Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Getting Ready for the Summer Solstice

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

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

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

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

Here's the schedule for the Brew Chats:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Grace Ridge Brewing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Back from Edmonds, WA

I just got home on Tuesday evening, after a few days visiting my daughter, son-in-law, and grand-kids in Edmonds, WA, a suburb of Seattle. Elaine and I were there to help celebrate our granddaughter's 1st birthday. So the trip was focused primarily on spending time with family, but I did find time to check out a couple of breweries and try some local brews, as well as hit a bottle shop in order to grab a few beers to bring home with me. I'll be reviewing those beers in future blogs, as I get around to enjoying them; this one will focus on the two breweries I visited on the trip.

The first brewery I visited was the American Brewing Company, at 180 W. Dayton Street. It, had a strong industrial vibe. In fact, the main train tracks through town ran just a few feet from its entrance door. There was free popcorn and other food for sale, like pizzas. I didn't get an exact count, but there looked to be at least a dozen different beers on offer. Here are a couple of shots of the tap room that I took.

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A couple of the differences between what Washington allows its breweries to do and what Alaska allows are immediately apparent. First, note the seats at the bar; that would be illegal in Alaska, as breweries are only allowed "serving counters" (meaning no seats) with "bars"  being allowed only in brewpubs or places with a Beverage Dispensary License (i.e. a full liquor license). Note the big screen TVs, tuned to sports; these would also be illegal in Alaska, as they would be considered "entertainment," which is also forbidden in brewery tap rooms. There brewery was also open until 10 PM; in Alaska, they must close NLT 8 PM. These things may seem minor, but I'm trying to make a point, which is this: Washington state has a much more friendly regulatory environment for brewing than Alaska does. Washington has about 9.5 times the population of Alaska ( 7 million to Alaska's 740,000). However, Washington has over 320 breweries, while Alaska still has less than 30, despite recent openings. If we had the same number of breweries per capita as Washington, we'd have something like 34 operating breweries right now.

I know it's a bit of an apples to oranges comparison, but it still illustrates the cumulative impact of things like clumsy liquor licensing laws and excessive state excise taxes. Speaking of excise taxes, brewers is Washington pay $0.26 per gallon of beer in state taxes, while in Alaska it's $1.07 (and Governor Walker is still pushing to double it!). In short, it seems to me that Washington understands what a valuable resource it has in its craft brewing industry; Alaska, not so much...

Anyway, back to my visit to the brewery. We got there fairly late, at about 9 PM, so I only had one beer, a pint of Revolutionary IPA. It's 6% ABV, 80 IBUS. I didn't do a full review, but my overall impression was that it was an average IPA, nothing wrong with it, but nothing spectacular either.

Revolutionary IPA

The second brewery in Edmonds is Salish Sea Brewing Company. It's also on W. Dayton Street, about four blocks north of American Brewing, at 518. Those four blocks make a big difference, as Salish Sea is in the downtown area of Edmonds, which is shops and restaurants, rather than the more industrial location of American Brewing. Here are some photos taken by my wife Elaine:

Exterior of Salish Sea Brewing

The brewhouse is in the tap room!

The left-hand side of the tap room.

The low wall on the right is movable, to allow space for brewing

Salish Sea Brewing has a very unusual layout, in that the brewhouse is literally in the tap room! In order to brew, the tables must come out of the right-hand portion of the tap room, along with a movable half wall that separates the tables from the brewhouse when the latter isn't in use. I'm not sure how efficient it is, but it's a clever way to maximize the tap room seating when actual brewing isn't taking place.

There were twelve taps with nine beers currently on offer when we stopped in. There was also a food menu, with staples like sandwiches, soups, and pretzels on offer. I decided to have a Drop Anchor IPA. At 6.7% ABV, 65 IBUs, this is a medium-bodied IPA. It's hopped with Citra, Mosaic, Amarillo, and Simcoe hops, including dry-hopping with the first three varieties. Late hop additions, gave it lots of hop flavor and aroma without excessive bitterness. A very enjoyable IPA.

Drop Anchor IPA

So that's my report on the two breweries I visited in Edmonds. It's always fun to visit new breweries and try out what they have to offer, so I encourage you to do so as well, whenever you travel.

I plan to get a blog out next week, to get back up to speed on what's happening here in Alaska. However, if you will be in Soldotna this weekend, I will be at the Kenai River Festival in Soldotna Creek Part on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, signing and selling copies of my beer books. Please drop by and say hello; I'll be in Booth #1.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Monday, May 30, 2016

The New Kenai River Brewing Is Open!

It's been a long time coming (kinda like this blog post), but Kenai River Brewing has finally completed its move to its new brewery and is open for business! The new building opened its doors to the public last Wednesday, and owner Doug Hogue was planning to brew on his new 20-barrel system for the first time last Thursday. I arrived about 10 minutes after the doors opened, but there were already folks in the tap room celebrating. Here are some photos of the soft opening taken by my wife Elaine:

Front-side of the brewery, with main entrance on the right.

The first crowd. The round area at the end of the bar will be reserved for growler fills.

A 100-barrel, an 80-barrel, two 40-barrel, and three 20-barrel conicals

Looking down on the brewing floor from the grain storage 

The new 20-barrel brewhouse from Specific Mechanical

Another angle on the brewhouse

18 regular taps plus 3 nitros!

The covered patio out back

The tap room from the patio door

While the new brewery is open now, the Grand Opening Celebration won't be happening until June 18, which is also Kenai River Brewing's 10th Anniversary. There will be live music and the beer line-up will be retro, featuring the beers that were on on tap when Kenai River first opened its doors ten years ago. Congratulations to Doug and the rest of the Kenai River Brewing Team on bringing their vision into reality.

As long as we're talking about improvements to Peninsula breweries, let's talk about the new layout of St. Elias Brewing Company's bar. Zach Henry has completed the installation of the new 12-tap tower for his beers and a smaller tower on the back bar for his house wines. Here are some photos of the new layout.

The new 12-tap beer tower

The new back bar layout

In addition, St. Elias has two new beers on tap. The Bavarian Hefeweizen is back for the summer, and is being poured in the traditional 20 oz. glasses. There is also a new lambic style on offer, brewed with a combination of apples and raspberries, which Zach is calling Frapple Lambic. Also, the H&H All-American Stout is now being offered in pints, rather than just goblets. Here's is a tap list, but this photo was taken before the Hefeweizen was added.

Since my last blog, we've had two big beer events here in Alaska. On Saturday, March 21st, the Alaska Crafted Festival took place in downtown Anchorage, and I attended it. The weather was fairly uncooperative, with light rain and gusty winds, but those who braved the elements had a wonderful time. The live music was great, the food on offer was excellent, and the beers, wines, mead, ciders, and spirits were superb. I hope there will be more such events in the future to continue to showcase the remarkable crafted beverages being produced in Alaska.

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This weekend just passed was the 24th Annual Alaska Craft Beer and Homebrew Festival in Haines. I wasn't able to attend this year, but I'm sure that it was the same great event that it always is, with the Brewers Dinner on Friday evening and the Festival itself on Saturday afternoon. I know tickets to both sold out well in advance and that there were 20 breweries in attendance from across Alaska, including Kodiak Island Brewing, plus Yukon Brewing and Winterlong Brewing from the Yukon Territory in Canada. Senator Lisa Murkowski attended the Brewers Dinner, which was produced by Chef Travis Kukull of Seattle for the fourth year. This is the oldest beer festival in Alaska and always a wonderful time.

 May is a big month for brewery anniversaries. Besides Midnight Sun Brewing's 21st Anniversary on May 5, Glacier BrewHouse celebrated its 20th on May 20th, and Kassik's Brewery opened on Memorial Day Weekend ten years ago. Winterlong Brewing of Whitehorse will mark its one year anniversary on Wednesday, June 4th. Winterlong will be celebrating by releasing its Spruce Tip Ale, a Belgian-style saison, as well as having prizes, giveaways, and treats.

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On the list of not-so-good news, it was announced on Friday, May 20, that SubZero Microlounge was closing, effective immediately. Apparently, the plan is to expand Flattop Pizza + Pool into the space that SubZero formerly occupied. Here's the statement from the owners:

"Although it was harrowing to announce that Sub Zero was closing last Saturday, we are excited to announce that the closure was for the summer expansion of Flattop Pizza + Pool. The expanded bar and restaurant space will now be open 7 days a week. Rest assured that we are incorporating many of the Sub Zero favorites, including our spectacular Kobe beef sliders, creative craft cocktails, and Belgian beer selections into Flattop’s expanded menu."
"We’d like to thank our friends, family, patrons and vendors for your tenacious support over the last ten plus years – and we thank our exceptional staff. We are so proud of the strides our team has made in recent years and the awesome amount of blood, sweat and tears they dedicated to Sub Zero. They worked hard to bring an incredible dining & beverage experience to each and every one of our guests. Sub Zero will live on in many features and menu items incorporated into the expansion of Flattop Pizza + Pool as well as its sister restaurant Williwaw. It is important to note that our valued Sub Zero bartenders, chefs, and servers are now part of our exceptional teams at Humpy’s, Flattop, and Williwaw."
"Sub Zero has been privileged to be a part of so many special life occasions - first dates, 21st birthdays, and wedding receptions; and to have played a part in nurturing the culinary & cocktail movement in the Anchorage food community. It’s our goal to continue this legacy by evolving our bars and restaurants to meet the expectations of our loyal local guests as well as visitors to our great city.
Stay tuned over the summer and fall for new and exciting changes to the corner of 6th & F!"

While I can see how SubZero might be a bit redundant, now that the Williwaw complex has opened, I will still miss it. I have some great memories of that bar, especially the Beer Dinners held there during Alaska Beer Week.  So long, old friend.

There's a new quarterly magazine coming out in June which should be of interest to the craft beer drinker in Alaska. Its called Edible Alaska, and will cover locally produced food and drink. Full disclosure, I will be doing some writing work for them. Here a shot of the cover of the first issue:

I mentioned that Kodiak Island Brewing was at the Haines Beer Fest last Saturday. If your summer travels should take you to The Rock, be sure to stop in and try its excellent beers. Here's a current tap list:

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Well, that about covers the recent beer news. I've got five beer reviews for this blog, two of which are of classic Trappist ales that I've had many times but never got around to formally reviewing. Let's start with those.

Rochefort 6 Trappist Ale: It poured a lovely dark copper color with a big, off-white head. The aroma featured the classic Belgian dubbel profile of dark fruit notes (plums and raisins) plus the spicy, phenolic contribution of a Belgian yeast. The mouthfeel was fairly light and the carbonation was good. On the palate, the dark fruit and yeast notes were repeated, though the overall impression was of a lighter beer than many other dubbels out there. One of the classic Trappist Ales. 7.5% ABV.

Rochefort 8 Trappist Ale: It poured a dark but still translucent ruby color with a large and persistent cream-colored head. Again, the nose was dark fruit and yeast notes. The mouthfeel was medium and noticeable fuller than that of the 6, while the carbonation was excellent. The flavor profile was also similar to the 6's, but fuller, richer, and more complex. The finish was nice and also noticeably longer than that of the 6. 9.2% ABV.

Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp 2016 Tropical IPA: It poured a clear gold color with a nice white head that left good lace on the glass. The aroma certainly lived up to the beer's name, being chock-full of tropical fruit notes. The mouthfeel was light and the carbonation was good. The initial bitterness was good but not excessive, followed by plenty of clean, fruity hop flavors. A nicely-made brew. If you like your IPAs tropical, this one delivers. 6.7% ABV, 55 IBUs.

Brouwerij Van Steenberge's Gulden Draak 9000 Quad: It poured a dark, clear copper color with a small, cream-colored head that dissipated to a collar. The nose was full of raisins and figs, plus the spicy notes of the Belgian yeast. Mouthfeel was fairly light for the style, with satisfactory carbonation. On the palate the beer was fairly dry, with more dark fruit notes, followed by some alcohol heat on the finish. A nice Belgian strong dark ale, drier than most but still rich and satisfying. 10.7 % ABV, 25 IBUs.

Seward Brewing's Lazy Otter Lager: I picked this up on May 7th and drank it 19 days later, but the beer was still in perfect shape, which is a testament to the effectiveness of the crowler that it was packaged in. It poured a very light gold color, clear with a white head. The aroma was of malt and some crisp hop notes. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. On the palate, the malt and hops were in balance, making for an extremely drinkable brew. The perfect beer to have outside on a sunny day or after mowing the lawn, plus one that would pair well with almost any sort of food. 5.6% ABV.

That's it for this time. I hope everyone gets out and enjoys the excellent weather we are having here in Alaska. Remember to be careful with fire; everything is tinder dry out there, so it won't take much to get a huge blaze started.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Seward Brewing Company and Grace Ridge Brewing Company

With the coming of spring here on the Peninsula, plants are budding and breweries are opening and reopening. In the reopening category, Seward Brewing Company opened its doors for the season on Thursday, May 5th. I managed to get over there on Saturday, May 7th, to check things out. Here are some photos, courtesy of my wife, Elaine.

On the exterior, there's now a nice sign, though the brewery was never very hard to spot.

Heading inside, the first obvious change is that the big screen TVs have been removed from the bar, something I wholeheartedly approve of. If sports are what you're looking for, go to a sports bar. Me, I'm here for the beer.

The crowler machine is up and running, so you can can a 32 oz. can of delicious beer filled to order, and expect it to keep for a nice, long time. This is my crowler of Lazy Otter Lager being filled.

I chatted with owner/brewer Erik Slater for a few minutes, but he was shorthanded in the kitchen and was helping out on the cooking line, so we couldn't talk long. There is a new menu, which you can find on the brewery's website. I had a Pretzel appetizer and Mac's Meat Sandwich; both were excellent. My only disappointment was that the Inked Out Stout wasn't quite ready to drink, so I had a Pinbone IPA instead. The stout was delayed by a leaking man way cover, but it's on tap now. I snapped a picture of my IPA.

Pinbone IPA
It had tons of citrusy, American hop flavor to it. So, if you find yourself in Seward this summer, you should definitely stop by and check out the Seward Brewing Company.

In the opening brewery category, Grace Ridge Brewing in Homer opened for business at noon on Thursday, May 12. I stopped by about 1 PM, and it looked like there was a steady stream of folks dropping in to check things out. Don Stead and his wife Sherry were behind the counter, serving three different beers:

  • Kayak Beach Blonde Ale                  4.6% ABV      21 IBUs
  • Sadie Peak IPA                                 5.8% ABV     55 IBUs
  • Oystercatcher Stout                          4.5% ABV     32 IBUs (draft only, no growlers)

I tried samples of all three and enjoyed them all. The Kayak Beach Blonde has a nice clean taste, with a bit of hops but nothing to scare away the average macro beer drinker. Sadie Peak IPA uses Centennial hops in the boil and Amarillo and Simcoe as dry hops. It has lots of great hop flavor, but is fairly well balanced and very drinkable. The Oystercatcher Stout was brewed specially to celebrate the Shorebird Festival, and the ingredients included 10 dozen raw oysters in the 3-barrel batch. To my palate, the oysters gave it a hint of briny, marine flavor, which along with the roasted flavors made a delicious combination. Hours for Grace Ridge Brewing are currently 4 to 8 PM on Thursday, and noon to 8 PM on Friday and Saturday. The rest of the week it is closed, so Don can have time to brew and to sail. Here are some photos of the new brewery, also taken by my wife Elaine:

Sherry Stead waiting on customers

There is also an art exhibit in the brewery

Don Stead and yours truly chatting in the front of the brewing area

Grace Ridge's brewhouse

The exterior of Grace Ridge Brewing in Homer
It's currently American Craft Beer Week, and lots of breweries across the state have held or are holding events to celebrate it; too many to list here, so check your local brewery's website or Facebook page to see what it might be doing. However, we are counting down to a big event to wrap up the week: the First Annual Alaska Crafted Festival this Saturday, May 21, in Anchorage. Lots more details on the event have been released. Most importantly, you can get a 10% discount on your tickets using the promo code "Crafted", so if you haven't bought tickets yet, now's a good time. Here's the schedule for the Performance Stage:

  • 5 to 5:40 PM : Nervis Rex preforms, representing Anchorage
  • 6  to 6:40 PM: Denali Cooks performs, representing the Mat-Su
  • 7 to 7:40 PM: Strummin Dog & Double G performs, representing Southeast
  • 8 to 8:40 PM: Young Fangs performs, representing the Interior
  • 9 to 9:40 PM: Blackwater Railroad Company performs, representing the Kenai Peninsula

On the Williwaw Stage, there will be presentations and demonstrations:

  • 5:30 PM Meet the Author: I will be giving a presentation on Gold Rush Era Brewing 
  • 6:00 PM The Art of the Beer Cocktail
  • 6:30 PM Alaska Crafted Cocktail Competition
  • 8:30 PM Demonstration: Chilkoot Coffee by SteamDot
  • 9:00 PM Beer Trivia Contest for prizes

There will be five food trucks and thirteen other vendors there selling food and other items. Plus all the breweries, wineries, distilleries, etc. giving samples of their products. Here's a graphic that shows who will be there and where they are located in the state:

Putting it all together, this is going to be one amazing event. I'll be there and I hope you will be as well.

Speaking of American Craft Beer Week, both HooDoo Brewing Company and 49th State Brewing are participating in its "Biggest Small Beer Ever Made Event", where craft breweries across the country will be brewing the same beer recipe, an imperial porter.  Here's a video about it:

I believe you will be able to sample the beer at the Alaska Crafted Festival, as well as at these breweries. Also as part of American Craft Beer Week, there will be a National Toast at 4 PM Alaska Time tomorrow, Thursday, 19 May. If you can, try to raise a glass with the rest of the craft beer lovers across America at that time.

Let's move on the some other beer news.

First up, Midnight Sun Brewing has announced that it will be releasing its Panty Peeler Tripel in cans, making it the fourth beer to join MSBC's canned offerings. The label has been approved by the feds and the brewery is just waiting on the cans to be made and delivered, so look for them to hit the shelves sometime mid-summer. MSBC has also released its Buzzwinkle Sour Wheat Ale, which I wrote about in my last blog.

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Alaskan Brewing Company has made a couple of major announcements. First, long-time Chief Operations Officer, Linda Thomas, has been named the new CEO, while the founders of the company, Geoff and Marcy Larson, are looking forward to dedicating more time towards building the pioneering legacy of Alaskan, focusing on innovation and the spirit of craft brewing. Second, Alaskan will begin distributing its beers across Ohio this summer. Ohio will be the 18th state to which Alaskan sends its beers, and also the easternmost one.

Starting May 31st, La Bodega will be holding a beer tasting event focused on a local brewery every other Tuesday at the beer garden at Jack Sprat Restaurant in Girdwood. First up, 49th State Brewing. Here's the ad for the events:

King Street Brewing Company just released a new seasonal brew yesterday: a Belgian Rye IPA.

Arkose Brewery is continuing its Small Batch on Nitro Series. Last Thursday, it was Black Cherry Porter.

It's Spruce Tip Time in Southeast. At Haines Brewing, the Captain Cook's Spruce Tip Ale is back on tap.

Photo courtesy of Haines Brewing

This Saturday, from 3 to 8 PM, it's the Spruce Tip Festival at Baranof Island Brewing Company in Sitka.

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Here on the Peninsula, St. Elias Brewing Company has a new beer on tap: Frapple Lambic. It's flavored with both apples and raspberries, then barrel-aged with brettanomyces. At Kenai River Brewing, they are in the throes over trying to plan and execute the move into the new brewery. All questions about opening dates are being referred to a Magic 8-Ball...

That's it for news, so let's move on to reviews.

I paid a visit to Costco recently, and while I was there I came across a 4-bottle variety pack from Sierra Nevada Brewing. It was called the High Altitude Series, and consisted of Dunkelweizen Bock, Six Rights  Double IPA, Chocolate Chili Stout, and Bourbon-barrel-aged Bigfoot Barley Wine. The bottles were bomber sized, and the whole pack was only $29.99, which I thought was a pretty good price, so I picked one up. I've reviewed the Barrel-Aged Bigfoot before, so I'm only going to do the other three today.

Sierra Nevada's Dunkelweizen Bock: It poured opaque with a small, cream-colored head. The aroma was of roasted malt and chocolate. The mouthfeel was good and so was the carbonation. The flavor profile was slightly sweet, with lots of rich, deep flavors of roasted malts, falling away to a long finish. It reminded me of a nice dessert, rich and satisfying. 7.2% ABV

Sierra Nevada's Six Rights IPA: It poured a clear copper color with a big, off-white head. The nose was all citrusy American hops, but with a slightly unusual element that reminded me of tangerines. The mouthfeel was light and the carbonation was excellent. The initial attack had good bitterness, but balanced with a robust malt backbone. Overall, a very nice beer, walking the line between a single and double IPA. 8% ABV

Sierra Nevada's Chocolate Chili Stout: I approached this brew with some trepidation, as I am typically not a fan of chili in beers. It poured opaque with a big tan head. The aroma was of dark chocolate and malted milk. Mouthfeel  and carbonation were both good. On the palate there were rich chocolate and roasted notes up front, then the slightest amount of chili heat on the finish. The chili was very understated, which is how I like it if it has to be there at all; your mileage may vary. 8.5% ABV

Black Market Brewing's Seek & Destroy Smoked Quad IPA: With a style like a that, it was hard to know what to expect for this beer. It poured a deep copper color with a big, off-white head that left good lace on the glass. The nose was smoke free, with only notes from the American hops. Mouthfeel was medium, and the carbonation was excellent. There was good bitterness up front, followed by mild smoke flavor. Surprisingly, I got no heat from the 12.7% ABV. There a lot going on in this beer, but I'm not really sure everyone's on the same page. Still, it was not a total train wreck, so if you are curious what a "smoked quad IPA" tastes like, give it a try.

That's it for this time. Next time round, I should have a report on how things went at the Alaska Crafted Festival. Enjoy the rest of American Craft Beer Week.

Until Next Time, Cheers!