Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Alaska Brewers Rule!

Hello again out there in the blogosphere! Got lots of great beer news to report this week. First up, AK Beer Week was another smashing success. Each year we seem to have more and better events, and 2015 was no exception. I'm already looking forward to 2016, especially since I couldn't make it up to Anchorage for all the fun last week...

Part of each year's Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival, the anchor event for AK Beer Week, is the Barley Wine Competition. This year a panel of judges conducted blind-tastings of barley wines submitted by 31 different breweries. In the last few years, entries from within our state have not fared terribly well, with breweries from the Lower 48 taking home most of the trophies. But not this year! The Silver Medal went to Midnight Sun Brewing Company's Termination Dust Belgian-style Barley Wine, while St. Elias Brewing's Moose Juice Barley Wine took home the Gold! Senator Lisa Murkowski was even on hand to present the trophies to the winners. Third place went to Lagunitas Brewing's Old Gnarleywine, while Fremont Brewing from WA state won for Best Winter Seasonal with its Bourbon Abominable, a barrel-aged Winter Warmer.

Midnight Sun takes home second place. Photo courtesy of MSBC.

Zach Henry and his sister Jessie Kolesar receive their trophy. Photo courtesy of Senator Murkowski.
Congratulations to winning brewers Lee Ellis of Midnight Sun and Zach Henry of St. Elias. Great job, guys!

In other news, Alaskan Brewing Company has published its beer release schedule for 2015, in a very handy graphic.  Take a look:

Click to enlarge

Looks like we are going to have a new year-round beer, Alaskan's Imperial Red, formerly part of the Pilot Series, and three new Pilot Series beers, an Imperial Rye IPA in the spring, an Imperial IPA in the summer, and a Coffee Brown Ale in the fall/winter. The canned Amber and Freeride available dates refer to the Lower 48, I presume, since we Alaskans have had them for quite some time. The one thing I don't see on this graph is Alaskan's Barley Wine. Not sure if that means we won't see any in 2015, or if it just didn't make the graphic. Hopefully the latter...

Given how busy everyone has been for AK Beer Week, there isn't a lot going on amongst the breweries this week, but Arkose Brewery has announced a Valentine's Beer Meets Chocolate Event for February 13th. Four hand-crafted artisanal chocolates from JB Chocolatier are paired with Arkose's artisanal ales. $25 per person. You must reserve in advance at 907-746-2337.

Click to enlarge

Also coming up soon is the Frozen River Fest, as I mentioned in last week's blog. It looks like there will be one more brewery attending, as King Street Brewing Company has decided to throw its hat into the ring as well. By next week I should have the details on the Brewers Dinner being held on Friday, Feb 6th, at Mykel's Restaurant in Soldotna, so stay tuned for that. For now, check out these neat commemorative pint glasses which are now on sale at various beer bars around the central Kenai Peninsula.

Front of glass

Back of glass

That's it for news, so let's do some more reviews:

Epic Brewing's Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout: Brewed with coffee and cocoa nibs and aged in whiskey barrels, this is one formidable brew! It poured opaque with a small tan head that dissipated to a collar. The aroma reminded me of a black, sweet cup of coffee. Carbonation was good and there was plenty of mouthfeel, as the beer coated my tongue with a thick, rich sensation. The flavors of the coffee and cocoa blended nicely with the roasted malt, and there was a touch of alcohol heat from the 11.7% ABV. A delicious imperial stout, well-worth seeking out. Unfortunately, I got this bottle down in Seattle and haven't seen it for sale anywhere in Alaska.

Cigar City Brewing's Invasion Pale Ale: I received a can of this beer courtesy of Doug Hogue, who muled it all the way back from Florida, where he and his family were vacationing. I'd had some of Cigar City's brews at the GABF in Denver in 2010, and found them to be uniformly excellent. This is another great brewery whose beers we just don't get here in Alaska. This beer poured a cloudy orange-gold in color with a nice off-white head. The aroma had plenty of nice, citrusy American hops. Carbonation was good and the flavor profile was full of good, clean hop flavor, but without the bitterness of an IPA. A good American Pale Ale, spot on for the style.

Denali Brewing's Milepost #3 Belgian-style Dark Ale: This is one I've been wanting to try since I heard it had been released. Both previous entries in Denali's Flag Stop series were excellent, so I was expecting the same from this beer, and it did not disappoint. It poured opaque with a big mocha-colored head that left excellent lacing on the glass. The nose had tons of dark fruit notes - raisins, plums, cherries - plus oak and wine notes from its aging in Cabernet barrels. Carbonation and mouthfeel were both good. The flavor profile was right in the wheelhouse for a classic Belgian quadruple, like Rochefort 10 or St. Bernardus Abt. Loads of dark fruit notes, hints of tobacco, spices, and brown sugar. Very rich and warming, despite only being 6.9% ABV. Another excellent beer from Sassan Mossanen and the boys up in Talkeetna.

Finally, you may have noticed a bit of a change to the layout of this blog. Specifically, at the top of the right-hand sidebar, there is now a button that says Feed The Writer. Over the years, I have deliberately refrained from selling ad space on this blog, as I wanted it to be a place where readers could focus on beer, without being bombarded by the latest pop-up ad for whatever Google thought they might buy, based on its analysis of their search history. Still, while the blog may be a labor of love on my part, a man's gotta eat. Or buy beer, at least. Hence the new button.

If you've enjoyed this blog and found it to be worthwhile, and you are financially able to do so, I'd like to humbly suggest you consider kicking a couple of bucks my way. You can click on the button, and it will take you to a page where you can send me $2, $5, or $10 via Paypal. You can even do so anonymously, if you so choose. Or you could click on one of the links lower down on the page and buy one or both of my books. Cost you a bit more, but you'd get something tangible in return, along with the satisfaction of helping me support my beer-writing habit.

Regardless, I hope to see you here again next week, when there will be more beer news and reviews and perhaps even a sneak peak at the cover of my upcoming book from The History Press, Alaska Beer: Liquid Gold in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Return of the Blog: Alaska Beer Week 2015

So back on December 9, I said this blog was going on hiatus for a month. It's the middle of January, so it's time to get back in the saddle. In case you are keeping score at home, I did indeed get the manuscript for Alaska Beer: Liquid Gold in the Land of the Midnight Sun finished and shipped off to my publisher, The History Press, all 40,900 words of it. The book is currently scheduled to hit store shelves on May 11th. I will of course post more details when it gets closer to that date, including where you can pick up a copy, should you be so inclined.

Meanwhile, Alaska continues to be the land that winter forgot, with next to no snow on the ground and temperatures well above normal. The Tustumena 200 has been postponed in the hope that we might eventually get enough snow around here to run the race, but I wouldn't bet on it. The Frozen River Fest is still going to happen as scheduled on Saturday, February 7th, from 3 to 6 PM in Soldotna Creek Park, even if the Kenai River isn't frozen. There should be ten breweries, wineries, and meaderies offering their wares.  Here's the list:

  • Kenai River Brewing
  • St. Elias Brewing
  • Homer Brewing
  • Midnight Sun Brewing
  • Denali Brewing
  • Broken Tooth Brewing
  • Arkose Brewery
  • Baranof Island Brewing
  • Celestial Meads
  • Bear Creek Winery
Plus Specialty Imports will be pouring beers as well. It's $10 general admission (kids 12 and under get in free). An additional $5 gets you the commemorative 16 oz. mug and wristband, allowing you to drink alcohol, and tokens for 4 oz. of beer/wine/mead are  $2 each. Buy as many or as few as you want. There will be free coffee on offer, along with hot chocolate and food vendors. There will also be live music and other activities.

Kenai River Brewing and St. Elias Brewing have each produced a special brew for the Fest, a doppelbock. Look for it to be on tap at each location in the week leading up to the Fest, as well as at the event itself. There will also be a Beer Dinner the Friday night before the Fest at Mykel's Restaurant, featuring beers from all the out-of-town brewers. More details on the dinner - time, cost, menu - soon.

Right now, pretty much all the brewers from across the state are either in Anchorage or on their way there for Alaska Beer Week. In the past, I've tried to post the events, but the sheer number of them has gotten so large that I can't really keep up, and that's a good thing. If you'll be in Anchorage anytime between now and Sunday, you should definitely check out the list of events on the Alaska Beer Week website, Barb Miller of Midnight Sun Brewing Company does a stellar job compiling all the many events on offer, so take advantage of her hard work and check out the events page. There are also events and beer releases at other breweries across the state.

During my hiatus, I spent two weeks down in Seattle, celebrating Christmas with my daughter, son-in-law, and grandson. While beer was certainly not the focus of the trip, you can't go to a beer town like Seattle and not have a few! Besides beers picked up in stores, I did stop at one brewery/brewpub: Big E Ales at 5030 208th Street Southwest, in Lynnwood, WA.

The food there was excellent, and I tried two of its beers: 12 1/2 Man IPA and Scotch Ale. The IPA weighed in at 6.5% ABV and a serious 98.4 IBUs, though it did not taste overly bitter. It was brewed with Centennial, Columbus, Cascade & Chinook hops for flavor and dry hopped using Citra hops. I liked the Scotch Ale even more than the IPA. It was 7.2% with some great flavors from the caramelization produced by long boil. Looked nice in the glass, too:

Big E Ales' Scotch Ale

I picked up a couple of other interesting brews while down in the Seattle area. The first of  these was Hair of the Dog Brewing Company's Doggie Claws Barley Wine. Hair of the Dog is one of the many great craft breweries whose brews simply aren't sent to Alaska, so I seldom get to sample any of them. Unfortunately, I think the bottle I picked up hadn't been treated as well as it should or else had some other problem.It poured a very dark honey color with zero carbonation. The nose was nothing but malt, despite the beer having 70 IBUs and being described as being made "in the West Coast style", which implies to me that it should be a hoppy American Barley Wine, a la Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot. On the palate, there was some alcohol heat from the 11.5% ABV, but nothing to balance the overwhelming malt sweetness. As I said, the brewery has a great reputation, so I'm going to assume I just got a bad bottle, until proved otherwise.

No head on this one...

I also had a bottle of Pelican Pub & Brewery's Mother of All Storms (2014). This is the bourbon-barrel-aged version of the brewery's Stormwatcher's Winterfest Barley Wine. It poured opaque with a very small tan head that dissipated to a collar. Carbonation was on the low side, but the mouthfeel was very thick and rich. The nose had lots of roasty flavors, along with the malt and bourbon notes you would expect. I liked the beer very much, but found it to be very odd for one that claims to be an English-style barley wine; it reminded me much more of a Russian Imperial Stout. However, if you can get past that dissonance, it's excellent.

I'll have some more beer reviews from this trip in upcoming blogs.

There have been a lot of new releases in the last month from breweries here in the state; too many to recapitulate here. I have tried to keep up to date on my Beer on the Last Frontier Facebook page, so if you are curious, check them out here.

I did get a chance to sample one recent new release on Monday, when I stopped by The Loft at Midnight Sun Brewing Company for lunch and had a glass of the brewery's new Sloper Baltic Porter. This 9% ABV brew had lots of clean flavors and a good mouthfeel, and was delicious alongside my Ancho Beef Dip Sandwich.  I give MSBC high marks for this one. The brewery will also be releasing a salted caramel porter soon, but no name for that one yet.

MSBC's Sloper Baltic Porter

Midnight Sun also announced another new release today: Suicide Run Flemish Sour Red Ale. This brew has been aged in Malbec barrels with both brettanomyces and lactobacillus. Sound plenty funky.

Photo courtesy of MSBC

Here on the Peninsula, Doug Hogue of Kenai River Brewing has released another batch of his Skilak Wee Heavy Ale, an amped up version of his flagship Skilak Scottish. It's unfortunate that he brews this beer so rarely, as I think it is among the best he makes, right up there with his Winter Warlock Old Ale. You can read my review of a previous release of this beer in my 2/9/2009 blog, and this batch is very similar and quite excellent. Here's a photo of the latest release.

Kenai River's Skilak Wee Heavy Scotch Ale

Kassik's Brewery will be pouring its new Statny Statny Stout at the GABBF in Anchorage this weekend and releasing it in bottles soon. It's brewed with licorice and molasses.  Here's the label:

At St. Elias Brewing Company, there was a Snow Cap Lager on tap last month, but it has been replaced with a White Cap Lager. Still on tap at last report was the Baltic Porter, aged in bourbon barrels and Jaques Trappe Brune, a Belgian-style brown ale. I had some of this beer last month, just before heading to Seattle, so here's my review: It poured a cloudy brown with a decent off-white head. The aroma had notes of raisins, plums, cherries, and spices. Carbonation was good, as was mouthfeel. On the palate the dark fruits were still there, along with some hints of candi sugar and spicy yeast notes, falling away to a respectable finish. A very enjoyable interpretation of a classic Belgian style.

Well, that's about it for this week.  It's good to be back in the saddle again here at Drinking on the Last Frontier, and my New Year's Resolution is to be better at getting this blog out weekly in 2015, so wish me luck. Hopefully, you will get a chance to enjoy Alaska Beer Week and the Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival in all their glory. Just remeber to stay hydrated and be sure you've got a way home that doesn't involved getting behind the wheel yourself.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

News, Cellar Reviews, and a Hiatus (Addendum)

Happens every time: I no sooner get a blog out than another piece of news comes in that really should be included. Plus, I somehow totally forgot to mention the winners of the NorthWest Brewing News' Reader Choice Poll [Insert forehead slap here].

First off, Baranof Island Brewing in Sitka just released a new beer. Also, when I was in Anchorage last week, I saw six-packs of their Silver Bay IPA in cans at La Bodega.  Here's how they describe their new brew:

Baranof Island Brewing is proud to announce the return of MC's Black IPA. This dark, hoppy and slightly sweet ale is 6.65%ABV with 60 IBU's. This is a seasonal winter ale that is a holiday favorite in Sitka.

This dark ale has a coffee-chocolate aroma. “It is the perfect balance of dark malt along with Nugget and Zeus hops, to give it a bitter mouth feel with a dry clean finish that makes you want to take another sip” says Head Brewer Mike DesRosiers. This ale is only available for a limited time in Sitka, so swing by Alaska's favorite brewery and grab yourself a glass.

Photo courtesy of Baranof Island Brewing Company.

Second, here are the winners of this year's Reader Choice Poll. Congratulations to you all.

Best Beer Store-
Alaska La Bodega, Anchorage
BC Brewery Creek, Vancouver
NorCal The Good Hop -Oakland
Washington Special Brews, Lynnwood
Oregon Belmont Station, Portland

Best Brewery-
Alaska Alaskan, Juneau
BC Central City, Surrey
NorCal Russian River, Santa Rosa
Oregon Deschutes, Bend
Washington Elysian, Seattle

Best Nano Brewery-
Alaska  Baranof Island, Sitka
BC Powell Street Craft Brewery, Vancouver
NorCal Humboldt Regeneration, McKinleyville
Oregon Three Mugs, Hillsboro
Washington Foggy Noggin, Bothell

Best Brewpub-
Alaska Glacier Brewhouse, Anchorage
BC Steamworks Brewing, Vancouver
NorCal Six Rivers Brewery, McKinleyville
Oregon Ecliptic Brewing, Portland
Washington Maritime Pacific, Ballard

Best Homebrew-
Alaska Arctic Brewing Supply, Anchorage
BC- Dan’s Homebrew Supply, Vancouver
NorCal Humboldt Beer Works, Eureka
Oregon Brew Brothers, Hillsboro
Wash Mountain Homebrew, Kirkland

Best Pub-
Alaska Humpy’s, Anchorage
BC Alibi Room, Vancouver
NorCal Toronado, San Francisco
OR Horse Brass Pub, Portland
Wash Beveridge Place Pub, West Seattle

Best Bartender-
Alaska- Larry Lowrey - Lavell's Bistro,Fairbanks
BC Nigel Springthorpe Brassneck Brewery,Vancouver
Norcal- Tals Nachson- Six Rivers Brewing, McKinleyville
Oregon- Finnegan Jennings 3 Mugs Brewing, Hillsboro
Washington- Matt Bonney- Toronado, Seattle

Best Beer-Amber Lager (Märzen, Oktoberfest, Vienna, etc.),
       Chuckanut - Oktobersfest

Best Beer-Barleywine
       Thor’s Hammer, Central City

Best Beer-Barrel-aged Beers
       The Abyss

Best Beer-Belgian-Style Ale
       Sound Monk’s Indescretion

Best Beer-Bock/Doppelbock/Dark Lager
       Occidental Maibock

Best Beer-Brown Ale/Amber Lager
       Foggy Noggin Butch's Brew

Best Beer-Cascadian Dark Ale/BIPA
       HUB Secession

Best Beer-Cream Ale/Kölsch Style Ale
       Foggy Noggin Cream Ale

Best Beer-Fresh Hop Ales
       Snipes Mountain The Nooch

Best Beer-Fruit or Herb or Spice
       Foggy Noggin - Cranberry Frost

Best Beer-Imperial IPA
       Central City Red Racer Imperial IPA

Best Beer-Imperial Stout
          North Coast Brewing Old Rasputin Russian Imperial

Best Beer-IPA
       Barley Brown's Pallet Jack

Best Beer-Organic
       Fish Tale Organic IPA

Best Beer-Pale Ale
       Foggy Noggin - Diablo del Sol

Best Beer-Pilsner
       Chuckanut Pilsner

Best Beer-Porter
       Deschutes Black Butte

Best Beer-Red Ale/Amber Ale
       Central City Red Racer India Style Red Ale

Best Beer-Scotch Ale/Strong Ale
       Boundary Bay Scotch Ale  (Foggy Noggin Kastrated Dog won)

Best Beer-Sour Beer
       Breakside Passion Fruit Sour Berlinerweiß

Best Beer-Stout
       Elysian Dragonstooth

Best Beer-Wheat Beer
       Three Mugs- Mein Schatz Hefeweizen

Best Cider

We now return you to your previously scheduled blog hiatus...

Until next Time, Cheers!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

News, Cellar Reviews, and a Hiatus

Hello again from Alaska, the land that winter forgot. We finally got a couple of inches of snow on the ground, but here it is almost mid-December and we are still having days with temperatures above freezing. Not that I'm complaining about not having to blow snow every other day or keep the wood stove blazing; it just seems a bit strange. It's like we're all waiting for the other shoe to drop, when the weather gets truly terrible...

Anyway, while we wait, there's plenty of doings in the local beer world. Under "Coming Attractions," Bleeding Heart Brewery in Palmer had a very successful Kickstarter campaign, closing on November 22. 155 backers pledged $21,701, almost triple their goal of $7,500. Look for them to be open by June of 2015.

Meanwhile, Resolution Brewing in the Mountain View neighborhood of Anchorage just took deliver of the shipping container full of all their brewing equipment, grain and growlers on Monday, December 8th. They will be working to get the equipment installed and complete final inspections ASAP. No opening date set yet, but I'd expect it to be sometime in the next several weeks. Meanwhile, Resolution's cool stainless keg-style growlers will be going on sale for Christmas.
Photo courtesy of Resolution Brewing
While the new kids on the block work to open for business, one of the established breweries is pushing hard to get its new facilities finished. On Friday, December 5th, I was able to stop by Anchorage Brewing Company's new facility, still under construction. As you can see from the photos below, when it is finished, it's going to be a magnificent structure. The photos are courtesy of Elaine Howell.

Karl Morgan, Owner Gabe Fletcher and I standing in what will be the Foudre Room.

Gabe and I in the future Tasting Room at the front of the building. Note the reclaimed wood walls.

Looking from the Tasting Room into the Foudre Room. The brewhouse will be against the back wall.

Once completed, patrons will be able to sit in the Tasting Room and gaze at the ten huge wooden tanks in two columns of five, flanking the brewhouse, which will be positioned against the back wall, the top portion of which is reclaimed wood. The room on the left behind the brewhouse will house grain storage and bottle conditioning, while the one on the right has enough space for about 800 barrels. In addition, Gabe has announced that his sister Heather has returned to Alaska and will be running the Tasting Room.

New employee Heather. Photo courtesy of Anchorage Brewing Co.

Gabe reports that his brewhouse is due to arrive in Anchorage on December 22, and he hopes to have it installed and tested by late January. If all goes well, we might see an opening not too long after that, so keep your ear to the ground.

At Silver Gulch Brewing and Bottling in Fox, there are a couple of holiday fruit ales on tap.  Here's how they describe them:

Two different Holiday Ales using our German Pilsner imbued with Belgian Abbey Yeast and finished with Apricot and Blueberry Purees.The light golden hue comes from the use of Plzen malt and offers an effervescence that starts and finishes crisp and clean. Both are distinctly fruity and spicy. The yeast lends a note of clove and in combination with the malt, hints of plum and apricot on the first and slightly citrus and blueberry on the second. The malt itself provides a warm honey quality up front, a round fullness in the middle, and the hops, together with our pure brewing water, lend a clean, dry finish. 5.6% ABV 30 IBU's
On Saturday, December 6th, HooDoo Brewing tapped a firkin of casked American IPA, dry hopped with whole cone Centennial Hops.

Denali Brewing has released Milepost #3 in its Flag Stop series, a Belgian Dark Ale aged in J Lohr cabernet barrels and bottle conditioned with champagne yeast. It's available only at Denali Brewpub in Talkeetna.

Photo courtesy of Denali Brewing

At Arkose Brewery in Palmer, this Friday marks the released on its Olde Colony Winter Ale, as part of the Colony Christmas Celebration

Saturday, December 13th will also be Arkose's last Beer Meets Canvas Event of 2014.

Click to enlarge

At Midnight Sun Brewing Company in Anchorage, there is a new brew on tap. To celebrate the 81st Anniversary of the end of Prohibition, it has released Un-Prohibited Pilsner, 5.9% ABV and 30 IBUs. It is made using only Mosaic hops. It will only be on draft, so look for it at The Loft and at other fine beer bars around the state. Also available is Francoisk, a 6.5% ABV, 18 IBU dark wheat ale brewed for last month's Bodega-Fest and Yo Ho Ho Gold, a 5% ABV, 30 IBU kolsch-style ale brewed for the Pirate Pub Crawl.

King Street Brewing has brewed another batch of its German Bock, first released last January, and it's back on tap for the holidays.  Here's how they describe it:

King Street’s Bock is a dark, malty lager brewed in the German tradition, with European malt and hops to enhance rich and complex grain and caramel flavors.  Our interpretation has an almost plum or grape like flavor with a whisper of chocolate that is so deep that one might think it a Dooplebock (Double bock).  However, like our previous bigger winter releases, this lager beer is oh so easy to enjoy more than one glass of.  The Bock will go equally nice with savory meats and cranberry sauce!

At the Snow Goose's First Firkin Friday last week, the special was a firkin of Fish On! IPA, dry-hopped with Simcoe and Amarillo.

Tonight at Glacier BrewHouse is the Winter Warmer Dinner. Tickets are $80 all-inclusive. I don't know if there are any seats left, so call for reservations ASAP. You can see the entire menu of food and beer here. Even more exciting, tomorrow begins Glacier's annual Twelve Days of Barleywine.  Here's the daily menu:

Click to enlarge

At Kenai River Brewing, a couple of new beers have been on tap.  The first is Chris's-mas Spruce Tip Ale, a English-style Winter Warmer brewed with locally gathered spruce tips by Chris Scudder back in August. I had some of this at the Kenai Peninsula Brewing & Tasting Society's Christmas Party and it was delicious. Not sure if there is any left, as the supply was limited and it was going fast. The other beer is the next in Kenai River's Single Hop IPA series; this one si hopped exclusively with Galaxy hops.

Let's move on to some long-promised reviews of aged beers from my beer cellar.

Deschutes The Abyss Russian Imperial Stout, 2011 vintage: It poured opaque with a big tan head; still plenty of carbonation even after three years. The aroma was of roasted and sweet malt, with the roasty notes beginning  to take a back seat. The mouthfeel was excellent, very chewy and oily. The flavor profile was dark, deep, and rich, with elements of coffee, molasses, and chocolate. Not a hint of the 11% ABV alcohol, and a long, satisfying finish. This beer is exceptional right now; I really don't see how it could get much better, so if you have any in your cellar, I'd recommend at least sampling a bottle.

Deschutes The Abyss Russian Imperial Stout, 2012 vintage: I opened this beer to get a comparison point with the beer above. The taste profile was very similar, except that I thought the flavors had not yet quite come into as perfect a balance as they had with the 2011. Still delicious, but I'd recommend letting it sit for another year.

Alaskan's Barley Wine, 2011 vintage: It poured a deep, translucent ruby with a small cream-colored head that dissipated quickly to a collar. Carbonation was beginning to fade, but was still acceptable. There were still some hop notes in the nose, but these were also clearly on the downhill side. Mouthfeel was good, and the flavor profile was beginning to slip out of balance as the hop bitterness decreased. I also thought I picked up the faintest hints of sherry-like oxidation. To my palate, it seems this beer is just slightly past its prime; if you have any in your cellar, I'd recommend opening a bottle for evaluation, lest you be disappointed in another year.

Sierra Nevada's 30th Anniversary Grand Cru (2010): Here's a lesson for all you would-be cellar masters out there: keep track of your stock. I let this excellent beer get pushed to the very back of my beer frig and then sit there for four long years. It should have been consumed at about the one year point, I think. When I finally opened it, time had taken a toll on its big hop flavors, leaving mostly malt and oak. It was still an okay beer, but in no way comparable to what it was fresh.

Midnight Sun's Arctic Devil Barley Wine, 2011 vintage: It poured a dark, semi-translucent ruby with a small but persistent cream-colored head. The nose was primarily sweet malt and oaky notes; not much bourbon aroma left. Carbonation was still, good, and the mouthfeel was excellent. The flavor profile is still in balance, with plenty of oakiness to balance the honey-like malt sweetness and a bit of alcohol heat. Excellent now, but it might be able to age for another year, as there is no hint of oxidation.

That's it for this blog. As mentioned in the title, Drinking on the Last Frontier will be going on hiatus for one month, until the middle of January. Besides the impending holidays and all that they entail, I am pushing hard to finish writing a book, and I just cannot squeeze out enough time to do that and still do justice to this blog. The book, by the way, will be titled Alaska Beer: Liquid Gold in the Land of the Midnight Sun and is scheduled to be published in late March by The History Press as part of its American Palate series. You can learn more about it here.

Meanwhile, I wish each and every one of your Happy Holidays and a joyous New Year. See you in January.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Breaking News Blog Post

Just after I got my last blog post on the street, I got word from Rob Weller of Specialty Imports that the next release of Anchorage Brewing Company's amazing A Deal with the Devil Barley Wine would be released TODAY, November 21st. Rob was kind enough to send along the list of the stores which will be carrying it. This stuff goes super fast and stores often limit the number of bottles you can purchase, so plan accordingly...

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Alaska Liquor Store - SKAGWAY
Alaska Wine Guy
Breeze In Valley Store #1
Brown Jug - FBX
Brown Jug Bragaw
Brown Jug College Gate/lake Otis
Brown Jug Downtown Wine & Spirits
Brown Jug Eagle River
Brown Jug Indy Park
Brown Jug Minnesota
Brown Jug North Muldoon
Brown Jug Northern Lights
Brown Jug Old Seward South
Brown Jug Red Apple/Mtn. View
Brown Jug Spenard
Brown Jug Tudor
Brown Jug Victor
Brown Jug W. Northern Lights
Brown Jug Warehouse
Brown Jug Wasilla South
Brown Jug Whaler/Muldoon Rd
Cafe Amsterdam
Carrs Safeway Aurora Village #1805
Carrs Safeway Huffman #1813
Carrs Safeway Seward #2728
Country Liquor LLC. #2
Fred Meyer West Fairbanks 485
Gavora's Gavora's #1
Gold Hill Inc.
Gold Rush Liquors
Grog Shop - 2
La Bodega / Isles, Inc.
Little Italy
Newtown Liquor / Clearwater Bay Corp
Party Time Plaza Liquor - LAKE OTIS
Percy's / Oke Rodman
Snow Goose Restaurant
Thibodeau Town Liquor
Wine House - Huffman