hop notes. Carbonation was OK, though the mouthfeel was slightly thin.  The bitterness was good, and it had a clean lager taste, but I thought the finish was a bit lacking.  All-in-all, judged against your typical craft beer, I'd say this one was decent, not exceptional.  However, judged against your typical gluten-free beer, it was outstanding.  Most gluten-free beers, I can't bring myself to finish my first glass, much less the bottle.  With this one. I actually drank a second bottle.  Personally, I am very grateful that I don't suffer from celiac disease, so I can drink the real thing. But if you are a beer-lover who needs to drink gluten-free, Green's Gluten-Free Dry-Hopped Lager is about the best things I've seen come along.
St. Elias Brewing Company's Insidious XPA: Pours a very light gold with a big white head. The nose reveals the presence of plenty of Galaxy and Citra hops.  Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light.  The hop flavor and aroma is great.  At  4.5% ABV, this is an excellent session ale. If it was summer, this would be a classic "lawnmower beer".  This is the beer to have when you plan to have more than one.

Well, that's it for this week.  Keep enjoying this warm weather while it lasts, and I'll be back next week with more beer news and reviews.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Breaking News: Baranof Island Brewing Receives $350K Loan from City of Sitka

I received this press release yesterday, just a bit too late to make it into my regular blog.  However, it's such big news that I don't think it can wait a week:

Baranof Island Brewing Company Receives Major Economic Development Loan

February 12, 2014

Sitka, Alaska:  On February 11, 2014, Baranof Island Brewing Company was granted a $350,000 development loan by the Mayor and City Assembly of Sitka.  The loan was granted from The Southeast Alaska Economic Development Revolving Loan, also known as the Stevens Fund. 
This loan will allow the microbrewery to purchase a new grain mill and establish a beer-canning line. 

Baranof Island Brewing Company was founded in 2009 by Rick and Suzan Armstrong, in a garage 2 miles outside of downtown Sitka.  According to Mr. Armstrong, “Right now, our 310 gallon system is simply not large enough to meet the growing demand for craft beer from Sitka.”  Mr. Armstrong notes that demand for Baranof Island Brewing Company beer has been growing, and last summer, the company was only able to fill half the Alaska orders for its various styles.  “With growing Alaska demand and with our expansion into Washington State” Mr. Armstrong said, “this loan is crucial to help us scale up our production facilities.”

The Armstrong’s predict that new grain mill will increase current efficiency and will allow for 1,356 extra gallons of beer to be produced per month. New fermenting tanks will also be on the shopping list. These new tanks will allow the fermenting and conditioning process to occur in the same tank, reducing labor and cleaning costs.

The most important investment will be a canning line. Canning is gaining favor in the craft beer industry as an economical method to distribute beer while preserving flavor. Glass bottles are expensive to ship to Sitka empty and even more costly to ship out full. Aluminum cans will drastically lower shipping costs and will increase the shelf life of Baranof Island Brewery beers.

Baranof Island Brewing Company’s beers are available for sale throughout Alaska and in northern Washington State. The company currently produce six main unfiltered and unpasteurized American style ales, with an additional rotating list of seasonal ales. 
Contact:  Nick Feurey
(914) 656 7319 - cell

As I said, this is big news, especially about Baranof Island purchasing a canning line and joining the ranks of breweries in Alaska using that packaging.

Until Next Time, Cheers!