Friday, July 18, 2014

The Fisher Folk Are Coming!

Short blog this time, as the weather is too nice to spend much time at a keyboard! The assault on the Kenai Peninsula continues, with something like 40,000 fish seekers from all around Alaska descending on us for the "personal use" fishery. It's a pretty amazing sight, sort of like watching a slow-motion train wreck taking place in your front yard: it's horrible, yet you find it very difficult to look away...

While the hordes are down here trying to stock their freezers, they are also hitting our local breweries hard. Good luck trying to find a parking spot at St. Elias or Kenai River tonight!

In case you've missed it, there's a show on the Esquire Network call Brew Dogs.  It focuses on the guys behind the Scottish brewery BrewDog,  James Watt and Martin Dickie, visiting craft breweries around the US and brewing beer in outlandish ways (like in the back of a pickup will doing laps around a NASCAR track). The show has a certain amount of silliness, but overall it's pretty good.  The second season is being broadcast right now, and the final show of the season will be set in Alaska, primarily at Alaskan Brewing in Juneau.  As part of that show, a crew has been shooting what I guess will be "B-roll" footage around the state.  They were at HooDoo Brewing earlier this week and will be at Cafe Amsterdam in Anchorage this afternoon at 3:30.  so if you're reading this in Anchorage and want to see yourself on TV, head over to Cafe A immediately!

Brew Dogs at HooDoo. Photo courtesy of HooDoo Brewing.

As I mentioned last week, the Saturday there will be a BBQ, Burgers & Blues event at The Vagabond on K-Beach.  Kenai River is sponsoring the beer garden.  It starts at 4 PM and here's a flier for it:

Click to enlarge

Up in Healy, 49th State's Augtoberfest is only two weeks away. In case you missed it, here's the flier for that again:

Click to enlarge

 Senator Lisa Murkowski has been taking a serious interest in craft brewing.  In May, she talked with Jim "Dr. Fermento" Roberts, in his role as the President of the Brewers Guild of Alaska.  You can read his description of the conversation here.  More recently, she visited Denali Brewing in Talkeetna.  Here's what she had to say about it in her most recent e-newsletter:

As co-chair of the Senate Small Brewer’s Caucus, I’m a big supporter of the many craft breweries in our state. These brewpubs and small breweries benefit communities by creating both jobs and a sense of local pride. I’m trying to visit all of our local breweries throughout the state, and this trip I was able to go to the Denali Brewery Company in Talkeetna to meet with the General Manager, Sassan Mossanen, and learn that they are one of the largest year-round employers in the area."
Photo courtesy of Senator Lisa Murkowski

It's great to see Alaska's two senators taking such an interest in craft brewing (see last week's blog for a picture on Senator Begich at Kenai River Brewing), but now I'd like to see some of our state legislators step up to the plate.  Frankly, most of the onerous restrictions our local brewers have to put up with are imposed at the state, rather than the federal level. Perhaps the folks in Juneau can take a hint from our Washington lawmakers...

 That's about it for news this week.  Here are a couple of reviews:

The Commons Brewery's Bier Royale Sour Ale with Black Currants: The beer poured a clear pinkish-red with a small white head - a very unusual color for a beer! The aroma had some tartness plus fruity notes. The carbonation was good.  The initial attack was quite tart, then the fruitiness of the currants came through, before falling away to allow the tartness to come back on the finish. Like the other brews from The Commons, this one is unusual but excellent. 5.5% ABV.

Midnight Sun Brewing Company's Modern Romance Spicy Chocolate Dark Ale: This brew was released quite a bit back; the bottle I had of it was hiding in the back of my beer frig until just the other night!  It poured opaque with a small tan head that dissipated rapidly to a collar. The aroma was laced with sweet malt and chocolate notes.  The carbonation was a bit on the low side, but the mouthfeel was very good. There's a lot going on in this beers, as you might guess from the "Spicy Chocolate Dark Ale" nomenclature. There's some nice roastiness up front, resting on a gold malt backbone, then a distinct note of heat, either from spices or alcohol or both, that lingers and becomes more pronounced on the finish as the other flavor components fall away. For my personal tastes, I thought it was bit too busy, as some of the flavor components did not seem to quite mesh, but your mileage may vary. 9.3% ABV, 37 IBUs.

Well, that's it for this week.  Try not to get run over by any of the fools for fish clogging our rods and get out and enjoy this nice summer weather while it lasts, preferably with a beer in hand.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Reds Are in the River

Been a little rainy here on the Kenai, but it looks like things might be clearing out for the weekend.  That's good news, since our summer is too short for everything the needs to be done.  Plus, we wouldn't want bad weather to hinder the hordes of folk descending on us to dip sockeyes, now would we? Still, as annoying as the dipnetting hordes might be to most of us, they're a godsend to our local breweries and brewpubs. So we'll just have to make the best of it.

La Bodega in Anchorage and Girdwood is having  a "Dark & Quirky" growler sale. The following growlers are 25% off until the kegs kick:

Midnight Sun Fairy Dust $4.75 32oz / $9.00 64oz AND Silver Gulch Low Bush Cranberry $4.50 32oz / $9.00 64oz

- Kenai River Breakfast Beer (Oatmeal Milk Stout) $4.25 32oz / $8/50 64 oz
- Souther Tier Mokah $8.00 32oz / $16.00 64oz
- Stone Matt's Burning Rosids (Imperial Smoked Saison) $7.00 32oz / $14.00 64oz
- Homer Kings & Wings ESB $4.75 32oz / $9.50 64oz
- Bosteel's Kwak $14.50 32oz / $29.00 64oz
- Liefman's Goudenband (Flanders Oud Bruin) $16.00 32oz / $32.00 64oz

Get 'em before they're gone!

Tickets for next month's Kenai Peninsula Brew Fest are now on sale.  Here's the press release I got from Matt Pyhala, the Soldotna Rotary's point man for the festival:

"The 4th Annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival is Saturday, August 9 from 5-10 pm.  The entry cost is $30.  We are selling tickets online already at our new website  We will also sell tickets at Kenai River Brewing, Kassik's Brewery, and St. Elias Brewery.  The festival will again have live music, and food in addition to our featured breweries.  All proceeds from the festival are used for local projects of the Soldotna Rotary Club.  We have confirmation of attendance from Alaskan, Broken Tooth, Denali, Glacier Brewhouse, Kassik's, Kenai River, King Street, Midnight Sun, Seward, Sleeping Lady, and St. Elias breweries.  ODOM Corporation, Specialty Imports, Open Wine Distributors have also confirmed.  We have strong maybes from 49th State, Arkose, Baranof Island, Homer, Bear Creek Wine, and Anchorage Brewing.  This year is shaping up to be our best yet."
I've got my tickets, and it's likely the event will sell out again this year, so you might want to get yours.

Looking a bit further ahead, this year's Capital City Brewfest in Juneau will take place on Saturday, September 13th, from 1 to 5 PM at the Juneau Arts & Cultural Center (JACC). Tickets go on sale next week on the festival's website.

The date for the Talkeetna Brewfest has also been announced. It will be Saturday, September 20th, from 2 to 6 PM. Admission will be $50, which includes a taster glass, brewery guide and a selection of quality meats, cheeses and breads provided by local businesses. I've missed this fest for the last two years for various reasons, but this year I plan to be there.

Next Saturday, July 19th, Kenai River Brewing will be one of the sponsors of the BBQ, Burgers & Blues event at The Vagabond Bar on K-Beach.  It's a fundraiser for KDLL, our local public radio station, featuring good food, great beer, and live music.  Things kick off at 4 PM and culminate is a performance by world-famous master blues harmonica legend Gary Sloan. Sounds like a great time and it's for a worthy cause.

For you homebrewers out there, I found a site with some nice plans for building your very own kegerator.  Check them out here

Tomorrow is the Golden Days BeerFest at Silver Gulch Brewing in Fox.  Here's the flier:

I was at last year's fest and had a great time.

Silver Gulch also has a new brew on tap, Solo Hop, a Rye Pale Ale.  Here's how they describe it:

Spicy rye provides a stellar base to showcase citrusy Amarillo hops in this single hop pale ale. Hoppy yet not bitter, this is a refreshing and drinkable summer offering. 5% ABV, 47 IBU’s
Osculum Infame is also back on tap.  Check out my review from 1/19/2010 on the Belgian Strong Golden Ale.

Speaking of Belgian brews, HooDoo Brewing has their Tripel back on tap.

Denali Brewing has two new brews on at their tap in downtown Talkeetna:

Mother Superior Double Blonde (Double Mother Ale) 10.2%ABV, 31 IBU. Same recipe as Mother Ale, only with more of everything! More pilsner malt, more noble hops, more of what makes Mother Ale a favorite. To give rise to this special beer, it was aged on chardonnay-soaked oak chips, resulting in subtle hints of cinnamon and spice. When it comes to imbibing this unique creation, get in the habit! 

2014 Raspberry Wheat 5% ABV. An American Wheat Ale brewed with bushels of Oregon raspberries.

Also, McKinley Princess Lodge is hosting a Denali beer tasting for its guest on Monday, July 21st at 12:30 PM.

King Street Brewing has re-released their Golden Lager.  This is a classic German Helles-style beer, easy drinking and light-bodied; the perfect brew for a hot summer day in Alaska!

Kassik's Brewery tapped a 1/2 barrel keg of their Smoked Russian Imperial Stout yesterday. It won't last young, so get over to the brewery taproom ASAP if you want some before it's gone!

Senator Mark Begich paid a visit to Kenai River Brewing on July 1st. Glad to see he's interested in supporting our local businesses, at least during an election year...

Photo courtesy of Kenai River Brewing
Now let's do some beer reviews.

Anchor Brewing's Anchor IPA: Back in 1975, Fritz Maytag created what is arguably the first modern American IPA, Anchor's Liberty Ale.  Now under new ownership, Anchor looks to be trying to liven up their line-up. Anchor IPA pours a deep copper color with a big cream-colored head.  The aroma has some nice  but not overpowering floral hop notes. Carbonation was good, and the mouthfeel was nice.  Bitterness is restrained, especially by the recent American IPA standards, and is balanced nicely by the malt. This beer might pass for an English IPA except for the use of American hops, making it extremely drinkable, if slightly unremarkable.  Personally, I prefer the classic Liberty Ale, but Anchor IPA is a well-crafted brew for folks who prefer their IPAs more refined. 6.5% ABV.

Logsdon Farmhouse Ale's Peche 'n Brett: This bottle was part of the leftovers from The Culmination in May. I'm usually not a great fan of fruit beers, which is probably why I didn't get around to sampling this one during the festival. It poured a deep, clear gold with a huge, dense white head. The nose was absolutely full of delicious peach notes, and just the slightest touch of Brett funk. Carbonation was excellent, as you'd expect from the head.  On the palate there was tons of excellent peach flavor up front, backed by Bett funkiness, before falling away to an excellent dry finish. Absolutely no sign of heat from the 10% ABV. I think I can honestly say that this may have been the finest fruit beer I have ever had.  I only wish that I had several more bottles to cellar; I'd love to experience the beer's evolution as the Brett continued to work in it. If you can find a bottle of this beer, buy it!

Logsdon Farmhouse Ale's Far West Vlaming Sour Red Ale: In the style of a Flanders Red, this beer poured a deep ruby color with a small cream-colored head that dissipate fairly quickly to a collar. The aroma was tart with some oaky notes. Carbonation was decent, as was the mouthfeel. The initial attack was tart, falling away quickly to allow some oak to express itself.  The finish was rather quick and a bit disappointing.  Overall, a decent brew but lacking the depth and complexity of a classic sour red such as those from Rodenbach.  Enjoyable but unspectacular. 6.5% ABV.

That's it for this week.  Good luck with the fishing and enjoy summer while it last.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Back From Another Trip to Southeast Alaska

So no blog last week, but that was because I was on my second trip to Southeast Alaska in about a month.  The stops this time were Juneau and Sitka.  Elaine and I had visited Juneau several years ago, but this was our first trip to Sitka.  The purpose of the trip was research for Volume III of Beer on the Last Frontier: The Craft Breweries of Alaska, which will cover Southeast Alaska. We didn't get to spend a ton of time in either town, but we were there long enough to tour both Alaskan Brewing Company in Juneau and Baranof Island Brewing Company in Sitka.

We'd toured Alaskan Brewing on our previous visit to Juneau in 2007, but the brewery has grown considerably since then, and more expansion is underway.  I've toured plenty of big breweries Outside, but it seemed really strange to be walking through such a big operation (about 145,000 barrels produced last year) in Alaska.

Checking out Alaskan's 100 barrel copper with Andy Kline.  Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell.

Alaskan's Tap Room & Gift Shop. Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell.
There expansion seems to be proceeding on schedule, and will provide them with some much needed space to expand their packing operation, as well as allowing them to move between their two current existing buildings using forklifts rather than trucks.  On the beer front, I got to sample one of their Rough Drafts, a very nice golden ale, light and refreshing.  It would be the perfect beer for a nice sunny summer day, if they ever get any of those in Southeast.  I also sampled a bottle of the next Pilot Series release, this year's version of their Imperial Red Ale.  It was nicely balanced and delicious.

Traveling on to Sitka, we visited Baranof Island Brewing Company, which was the only operating brewery in the state that I had not yet visited.  It was a Friday afternoon and by the time we left, the Tap Room was full of folks, enjoying a relaxing drink after a long week of work.  The brewer, Mike DesRosiers, gave me a tour of their small, but growing operation.  They are waiting on the first shipment of cans to arrive, at which point they will begin canning their Silver Bay IPA.  While I was there, besides a nice slice of pizza, I enjoyed a glass on their Single Speed Stout,  a glass of their IPA which had been run through a device filled with whole hops to give it an even more intense hop flavor and aroma, and a sample of their Spruce Tip Pale Ale.  They were all delicious, but I really liked the hop-boosted IPA.

BIBC Tap Room.  Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell.
Here are also some pictures from our visit in May to Skagway and Haines, all courtesy of my wife Elaine:

Skagway Brewing is tiny!

Paul Wheeler of Haines Brewing & Chatlie Papazian at the Brewers Dinner.

Part of the 1400 folks who attended the Haines Beer Festival.

Another shot of the Haines Festival.
Lots of good beer in Southeast Alaska; I'm really enjoying writing about it in Volume III of my book.

Moving on to other beer news, there a new beer on tap at the Snow Goose Pub in Anchorage.  It's a Honey Cream Ale brewed with spruce tips.  Usually you'll see spruce tip beers based around a pale ale, so basing on on a honey cream ales is a bit different.  I haven't tried it yet, but I hear it's very good.

Up in Healy at 49th State Brewing Company, things have been hopping all summer.  Here's a video of some of their latest musical excitement.

Tickets are now on sale for their big Augtoberfest event as well.

Denali Brewing Company's excellent Twister Creek IPA is now on draft at The Flats Bistro in Kenai.  Their Single Engine Red Ale was also the first beer poured at the brand-new Hard Rock Cafe in Anchorage.

The big news out of Anchorage is that Anchorage Brewing Company is going to be moving to a brand-new, built to order 7600 square foot brewery on King Street in South Anchorage.  I got the word from last week's column by Jim "Dr. Fermento" Roberts in The Anchorage Press.  Rather than just rewrite it, I think I'll just let you read it for yourself by clicking here.  Look for the new brewery to open in November, if all goes as planned.

Midnight Sun Brewing Company has released the next beer in their new Alaskana series: Cache, an oak-aged bierre de garde at 8.2% ABV.

Glacier BrewHouse has released another new beer today, a Double IPA.  Here's how they describe it:

Double IPA (DIPA) - Hops are the predominant characteristic in this brew. Over twice the amount of hops are used in this beer as compared to our standard IPA. The hop flavor is citrus, floral, and undoubtedly strong, but still clean. The bitterness is intense but held in check with the malt and high alcohol. Unfiltered and reddish-copper in color, this hop monster is a hop head’s delight. Alcohol: 8.20% by volume. Starting gravity: 17.40 Plato (1.072 S.G.)
Photo courtesy of Glacier BrewHouse

I don't write often enough about what my buddy Ben Millstein of Kodiak Island Brewing Company  is up to, mainly because so little of his excellent brews ever make it off The Rock.  But just to give you all an idea of what were missing by not being on Kodiak, I thought I'd share Ben's latest brewery tap list:

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Makes me want to hop a plane or a ferry to Kodiak...

 For beer reviews, I only have one this week, as I was too busy enjoys beers in Juneau and Sitka to formally review them.

Midnight Sun Brewing Company's  Zzzzz.. Hibernator Doppelbock: The first brew in their new Alaskana series, this beer poured a very dark ruby color with a small tan head.  The nose is smoke and sweet malt, striking a nice balance between them.  Mouthfeel is good and the carbonation level is nice.  On the palate it's the same as the aroma, smoke plus clean malt flavors, well-balanced between them, before falling away to a nice clean finish.  Very drinkable for such a big beer, mainly due to the excellent balance between the smoke and malt. 7.4% ABV, and 25 IBUs.

Well, that's it for this week.  I likely won't have a blog next week, what with the 4th of July holiday and all, so look for a new post in two weeks.  I should have several new brew reviews by then.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Friday, June 13, 2014

There's a New Place to Eat & Drink Craft Beer in Town

Hello again, folks.  Been a busy couple of weeks.  First, I was sick as a dog for about four days (101+ fever anyone?), then my daughter, son-in-law, and grandson came up for a visit.  Hadn't with visited my #1 guy Liam since he was born in September, so spending time with him has taken precedence over writing about beer!

Liam Kile Thompson

However, while they were here we all went to dinner at a brand-new restaurant, The Flats Bistro, at 39847 Kalifornsky Beach Road in Kenai, which just opened on Friday, June 6th.  Not only do they have exceptional food, they have twelve beers on tap, all of which are brewed in Alaska.  Breweries represented include Kassik's, Kenai  River, Midnight Sun, Denali, Silver Gulch, Glacier BrewHouse, and Alaskan. Even more importantly, owners Luke and Naomi are taking their beer offering seriously.  I know this because (full disclosure) they had me provide training to their staff on beer serving and food pairing on the Monday before they opened.  So if you're going to be in this area and are looking for a place to have some wonderful food and great craft beer (or wine; they have that too), I strongly recommend checking out The Flats.  You can get reservations at 335-1010, but they always hold half their tables for walk-ins.

Photo courtesy of The Flats Bistro
Moving on to other beer news, HooDoo Brewing has been offering a cask-conditioned version of their IPA, as well as a special Fathers' Day deal on their Braulers and glassware.

At 49th State Brewing in Healy, they'll be having a Solstice Brewfest Brewer's Dinner on Thursday, June 19th.  Here's the poster:

Click to enlarge
The Solstice Brewfest itself will take place on Saturday & Sunday, June 20th & 21st.  To see a list of bands and to buy tickets, check out this webpage.

Arkose Brewery reports that their beers are now on tap at the Eagle Hotel and Lounge in Palmer. Ask for their High Ridge Double Red, New Colony Hefeweizen, and Boxcar Porter.

Anchorage Brewing Company has just bottled a couple of new beers.  First, there's their collaboration brew with Jolly Pumpkin, Calabaza Boreal.

Photo courtesy of Anchorage Brewing Company

Next, there's Thank You, a German Hefeweizen dosed with Brett.  It's made in gratitude to Gary Klopfer, owner of  Sleeping Lady Brewing, whose brewhouse Gabe has been using to produce his beers. 

Photo Courtesy of Anchorage Brewing Company
Finally, the next batch of ABC's original beer, Whiteout Wit, will have a new label design:

Photo courtesy of Anchorage Brewing Company

Over at Glacier BrewHouse, there's a new beer on offer, a Black Rye Bock.  Here's how they describe it:

This dark lager combines the characteristics of three winter beer styles. All three of these styles traditionally come from the colder harsher areas of Europe. The styles are (1) Black Beer (aka Schwartzbier) originating from Bad Kostritz in Thuringia (former East Germany); (2) Rye Beer which at one time was only made in hardier areas of Eastern and Baltic Europe; and (3) Bock Beer which is widely known as the higher alcohol lager of Northern Germany. Our Black Rye Bock has a distinctive bitter chocolate palate and black color reminiscent of a black beer. The spiciness from the rye malt shines through in the flavor. The high alcohol balanced with malty sweetness rounds out this black beauty. Smooth drinking with a punch makes this lager a perfect dark quaffer for our Arctic summer. Alcohol: 6.67% by volume. Starting gravity: 17.45 Plato (1.072 S.G.)

Photo courtesy of Glacier BrewHouse
At Midnight Sun Brewing Company, the big news is the return of a classic: Barfly Smoked Imperial Stout is back! See my review of this wonderful brew back on 2/1/2011. MSBC is limiting folks to 6 bottles per person, but even so, it will go quickly, so get yours while you can!

Photo courtesy of Midnight Sun Brewing

Moving on to the Peninsula, Kenai River Brewing has their Black Water Bender back on tap.  I hear they did a roaring business at the Kenai River Festival last weekend.

On Monday, I and my family paid a visit to Seward, and while we were there we stopped in at the Seward Brewing Company.  They had four of their beers available, and I had a pint of their Inked Out Stout, which was quite tasty.  As good as the beer was, the food was even better.  I had a plate of their lamb fires, which are fries smothered in shredded lamb, cheese curds, and gravy.  They were exceptional, and the perfect choice for a cold and rainy day, which is what last Monday was.  If you find yourself in Seward, be sure to stop by and check them out.  I also see that they released a new Imperial IPA yesterday, weighing in at 8.8% ABV.

I shared a growler of St. Elias Brewing Company's TurmOil CDA with my son-in-law a few nights ago and found it to be excellent: nice and dark but no roasty flavors to distract you from the hop flavor.  St. Elias just put two more of their returning summer brews back on tap today: Island Girl Raspberry Kolsch and their Hefeweizen.

Well, that's about it for this week.  I should have some new beer reviews in my next blog, as well as some pictures from the various festivals I been to in the last month or so.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Correction to "A Tale of Two Festivals"

Hey, folks, I've got a bit of a correction to last week's blog.  Sorry it's taken me this long, but I was pretty sick for the entire weekend and into the first part of this week.

Anyway, I stated in my last post that his attendance at the Haines Festival last month was AHA founder Charlie Papazian's first visit to Alaska, which turns out not to be accurate.  This mistake did not make it past the eagle-eye of Jim Roberts, AKA Dr. Fermento, who sent me the following photo:

Photo courtesy of Jim Roberts.

Here's what he had to say about it:

"Charlie visited as a guest of the Great Northern Brewers Homebrew Club in August of 1995."

"Pictured here is Charlie, of course, and to his right, the founder of Great Northern Brewers, Pat Oldenberg, me of course, as 2nd President of GNBC ('92, '93) and to the far left, Doug Simpson, 3rd President of GNBC ('94, '95)."

"Just thought you'd find that entertaining.  Oh, and the picture was taken at the now defunct (and recently torn down) Sophie's North Slope Restaurant and Regal Eagle Brewpub (first in the state of Alaska) which was then piloted by none other than Ken Pajak."

"How's that for a bit of history?"

As ever, I stand corrected, enlightened, and in awe. All I can do is tip my hat and say, "You Da Man, Jim!"

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Friday, May 30, 2014

A Tale of Two Festivals

Well hello again!  I know, it been a while (four weeks!) since I got a blog out.  Been a busy time for me, end of the school year and all.  Plus Elaine and I went on a ten day road trip to Southeast Alaska, doing research for Volume III of Beer on the Last Frontier.  So much for excuses/explanations; let's get to it.

I've titled the post "A Tale of Two Festivals" because that trip I mentioned above was book-ended by two festivals: The Culmination in Anchorage on Saturday, May 17th, and the 22nd Annual Great Alaska Craft Beer and Homebrew Festival in Haines on Saturday, March 24th. Each festival was a wonderful experience, despite them being about as different from each other as possible.

Let's start with The Culmination.  For a dedicated craft beer lover like myself, it was an absolutely amazing experience.  The beers on offer were simply superb, brews hand-selected from some of the finest breweries across the country and the world, most of which are not available in Alaska.  With  tickets costing $100 and limited at 300 total, you know all the people attending were there because they were seriously into craft beer.  Plus the venue was outstanding, and there was catered food and live music.  In spite of many (most?) of the beers being offered being of greater than typical ABV, I didn't see a single person who seemed to have overindulged in a significant way.  In summary, it's the sort of festival that beer geeks fantasize about attending.  Here's the beer list:
Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

In many ways, the 22nd Annual Great Alaska Craft Beer and Homebrew Festival in Haines was the opposite of The Culmination.  Instead of 300 attendees, there were 1400. Waiting in the (long!) line to get in, it was obvious that many of the young folks around me had already started "pre-loading" and were looking forward more to the quantity, as opposed to the quality, of the beers they were going to consume.  When we finally made it into the fairgrounds, thirsty drinker were already swarming the 16 different beer tents.  Almost all the breweries in the state were either present or sent some beer: Alaskan, Haines, Skagway, HooDoo Kenai River, Midnight Sun, Silver Gulch, Broken Tooth, Homer, King Street, Arkose, Sleeping Lady, Baranof Island, Denali, and Gold Rush were all there.  Plus booths manned by the three distributors, one split between Elysian Brewing out of Seattle and Sierra Nevada, and finally one tent from Yukon Brewing out of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. None of the beers on offer we extremely rare or hard to find, at least on their home turf, but it was obvious that the crowd was having a great time drinking them.  Plus the weather was very nice, which is always a plus for an outdoor festival!

Between the two of them, these festivals illustrate the balancing act that most craft beer events try to do, between focusing on the beer aspect and focusing on the festival aspect. Neither emphasis is right or wrong; both are great, despite being very different, and I enjoyed them both.

Another part of Haines festival, one that leans more toward the beer side of things, is the Brewers Dinner the Friday night before the Saturday festival.  With only 250 attendees, this is a much more intimate affair, featuring a five course gourmet meal, with each course paired with two beers from the breweries at the festival.  It also features speeches by those brewers, describing their beers, as well as a speech by the guest of honor.  The year's GOH was none other than Charlie Papazian, the founder of the American Homebrewers Association, making his first ever visit to our great state.  With outstanding food, excellent beer, and interesting company, it made for an evening to remember.

So while I was charging around Southeast, what else has been going on around the state?

The big news out of Silver Gulch Brewing is that they are switching distributors.  They are going the Specialty Imports stable of brews.

HooDoo Brewing's founder Bobby Wilken was at the Haines Fest, so we got to chat for a few minutes.  They had a very successful American Craft Beer Week and are ramping up for a busy summer.

At Denali Brewing, the Tasting Room of their production brewery at Mile 2 of the Talkeetna Spur Road is finally open!  Hours are 1 to 7 pm.  I saw the space while it was udner construction last summer, and it should be a nice place to grab a drink without having to go into downtown (?) Talkeetna.

Photo courtesy of Denali Brewing

Arkose Brewery released a new beer as part of American Craft Beer Week: High Ridge Double Red:

Photo courtesy of Arkose Brewery

Sleeping Lady Brewing in Anchorage has two new brews on: Peach Wheat is an American Wheat ale aged on peaches and apricots and there is a cask of their Urban Wilderness Pale Ale, dry hopped with spruce tips, on offer.

Glacier BrewHouse also has a new wheat beer on offer, called simply White.  Here's how they describe it:

This unfiltered wheat beer is a smooth drinking white beer spiced with orange peel, lemon peel, juniper, coriander, and more. Citrus aromas abound. Light and refreshing. Alcohol: 6.20% by volume. Starting gravity: 13.00 Plato (1.053 S.G.)

Photo courtesy of Glacier BrewHouse
With regards to Midnight Sun Brewing Company, I got a nice data dump from their Beer Ambassador, Darcy Kniefel just yesterday.  Here's what's coming up there:

Bike to Work Day - Wednesday June 4th
     The tradition carries on, Midnight Sun Brewing Company will be handing out inspired water (sorry, we are not allowed to give out beer) for bikers next to the Bacon Station and hosting the Ultimate Biker After Party in the afternoon at The Loft. This is traditionally one of the wildest days of the year and we will be giving away a set of VIP passes to the Glacier Pilots Games for the whole season, regular tickets for the Glacier Pilots games and a pair of tickets for the Capitol Cities Concert at Humpy's on June 6th.

Keep On Humpin' Belgian Double IPA 8.2% and 80 IBU
     It's no secret that Humpy's Great Alaskan Alehouse has been an amazing supporter and pioneer in the Alaskan Craft Beer Scene. Over our 19 years of business with them they have been an amazing ally, business partner and drinking buddy. Our Sockeye Red IPA was originally brewed for Humpy's with Billy Opinsky standing behind them yelling "More HOPS!". We wish to honor Humpy's and their unique style with a beer worthy of their name. Keep On Humpin' celebrates 20 years of Beer Amazingness! We will tap the first keg and raise a glass next Thursday, June 5th at 6pm. The beer will be available at Humpy's, The Loft at Midnight Sun and select growler bars around town.

Capitol Cities Concert - June 6th at Humpy's
     Sure you can get a cocktail at the concert, or you can grab a refreshing Midnight Sun Brew while you jam out to the first of Humpy's Big Spawn Concert Series. Pleasure Town IPA, Midnight Sun Golden (previously known as Kolsch), Oosik Amber and Snowshoe White Ale will all be on tap. We will have our beer squad pouring and handing out summer swag (sunglasses!) through out the night.

Fairy Dust - June 6th, It's being brewed!
     After many years of sending our brews to Girdwood for the Girdwood Forest Fair, the Forest Fair Fairies have asked to have a turn at the kettle. The infamous SJ Klein leads a team of Girdwoodians in brewing the first ever batch of a beer just for Girdwood and the Forest Fair. Stay tuned for details on the official release party and grab a glass as you saunter through the beer garden at the Girdwood Forest Fair this July.

Barfly Smoked Imperial Stout - Monday, June 9
     YES!!!! It has been dangling there, we have been begging for it. It's baaaaaack! The sultry, smokey mouth tease is finally ready to hit the shelf. Bottles and draft will be at The Loft on Monday, June 9 at 11am with further distribution starting the following Monday, if there's any left. I plan on getting my fill!

Photo courtesy of Midnight Sun Brewing

At Kassik's Brewery, their award-winning Caribou Kilt Scotch Ale is back on tap.

Seward Brewing Company is now open for the summer.  I haven't gotten over there yet to check it out, but their menu looks great!  You can look it over here. They have four brews on offer: Rockfish Red Ale and Inked Out Stout (which I believe are made to the same recipes as the beers offered in the past) along with Pin Boned IPA and their Liquid Sunshine Farmhouse Ale, a saison.  I'm looking forward to trying both their food and new brews.

I haven't been into St. Elias Brewing for a couple of weeks, but I understand they have a new beer on tap: TurmOil Cascadian Dark Ale.  Here's how Zach Henry describes it:

It's dark with a toffee malt body and a wonderful plethora of American and Australian hops. 6.9% ABV - 62 IBU
I think I'll grab a growler of that this weekend...

A few weeks ago, Kenai River Brewing offered up a new Kumquat Wheat Ale.  Now they have a Kumquat Kolsch on offer as well.  Plus, for glass sales at the brewery, they are running the beer through a kumquat infuser on occasion, giving it even more kumquat flavor!

Photo courtesy of Kenai River Brewing
Okay, let's do some reviews.

First off, I was enjoying myself much too much at the two festivals to actually do any formal beer reviews.  However, I did want to mention one beer, as it was just too spectacular not to.

Anchorage Brewing Company's Time Waits for No One Imperial Stout: This 14.6% ABV imperial stout was aged in a Laphroaig Scotch Whiskey cask.  Gabe Fletcher brewed it as a 60th birthday present for his partner in the brewery, Steve Marshall. It will not be sold.  Which is a damned shame, since I want to buy at least a case!  It was thick and chewy, rich and complex, loaded with smoky flavor.  I'd love to put a case in my cellar, as I think a year or perhaps two will make this beer into an absolute masterpiece.  Given it's limited production, I feel privileged to have gotten to taste it at all.

Photo courtesy of Anchorage Brewing Company

Midnight Sun Brewing Company's 9TEEN Saison: Brewed to celebrate MSBC's 19th Anniversary, I picked up a growler of this in early May. It poured a slightly cloudy honey color, with a small white head that dissipated slowly to a collar. The aroma had all the earthy, spicy notes I look for from a good Belgian yeast. Carbonation was good, giving it a nice, spritzy mouthfeel. There was a nice spicy note to the initial attack, followed by clean hop and malt flavors, well-balanced, before the beer fell away to a long finish.  Very nice.

Wells & Youngs Courage Imperial Russian Stout: Once one of the greatest names in British brewing, Courage no longer brews beer.  The names and recipes of their former brews were purchased by Wells and Youngs, including their archetypal imperial stout.  I found a bottle at La Bodega in Anchorage.  It poured totally opaque with a nice tan head.  The nose had plenty of espresso and malty notes.  Carbonation was nice, and the beer had an excellent thick, chewy mouthfeel.  The flavor profile was incredibly complex, full of espresso, pear, and roasted flavors, without the hop bitterness you often see in American versions.  It gradually falls away to a long, slow, deep finish, which has a touch of alcohol heat from the 10% ABV.  Drinking this beer was like touching a piece of history.  Kudos to Wells & Youngs for keeping it available.

That's it for this time.  I promise it won't be another month before I blog again.  Meanwhile, get out and enjoy the summer while it lasts.  After all, winter in coming.

Until Next Time, Cheers!