Friday, August 22, 2014

Beer Camp & Beer Fest

Bit behind on the blogging (what else is new..), but I've got a lot of great beer stuff to write about since my last blog three weeks ago.

On Thursday, 7 August, I rolled up to Anchorage to help host the Beer Camps Across America event at Humpy's Alaskan Alehouse, sponsored by Sierra Nevada Brewing and their distributors here in Alaska, K & L Distributing. The event was a sell-out, with a hundred people paying $20 to sample all twelve of the beers in three flights of four 3 oz. samples. There was a pretty good turnout of beer writers as well.  Besides yours truly, Dr. Fermento and newcomer to Alaska Kristi Trimmer were also in attendance.

From L to R: me, Chris Heim of Sierra Nevada, Kristi Trimmer, Chris from Gold Rush Liquors, & Dr. Fermento. 
I included a graphic describing the beers in my last blog and they were uniformly excellent, but let me mention a couple of them that I thought were absolutely outstanding.

Torpedo Pilsner (5.2% ABV, 45 IBUs, brewed with Firestone Walker) - a pilsner infused with New Zealand hops using Sierra Nevada's hop torpedo technology, this brew was a clean, crisp masterpiece

Maillard's Odyssey Imperial Dark Ale (8.5% ABV, 40 IBUs, brewed with Bell's) - rich, dark, and chewy, this beer was everything you look for in a strong, dark ale.

Yvan the Great Belgian-style Blonde Ale (6.3% ABV, 50 IBUs, brewed with Russian River) - a delicious blend of brett and Belgian influences, plus plenty of hop goodness.  Doesn't fit in any conventional category, but who cares?

If you can still find any of these twelve beers, I strongly suggest you give them a try. My only regret is that they will not be offered in the future.

A couple of days later, on Saturday, August 9th, it was time for the 4th Annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival.  As in past years, the weather looked very iffy in the morning, but the clouds parted and the sun shown just in time for the start of the fest at 5 pm. This year's event was another sell out, with 1200 attending and about another hundred turned away at the gate, after it sold out.  We had even more breweries in attendance than in the past, including a couple from pretty far away:

49th State Brewing from Healy

HooDoo Brewing from Fairbanks

49th State Brewing took the People's Choice Award for Best Beer with their 12 Belgian Quadruple, which was an absolutely fantastic brew, while Kenai River Brewing took the People's Choice Award for Best Brewery. Besides the great beers and wines on offer, their were several food trucks and lots of great music.  It was easily the best Kenai Peninsula Beer Fest yet.

Photo courtesy of Kenai River Brewing

After the fest shutdown, Zach Henry of St. Elias Brewing hosted a private after party for all the attending brewers, at which I tapped the last cask of our collaboration beer, H & H Winter Warmer, which is now completely consumed.  However, we have decided to brew it again next month, for a December release, so you should get to drink it again this winter.

Tapping a cask of H&H Winter Warmer at the after party.

Besides the events above, there has been plenty of other beer news.  The Brew Dogs episode set in Alaska was broadcast on August 13th.  If you missed it, you can find it on HuluPlus or in reruns on the Esquire Network. The show was fun, though I was a bit disappointed that James and Martin never ventured any further into the state than the Juneau area.  At least they did send a film crew out to shoot some footage in Anchorage, Healy, and Fairbanks for their best breweries and best bars short segments. Here are their picks:

You may not agree with the exact rankings, but I think we can agree that they are all great beer bars and breweries and its good to see them get recognition

In other news, Baranof Island Brewing Company in Sitka has taken delivery of their first shipment of cans.  Here's the visual proof:

Photo courtesy of Baranof Island Brewing Co.
We should be seeing a lot more of their Silver Bay IPA soon, and that's a good thing!

Alaskan Brewing Company has moved their Pumpkin Porter from their Pilot Series to their first Seasonal release for fall. It will now be in 12 oz. bottles, rather than the 22 oz. bombers of the Pilot Series. For those of you who may have missed it last fall, Pumpkin Porter weighs in at 7% ABV, 25 IBUs, and over 11 pounds of pumpkins used per barrel.

Photo courtesy of Alaskan Brewing Company
Denai Brewing managed to get all the blueberries they needed, so you can expect to see a Blueberry Wheat Beer from them in the near future.  They have also announced the date of this year's Talkeetna Beer Fest: Saturday, September 20th, from 2 pm to 6 pm at the Don Sheldon Community Arts Hangar in beautiful downtown Talkeetna. Tickets are $50 per person and include a selection of cured meats, fine cheeses, and locally baked breads, besides beer from several of the state's finest breweries.  Tickets are available from the Denali Arts Council's website. This is a fest that I really want to attend, but fate keeps conspiring against it. In 2012 it was flooding, and last year I was of of state when it took place, and this year I will be out of state again. Next year for sure!

At Midnight Sun Brewing, they will be releasing their Das Boot Pale Ale next Thursday, August 28th, at 5 pm.  All the proceeds of this beer will go to the local firefighters' Fill The Boot campaign for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. They will also be selling a limited number of 36 oz. glass boots at the release party in The Loft.  It's a great cause, so if you'll be in Anchorage, stop by and help fill the boot by emptying a glass...

Construction on the new home for Anchorage Brewing Company seems to be proceeding rapidly.  The only real snag they have hit was Gabe Fletcher's busting his right index finger up pretty badly trying to club a halibut. In spite of that mishap, the erection of the metal skeleton was complete on August 11th. Can't wait to see the finished product.

Photo courtesy of Anchorage Brewing Company

Here on the Peninsula, Seward Brewing Company has been getting some rave reviews for their food and beer.  I haven't made it back there since my last visit in June, but I got to have some more of their beer at the Kenai Fest, and it was excellent. I definitely need to make time to try their food again before they close for the winter.

OK, let's do some beer reviews.

Sleeping Lady Brewing Company's Tiny IPA: I had a pint of this with my supper at the Snow Goose before I walked over to the Humpy's Beer Camp Event on August 7th. It was a clear light gold in color with a persistent white head that left good lacing on the glass. The nose was full of nice, citrusy American hop aroma, and their was a pleasantly bitter attack, followed by nice, clean hop flavor.  The kicker is this is a low ABV beer, about 3.5% ABV, give or take, but it's packed with great flavor.  One of the best session beers I've had this year. At tip o' my hat to Greg & Karl; nice job, gentlemen.

Oskar Blue's Old Chub Nitro Scotch Ale: This is a beer I've wanted to try ever since I heard it was being released. I finally managed to score some at The Brown Jug at 9200 Old Seward.  Manager Roy Chapel is doing an outstanding job on the beer selections there and anyone who likes good beer and finds themselves in Anchorage should definitely check it out. Back to the beer: it poured a very dark ruby with the super creamy head that you expect from beers on nitro. All the classic flavors of a great Scotch Ale are there, plus the outstanding mouthfeel from the nitro. This beer was already one of my all-time favorites (see my review on 3/31/2009), but having it on nitro just make sit that much better.  If you're a Scotch Ale lover like me, be sure to try this one out!

Midnight Sun Brewing's Cache Biere de Garde: The latest beer in the Alaskana series, this brew is aged in oak barrels. At 8.2% ABV and 20 IBUs, this beer is all about the malt and the oak. It poured a dark, semi-translucent honey color, with a nice cream-colored head. There was some oaky notes discernible in the nose. The carbonation was good. The initial impression is malt, then strong oaky notes that persist through the finish.  The beer is oaked to such a degree that it almost becomes astringent as you continue drinking it. This beer truly showcases the impact of oak aging.

Well, that's it for this blog.  Get out and enjoy the last few weeks of summer while you can.  The days are getting shorter and it will be fall before you know it.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Festive Time of the Year

As usual for Alaska, the summer is flying by. Hard to believe it's August already. At least that means dipnetting is finished for the year; the hordes can return to Los Anchorage and leave us hicks down here on the Kenai to rusticate in peace...

The good news about it being August is that we are now in the heart of the beer festival season in Alaska. First off, 49th State's Augtoberfest starts today in Healy. I have yet to attend this fest (next year, for sure!), but everything I've seen and hear tells me it's a fantastic time.

The brewery is offering special Bavarian-style food for the fest: Roasted Duck (duck braised in apple juice, fresh apples and white wine served with dumplings and red cabbage), Smoked Pork Chop (served with Bavarian sauerkraut, German potato salad, house-made dumplings and stone ground mustard), Smoked Trout Skewers (an Alaskan twist of the traditional "Bismarkhering", this is trout marinated in brine with blackening and pickling spices, then smoked on a stick), and Baked King Salmon (Alaskan King Salmon baked with German mustard and carmelized onions, then served with spaetzle).

For beers, besides their numerous regular offerings, look for Augtoberfest (their take on the traditional Oktoberfest brew, a 5.6% ABV, 26 IBU malt forward lager), Bulliner Weisse (in the style of a Berliner Weisse, this tart and refreshing wheat beer comes in at 3.7% ABV, 5 IBUs), Grizzly Bear (a classic Munich Dark Lager, 5.4% ABV, 26 IBUs), and Hibernator (a 7.9% ABV, 20 IBU doppelbock).  Toss in some great music and you've got the recipe for a fantastic time.

As I said, I won't make it to this year's fest, but look for me there next year for sure!

An event I will be attending will be the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Across America Event at Humpy's Alaskan Alehouse on Thursday, August 7th. For those of you who haven't heard about Beer Camp Across America, Sierra Nevada has been celebrating the opening of their new brewery in North Carolina by brewing collaboration beers with some of the best craft breweries in the US. Those beers have now been released in bottles and at various events across the country. Next Thursday's event is your chance to sample them all in one place.  What are the brews you ask?  Here's the list:

Yvan the Great – Belgian-Style Blonde (Russian River)
Canfusion Rye Bock (Oskar Blues)
Myron’s Walk – Belgian Style Pale Ale (Allagash Brewing)
Alt Route – Altbier (Victory Brewing)
Electric Ray – India Pale Lager (Ballast Point)
Chico King Pale Ale (3 Floyds)
Torpedo Pilsner (Firestone Walker)
Yonder Bock – Tropical Maibock (Cigar City Brewing)
Double Latte – Coffee Milk Stout (Ninkasi Brewing)
There and Back – English Style Bitter (New Glarus Brewing)
Maillard’s Odyssey – Imperial Dark Ale (Bell’s Brewery)
Tater Ridge – Scottish Ale (Asheville Brewer’s Alliance)

Click to enlarge

The event at Humpy's kicks off at 7 PM. There will be a tap takeover of sorts along with special pours of all the beers. The cost is $20 per person, first come, first serve, and will feature 3 oz. pours of each beer, served in three flights of four beer each. Leading the discussion of the brews as joint Masters of Ceremony will be Jim "Dr. Fermento" Roberts and yours truly. So if you'd like to sit down and sample all of these exceptional brews at once, this is your chance.

Click to enlarge

Down here on the Kenai. the 4th Annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival is happening next Saturday, August 9th, from 5 to 10 pm, at the Soldotna Sports Center. I've been writing about this for several of my last blogs, so this should come as no surprise, but there are a couple of new pieces of news. First off, HooDoo Brewing from Fairbanks has confirmed they will be attending, bringing the total number of breweries represented to nineteen! HooDoo's excellent brews seldom make it out of Fairbanks, so if you want to sample them here on the Peninsula, don't miss your chance. Also, all five of the breweries on the Peninsula (our three locals plus Homer Brewing and Seward Brewing Company) will be on offer.  This is the first time all of them have been at the same festival together.

The Fest is also looking for folks with a TAMS card to help pour beers for some of the out-of-town breweries. If you are qualified and interested, I think this is your chance to get in for free! Send a message via the festival's Facebook page (click here) if you are interested. If you are going to have to pay full freight, tickets are on sale for $30 each at St. Elias Brewing, Kenai River Brewing, and Kassik's Brewery.  Or you can buy them online via the Festival's website.

In other beer news, I received the following press release from Darcy Kniefel at Midnight Sun Brewing Company:

Midnight Sun Brewing Company, MDA of Alaska and the Firefighters are teaming up to FILL THE BOOT! On August 17th the brewery will be invaded by Firefighters who will assist in brewing the first ever batch of DAS BOOT. The beer is being designed by Midnight Sun Brewer Davey Cacey, and will be a "sessionable" pale ale. At least as sessionable as we can get. The beer will be released on Thursday, August 28th, the day before the Anchorage Fire Fighters do their annual Fill the Boot Fundraiser for MDA.

To celebrate the release, The Loft at Midnight Sun Brewing Company will have, for the first time ever, traditional German Beer Boots for purchase. The boots will be a "one and done", weighing in at 36ounces of foamy love and will travel home with their purchasers, once they have been drained. There will be a very limited supply of the boots, so if you would like to be a part of this, come early! A portion of the proceeds from the boots as well as from the beer sales will go to MDA to support their efforts in finding a cure for muscular dystrophy.

As the release party also falls on a Thursday night, which is Tour Night at Midnight Sun, we will have our traditional FREE Brewery tour starting at 6:00 and we will include a tour of a fire truck which will be on sight for the night. The Firefighters will be at The Loft all night from 5-8pm to kick off the Fill the Boot extravaganza and there will be a chance for you to help fill the first boot.

Darcy also tells me that MSBC will be doing a second release of their outstanding Berserker Imperial Stout! They'll be bottling next week, with the beer hitting shelves the week after. Darcy says that this is the start of what they hope will be a new tradition of two releases of Berserker each year. Now that's what I call good news...

In other good news, it looks like the construction of Anchorage Brewing Company's new facility on King Street is proceeding on schedule.  They've posted several pictures of the construction on their Facebook page.

Denali Brewing Company in Talkeetna needs blueberries and they'll pay good money for them!  Here's the poster for that:

Glacier BrewHouse has two new beers on tap.  The first is a Strawberry Cream Ale.  Here's how they describe it:

Light, unfiltered, and refreshing with aromas of strawberry. Milk sugar (lactose) was added to render the ultra-creamy body. Infused with real strawberries! Nitrogenated.
Alcohol: 5.66% alcohol by volume. Starting Gravity: 13.70 Plato (1.056 S.G.)

Photo courtesy of Glacier BrewHouse

The second is a Saison.

French style Saison with fruity and spicy flavors supported by a soft malt character and slight tartness. Made with special French Saison yeast, zest of lemon peel, and a touch of honey. Definitely a smooth operator. Alcohol: 6.38% by volume. Starting Gravity: 14.00 Plato (1.057 S.G.).
Photo courtesy of Glacier BrewHouse

King Street beers are now available in the Fred Meyer stores in Anchorage and Eagle River.  Hey, guys, how about some love for the Peninsula!

Photo courtesy of King Street Brewing

Let's move on to some beer reviews.

St. Elias Brewing Company's Savage XPA: Another in Zach Henry's series of hoppy session ales, in the vein of his Insidious XPA (see my review 2/28/2014). This beer poured a crystal clear gold with big white head; very pretty in the glass. Besides the typical hoppy notes in the nose, I thought I was picking up some tropical fruit notes, leading me to think thank Zach had used some Galaxy hops, which he later confirmed. Carbonation was good, and there was a nice clean bitterness up front, then more tropical fruit/mango notes, before falling away to a nice finish. A great, easy-drinking brew, just what you want in a session ale.

Founders Brewing Company's All Day IPA Session Ale: Sticking with the theme of session ales, I got to try this one, thanks to the generosity of a colleague, who had her parents hand carry some up from Michigan for me. It also poured a clear gold with a nice white head. The aroma was classic American hops, very citrusy and fresh. The carbonation was good, was the mouthfeel. Initially there was a crisp, clean but not overwhelming bitterness, then lots of hop flavor before dropping down to a nice clean finish. At 4.7% ABV and 42 IBUs, this is indeed an excellent session beer.

Deschutes Brewing's Foray Belgian-style IPA: This is another of the oxymorons that craft brewers seem to love today, like black IPAs. Technically, there's no such thing as a Belgian IPA, since Belgian brewers don't brew IPAs. However, it's come to mean an IPA that uses a Belgian yeast to impart some of the characteristic peppery, spicy notes that such yeasts are known for. So this beer is Deschutes' entry in this new style, which I bought at our local Fred Meyer. Foray poured a clear light gold with a big white head. I picked up plenty of citrusy hop notes in the aroma, but none of the earthy, spicy notes I look for in a Belgian beer. Carbonation was excellent, and the beer had a nice mouthfeel. On the palate there was plenty of nice, bitterness, followed by lots of great hop flavor, but I tired in vain to pick up anything that I could identify as Belgian yeast notes. Frankly, it just tasted like a good American IPA to me. 6.4% ABV.

Well, that's it for this week.  If you're going to be at either the Humpy's Beer Camp Event or at the Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival, be sure to look me up and say hi.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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:

Click to enlarge
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!