Friday, February 5, 2016

A Long Time Coming

So, yeah, it's been almost a month since my last blog. The main thing keeping me away from the keyboard was that I took on a temp job, back at my old haunt, Kenai Peninsula College. Between doing data monkey work there and teaching two classes (including my Art & History of Brewing course), I really haven't been able to squeeze out enough time (or energy) to write a post. The good news is that my temp job is finished, so now I've got the time again to try to get this blog out on at least a semi-weekly basis again.

Temp Work: I remember now why I retired...

Of course while I was not writing, lots of cool stuff was happening on the Alaska beer scene. Alaska Beer Week came and went, with even more outstanding events than last year's. Kudos to the Brewers Guild of Alaska in general and Barb Miller of Midnight Sun in particular for making AK Beer Week truly spectacular, with over 60 different events. The Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival happened again, but for the first time in several years, it did not completely sell out. Perhaps some folks are beginning to lose interest in attending a fest full of drunken 20-somethings, and this will be Aurora Productions wake-up call to make some long-overdue improvements. Or maybe not...

One big piece of news from the GABBF was the results of the annual Barley Wine and Winter Seasonal competitions. Broken Tooth Brwwing took home the Winter Seasonal trophy with its always-excellent Darth Delerium 2016 Belgian-style Stout. In the Barley Wine Competition, the results were unusual in that there was a tie for second place, so no third place winner was chosen. The two second places finishers were Old Gnarleywine from Lagunitas Brewing and Old Birdbrain 2012 from Black Raven Brewing. First place went to Buffalo Head Barley Wine from Kassik's Brewery in Nikiski. That's two years in a row that the winner has come from a brewery right here on the Kenai Peninsula. Congratulations to Frank & Debbie Kassik on their win. A final thought: with the announcement that Toronado is no longer holding its Barley Wine Competition as part of SF Beer Week, shouldn't the GABBF Competition now be considered the premiere competition for barley wines in the country? I'm just wondering...

Photo courtesy of Kassik's Brewery
As long as we are talking about awards, I should mention the Kassik's Brewery also took a Gold Medal at the World Beer Championships with its Statny Statny Barrel Aged Stout.

More award news: Rate Beer has announced its Best Beer, Best Brewery, and best New Brewery by state. For Alaska, A Deal with the Devil Barley Wine, and Anchorage Brewing Company took the first two categories, while Resolution Brewing Company took Best New Brewery. You can see all the winners by state here. Rate Beer also published its list of The 100 Best Brewers for 2015, and Anchorage Brewing and Midnight Sun Brewing both made the list! You can see the complete list here.

Brandon Hall of Resolution also tells me that the brewery is now be open seven days a week and has a couple of big events planned. Here's what he said is coming up:

Feb 26 (Saturday): Belgian beers from other Alaskan and international breweries will be available at a Belgian Beer Showcase we're having in our taproom. Live tunes, catered food for sale, and some incredible beer!

Mar 25 (Friday): our one-year anniversary Birthday Bash! We'll be celebrating in style with H3 Hawaii Reggae Band, catered food, and of course some of the freshest and consistently top-rated beer in Alaska by Resolution Brewing Co.

Sounds like a great time, so mark your calendars!

In other good news, the construction of the new brewery for Kenai River Brewing Company in Soldotna looks to be right on track. Owner Doug Hogue was kind enough to show me around the new facility yesterday, as things are far enough along to get an idea of what it will look like when finished. Here are some photos, all courtesy of my wife Elaine Howell:

Standing in what will be the canning line, with Doug's Office above.

Looking at the upper level grain storage.

View from grain storage. Brew kettle & mash tun will be right in front of the windows.

Looking towards the taproom from the grain storage area.

In the taproom, with bar on the left. Doug is pointing toward patio door.

After walking the facility, all I can say is "Wow." It's going to be a wonderful place to make and drink beer; I just hope we locals can still squeeze in during the summer!

Over at Anchorage Brewing, the next Rondy Brew is almost finished. This year's version will be a Spelt Saison Brewed with Motueka hops and Brett. It is also dry hopped with Hibiscus and Motueka hops. The official release will be at the brewery on Friday, Feb 19th.

Photo courtesy of Anchorage Brewing Company

49th State Brewing has announced that its Healy location will open this year on April 25th. Renovations continue at its new Anchorage home; no official opening date had been announced there yet, though it appears some special events will continue to take place, like Nerd Night.

Finally, The 2nd Annual Frozen River Fest is just over two weeks away. This is an outdoor(!) festival, held in Soldotna Creek Park, from 3 to 6 PM on Saturday, February 20. There will be live music, food vendors, free coffee and hot chocolate, games for the kids, and twelve breweries/wineries from around the state, offering their products. Admission for non-drinkers is free, though you must be 21+ or be with a parent or guardian. If you want to drink, $25 gets you a wristband, 4 drink tokens, each good for a 4 oz. pour, and a 16 oz. commemorative stainless steel mug. Here's a picture of the mug:

Additional drink tokens are $2 each.  All proceeds from the Fest go to the Kenai Watershed Forum and the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race. Here's the poster that lists all the breweries that will be there:

Click to enlarge
In addition to the Fest itself on Saturday, there will be a Meet the Brewers Beer Dinner on Friday, at The Flats Bistro in Kenai. The menu is still being finalized, but there will be five courses, each paired with one or more beers from the breweries attending the fest. Tickets are $50 and you can reserve a spot by calling 335-1010. It's a great chance to talk to the brewers one-on-one in a relaxed setting.

That should be most of the big news, so let's move on to some beer reviews.

Kenai River Brewing's Spruce Tip Ale: This beer is a Winter Warmer, hopped with Fuggles and dosed with Peninsula spruce tips. It poured a dark red in color, with a small, cream-colored head. The aroma is mainly malt, but the spruce tips are also noticeable. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was nice. On the palate it was rich and malty, plus hints of pine or resin from the tips. An excellent example of a truly unique beer style, very Alaskan. 9.4% ABV, 34 IBUs.

Spoetzel Brewery's Shiner Birthday Beer 107: I saw a six pack of cans of this beer at my local Fred Meyer and decided to give it a try. This is the famous Shiner Beer Brand of Texas, and celebrates the 107th anniversary of the brewery. It poured a clear, light gold color, with a large white head. The nose had some noble hop notes, but not an overabundance, plus some biscuity malt notes. Carbonation was excellent, and the mouthfeel was light. the flavor profile a fairly crisp and snappy. Overall, a nice, middle-of-the-road German pils. 5% ABV.

Alaskan Brewing's Hop Turn IPA: This new seasonal from Alaskan is supposed to be a German IPA, which obviously has no traditional model. The idea was to use German malts and hops to produce a beer in the style on an IPA. It poured a clear gold with a big white head. The aroma was full clean, floral hop notes, without the citrus you would get from American hops. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. The flavor profile had the balance Alaskan is known for in its IPAs; plenty of nice, clean hop bitterness and flavor, but enough malt to balance things out. My overall impression was a beer that's hoppy, but not bitter. An excellent beer, and one I hope we see a lot more of from Alaskan. 7.5% ABV.

Photo courtesy of Alaskan Brewing

King Street Brewing's Imperial Stout: The last beer in King Street's new Imperial series, I actually got to taste this brew after Christmas Dinner with friends, but that was hardly the time or the place to write a review, so when I saw it on the shelf at my the Soldotna Fred Meyer, I picked up a bottle. It poured opaque with a large tan head, like a good imperial stout should. The nose was excellent, full of delicious roasty notes. Carbonation was good, and it had a nice, chewy mouthfeel. The flavor profile was classic imperial stout, roasted noted battling it out with malt and alcohol warmth on the finish. And excellent beer, and my favorite of King Street's four imperial beers, I think. 10% ABV, 72 IBUs.

Midnight Sun Brewing's Toklat Blonde: This beer has been out for quite some time, but this was my first chance to snag a bottle. It's a blonde ale aged in chardonnay barrels. It poured a cloudy gold with a small off-white head that dissipated to a collar but left good lacing on the glass. The nose seemed to be primarily oaky notes. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. The flavor profile had lots of oak, with little detectable hop bitterness. I kept wanting to find brett funkiness as well, but there no mention of that in the beers description, so perhaps the wine-like oakiness was cross-wiring my brain.  Regardless, it's a very wine-like beer. It's supposed to be a one-shot affair, so if you'd like to try it, you'd better hurry before it's all gone. 8.2% ABV, 40 IBUs.

Well, that's it for this time. I promise to do my best to get this blog out on a more regular basis. Meanwhile, keep drinking that good, local craft beer.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Alaska Beer Week Comes...

We are well into January, so that means it's time to start talking about Alaska Beer Week. Taking place during the week before the Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival, this celebration has grown rapidly over the last few years, to the point now that I could easily spend this entire blog just recapitulating all the different events taking place.

Rather than do that ('cause it's kind of boring just to copy thing over), I'm going to refer you to the Alaska Beer Week webpage, where there is an excellent event calendar.  By my latest count, there are over 50 different event entries on it, so its the best option out there to plan your week.  However, I do want to highlight a few of the events.

AK Beer Week Kick-Off Party
Location: Williwaw Social, 609 F Street
Date & Time: 7 PM, Thursday, 14 Jan.
Description: For the first 200 guests, $25 ticket gets you an AKBW goblet, two 8-oz beer other goodies. (After 200, it is everything but the AKBW come early!)

Beer Dinner at Pete's Sushi Spot
Location: Pete's Sushi Spot, 3020 Minnesota Dr.
Date & Time: 6 PM, Sunday, 17 Jan
Description:Enjoy 5 courses of incredible Asian Fusion cuisine paired with Midnight Sun beers at Peter's Sushi Spot. This will be a fresh new option for AK Beer Week Geeks -- sushi and craft beer pairings! 5 courses. $65 per person.

Samuel Smith Tribute
Location: Williwaw Social, 609 F Street
Date & Time: 6 to 9 PM, Tuesday, 19 Jan.

Click to enlarge
Beer Dinner at Humpy's/Sub Zero
Location: Sub Zero Lounge, 612 F Street
Date & Time, 6 PM, Wednesday, 20 Jan
Description: The mother of all AK beer dinners: Humpy's presents its annual beer dinner during AK Beer Week 2016. Details on this beer are coming but KNOW that you will be amazed by the quality and quantity of the courses and pairings presented. Humpy's owner, Billy Opinski, is a very generous host and brings out treats from his infamous cellar along the way. $100 per person. I've attended this one myself several times, and it is always superb.

I'll Have Another Release Party
Location: Cafe Amsterdam, 530 E. Benson
Date & Time: 3 PM, Thursday, 21 Jan

As I said, the events listed above are just a sampling of the fifty plus events taking place during AK Beer Week. Check your schedule and your wallet, and choose wisely!

Before AK Beer Week kicks off, there are some other beer things happening. Tomorrow, Sunday, January 10th, is A Deal With the Devil Day at Anchorage Brewing Company. Besides selling bottles of the limited release of A Deal With the Devil Barley Wine ($50 per bottle, 1/customer, 200 bottles total) there will be live music and food at the brewery, as well as some very cool beers on tap.
Here's the list:
  • 2013 A Deal with the Devil
  • 2014 A Deal with the Devil
  • Mosaic Saison 
  • Bitter Monk Belgian DIPA
  • Maderarina IPA 
  • Debbies Delight Sour Wheat 
  • Darkest Hour Imperial Stout 
  • Anadromous Black Sour 
  • Grassroots Arctic SoirĂ©e 
  • Czech Pilsner

 The brewery opens at noon, so get there early if you hope to score a bottle.

Photo courtesy of Anchorage Brewing Company

King Street Brewing re-released its Coconut Chocolate Porter last Wednesday. This beer was originally released in February of 2013, under the name La Dolce Vita. It's a robust porter, infused with both organic coconut and organic cacao nibs.

Brown Jug is running a contest to give away two tickets to the Saturday afternoon session of this year's Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival.  You can enter here.

Click to enlarge
Bleeding Heart Brewery in Palmer has received its federal license to brew. Owners Zack Lanphier and Stefan Marty are now working to jump through all the state and local hoops required to get a license to operate. Hopefully, they will be able to open the doors before summer.

Alaskan Brewing Company has released a new seasonal IPA, which they are calling Hop Turn. It's an attempt to brew an IPA using German malts and hops. It's brewed with Pilsner, Munich, and Vienna malts and Magnum and Sterling hops.

Photo courtesy of Alaskan Brewing
At Kenai River Brewing Company, the Spruce Tip Ale is back on tap.

Photo courtesy of Kenai River

That's it for news, so let's move to beer reviews. I've only got three for this blog.

King Street Brewing's Imperial Pilsner: It poured a clear, slightly reddish-gold color with a nice cream-colored head. The aroma had some biscuity malt notes, as well as noble hops.  Carbonation was good and the beer was nice on the palate. The flavor profile let you know it was a big beer, with plenty of biscuity malt notes. Very much in the style of a German pils, just amped up to 8% ABV. 36 IBUs.

Kenai River Brewing's American Sunken Island IPA: File this one under happy accidents: While brewing a batch of its British-inspired Sunken Island IPA, the brewers at KRBC inadvertently pitched an American yeast. The resulting beer was released as a one-off, but has proved so popular, I wouldn't be surprised to see it make the occasional return engagement. The beer poured a deep, clear ruby color, with a nice, persistent off-white head that left good lacing on the glass. The nose had plenty of good floral notes from the hops. The mouthfeel was light, as the American yeast produced a significantly drier beer, and carbonation was good. The flavor profile is similar to the standard Sunken Island, but much drier, which makes the hop flavors even more pronounced. A great change of pace. 7.9% ABV, 68 IBUs.

St. Elias Brewing's Small Town Brown Ale: While I continue to fail at trying to convince Zach Henry to brew another batch of his Marathon Mild Ale, this session beer isn't that far from one. It poured a semi-translucent reddish-brown with a nice tan head. The aroma promised some hops, but also some balance from malt. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. On the palate, there was a nice balance between the malt and the hops, which greatly enhances the beer's drinkability. At only 4.3 % ABV, this beer is an excellent choice if you are looking to drink more than one.

That's it for this week. Be sure to make your reservations/buy your tickets for the AK Beer Week events ASAP; the best ones will definitely sell out rapidly.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

So Long 2015, Hello 2016: A Retrospective and a Look Ahead

Hello, and Happy New Year to you all. I thought I'd take the opportunity, here at the end of one year and the start of another, to depart a bit from my standard format of news and beer reviews for a few meditations on the current state of play in Alaska's craft beer scene, as well as some thoughts on the coming year.

Looking back at 2015, you'd have to say that by any objective measure, it was a great year for craft brewing in Alaska. We had a total of five new breweries open: Resolution Brewing, Odd Man Rush Brewing, Icy Strait Brewing, Gakona Brewing, and Bearpaw River Brewing. That's a huge number, something like a 20% increase in the number of breweries in the state. We also saw some well-established breweries move into new, custom-built locations. Gabe Fletcher moved out of Gary Klopfer's basement into Anchorage Brewing's gorgeous new brewery. Paul Wheeler of Haines Brewing departed his tiny Dalton City location for an improved and expanded new home on Haines' Main Street, one with an actual tap room. Doug Hogue of Kenai River Brewing started construction on a new brewery in Soldotna, which will be much larger than the place he's currently leasing, have an outdoor patio, and is easily visible from the Sterling Highway. Other breweries, like Alaskan and Denali, completed expansions at their current sites. Total beer production is up statewide.

Taken at Denali BC back in September. This new packaging hall is complete now.

2015 wasn't just a good year for production, however. Numerous beers produced on the Last Frontier won national and international awards, including a Gold Medal at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver (49 State Brewing's Smoked Marzen). A new annual beer festival, the Frozen River Fest, held outdoors in February at Soldotna Creek Park, began. Beer tourism in Alaska continued to grow, both via locally-based Big Swig Tours and out-of-state companies. The Brewers Guild of Alaska took a huge leap forward by hiring its first paid employee, Executive Director Ryan Makinster. Some politicians like US Senator Lisa Murkowski have even taken notice of the industry's growth and started making some efforts to support it. Even I got into the act, with the first professionally published history of brewing in Alaska, Alaska Beer: Liquid Gold in the Land of the Midnight Sun. Anyway you slice it, 2015 was a great year for craft beer in Alaska, and 2016 shows tremendous promise as well.

Shameless plug of my book

Still, everything isn't necessary beer and skittles for the beer business in Alaska. At the very end of 2015, the news that Denali Visions 3000, the corporate owner of 49th State Brewing, was purchasing the Snow Goose/Sleeping Lady in Anchorage surprised many. In many ways, it can be viewed as a positive development. Sleeping Lady clearly has plenty of excess brewing capacity and floor space (as demonstrated by its ability to serve for several years as the home for Anchorage Brewing Company). 49th State Brewing clearly needed more production and packaging capacity, and locating it in Anchorage, rather than in remote Healy was clearly a smart move, so this deal is the sort of "win-win" that they always teach you to look for in business school. However, it does raise implications for some other long-established breweries in Alaska.

Gone but not forgotten...

Gary Klopfer has stated that he was ready to take a step back from operating his brewery, and had hoped to pass it along to his daughter, but she was not interested, so he had to look elsewhere. This issue of succession planning continues to loom large for long-established craft breweries across the country. In Alaska, the obvious brewery to wonder about is the granddaddy of them all, Alaskan Brewing Company. Alaskan will celebrate its 30th Anniversary in 2016. How much longer will Geoff and Marcy Larson want to handle the daily grind and how will they extricate themselves? I'm sure this is something they are already working on; the rest of us will just have to wait to see what they come up with. We can only hope that whatever they decide, it will preserve the distinctive character of the brewery (and hopefully not involve a certain Brazilian-Belgian corporation which shall not be named). While further down the road, the same question will come up for all the long-established breweries in our state.

Geoff and Marcy Larson

Besides succession questions, the other big issue on the horizon for 2016 is the Legislature's proposed rewrite of Title IV, the section of our state laws which governs alcohol sales, distribution, and production. The current SB 99 that is before the legislature would represent a truly significant change in the licensing structure for the state. A good bill could unleash even more entrepreneurial activity, while a bad one could stifle any further growth in the craft beer business in Alaska. Indeed, many of the recent spate of opening could be interpreted as folks wanting to get their breweries and brewpubs open before any changes are enacted, in order to ensure that they will be grandfathered in, and so avoid being permanently excluded. How will this all play out? I have no idea, but when you're dealing with the Alaska Legislature, it pays to remember the words of the immortal Mark Twain: "No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session."

What are they going to do this session? Who knows...

Still, all is not gloom and doom for the coming year. At a minimum, three more new breweries should open before the start of the summer tourist season: Quake Brewing in Eagle River, Grace Ridge Brewing in Homer, and Cynosure Brewing in Anchorage. Kenai River Brewing's new location should also be open by May. There is serious talk of a brewery in Girdwood, and likely other locations I haven't heard about. Frankly, I've been scratching my head for years, wondering why no one has opened a brewpub in Fairbanks or Juneau; if Seward can support one (albeit seasonally), I can't understand why these much larger towns couldn't. Perhaps 2016 will be the year someone takes the plunge. Best of all, regardless of what new breweries come along, I see no reason we shouldn't be able to look forward to enjoying a plethora of great beers from our existing breweries, even if we have to pay more for them, thanks to Governor Walker's new taxes.

Photo courtesy of Cynosure Brewing

So may we all have a prosperous and happy new year, one filled with lots of friendship and excellent, locally-brewed beer. I hope you have enjoyed this departure from my usual blogging style; it's something I may do again from time to time. However, next week I'll be back with news and reviews, as beer-lovers across the state begin ramping up for Alaska Beer Week and the Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Breaking News: 49th State Brewing to Buy Snow Goose/Sleeping Lady!

Hello! I wasn't planning to blog again so soon, but I just learned a very hot piece of news. The owners of 49th State Brewing in Healy, Denali Visions 3000 Corporation, are in the process of purchasing the Snow Goose Pub/Sleeping Lady Brewery in downtown Anchorage. I understand that Sleeping Lady Brewery will no longer be a brand name, with all beers being produced under the 49th State brand.

So long, old friend...

There should be a press release out in a day or two with more information, but I have confirmed that this deal is indeed underway. Completion is contingent on the approval of the ABC Board for the transfer of licenses. This deal represents a huge leap forward for 49th State, as it will allow them to produce and sell beer year-round, as well as giving them easy access to the prime Anchorage market.

Stay tuned for more details as they become available!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Bearpaw River Opens Tomorrow!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around the Peninsula. The big day is only a week away. However, for beer lovers in Wasilla, Christmas is coming a bit early, as tomorrow, Saturday, December 19, will be the long-anticipated opening of Bearpaw River Brewing Company. As I have blogged about in the past, this new brewery (28th in the state by my count) is located at 4605 E. Palmer-Wasilla Highway and is the handiwork of the four Wade boys: Jack, Jed, James, and Jake. They have been working on this project for three years, so it's great to see it finally coming together. KTVA 11 did a report on the opening, which you can view here.

Photo courtesy of Bearpaw River Brewing

The grand opening will be from noon to 8 PM tomorrow. It looks like there will be at least four beers on offer: Bearpaw River Lager (4.5% ABV, 29 IBUs), Cabin Fever Porter (6% ABV, 38 IBUs), Frontiersman IPA (7% ABV, 70 IBUs), and Sluice Box Belgian (6% ABV, 21 IBUs). There will even be a food truck parked outside - Oh My Goodness Sammies & Pies - so you can make it a lunch destination as well. Personally, I won't be able to make it all the way from the Kenai to Wasilla for the opening, but I wish the Wades all the best and look forward to getting up there to try their brews very soon.

Photo courtesy of Bearpaw River Brewing

In other immediate news, Anchorage Brewing Company will be tapping its first cask-conditioned beer today: a firkin of its Triple IPA dry hopped with Mosiac. It will be tapped at 2 PM, and will be available until its gone or 8 PM, whichever comes first.

Photo courtesy of Anchorage Brewing Company

At Glacier Brewhouse, they are well into their annual 12 Days of Barleywine.  Here's what still to come:

THE 9th DAY OF BARLEYWINE – DEC. 18, 2015 2016
Big Woody Barleywine aged 7 months in American oak wine barrels from Beaulieu Vineyards in Napa Valley. (10.06% abv)
Belgian Dark aged 9 months in Buffalo Trace barrels. (8.10% abv)
Cask conditioned selection.

THE 10th DAY OF BARLEYWINE – DEC. 19, 2015
Belgian Quad aged 9 months Jim Beam barrels. (10.21% abv)
2014 Imperial Stout aged 1 year in Buffalo Trace barrels (9.25% abv)
Cask conditioned selection.

THE 11th DAY OF BARLEYWINE – DEC. 20, 2015 2016
Eisbock steel Aged (9.00% abv)
2014 Imperial Stout aged 1 year in raspberry infused Jim Beam barrels. (9.25% abv)
Cask conditioned selection.

THE 12th DAY OF BARLEYWINE – DEC. 21, 2015
2016 Dark Big Woody Barleywine aged 9 months in Jim Beam barrels. (10.90% abv)
2015 Imperial Stout aged 1 year in Buffalo Trace barrels. (10.31% abv)
Cask conditioned selection.

The cask conditioned selection varies each day, but is one of the following:
2016 Single Malt Big Woody Barleywine steel aged. (10.34% abv)
Belgian Dark aged 9 months in Buffalo Trace barrels. (8.10% abv)
Double India Pale Ale (8.00% abv)

This is a wonderful event, so if you love big beers you should definitely check it out before it's over. Glacier Brewhouse will also be doing a Blood Drive on Saturday, 12/19, from 11 AM to 6 PM. You can make an appointment on the brewery's website or just walk-in. Donors will receive a complimentary appetizer, a glass of root beer or cream soda, and a logo'd pint glass of their  choice. So if you'll be in Anchorage tomorrow, help save a life by donating some blood.

HooDoo Brewing is also having a public service event from 11 Am to 7 PM tomorrow: Reindeer & Beer, which is gathering contributions for the Fairbanks Food Bank.

Also, HooDoo Brewing was selected last week by the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce as this year's winner of the Bill Stroecker Business of the Year. Congratulations to Booby and the rest of the HooDoo team on this well-deserved honor.

Photo courtesy of HooDoo Brewing.

King Street Brewing has released the last of its new Imperial series, the Imperial Stout.

Photo courtesy of King Street Brewing

 I also got to taste some of King Street's Oaked Old Ale at the Kenai Peninsula Brewing and Tasting Society's Christmas Party last weekend, and it was excellent!

Today at 5 PM at the brewery, Alaskan Brewing Company will be holding a Vertical Tasting of 15 years of its Alaskan Smoked Porter. Just $5 will get you samples of vintages back to 2001, and brewery staff will be on hand to discuss them.

Here on the Peninsula, St. Elias Brewing Company hasn't changed its tap line-up recently, but last Friday I helped Zach Henry brew a new beer which we will be calling H & H All-American Stout. Look for it to go on tap early next year. Also, Zach has decided to add his excellent Czech Pilsner to his list of flagship brews; it will replace the Even Keel Kolsch, which will become a seasonal. This is great news for me and every other craft beer lover in the area. The kolsch was fine, but the pilsner is outstanding!

Current seasonals at St. Elias

Speaking of the Peninsula, last week I stopped by Alaska Berries in Soldotna at 48660 West Poppy Lane, and spoke to owner Brian Olson. Along with his wife Laurie, he runs the only estate winery in Alaska. An estate winery is one where all the ingredients are produced on site; he doesn't use any grape concentrate or other ingredients except his own berries. I'm the first person to admit that I have zero palate for wine, but I enjoyed the samples I had and fell in love with the Haskap Jam. If you are a wine-drinker or just care about supporting a local business/family farm, you should stop by and check them out.

Fermentation room at Alaska Berries

Over at Kenai River Brewing, they have some new swag in which would make great Christmas presents. Stop by and check it out for anyone left on your gift-buying list. The brewery new construction was also featured in last week's Anchorage Press column by Dr. Fermento. Read it here.

Photo courtesy of Kenai River Brewing

Kassik's Brewery is having a Christmas Sale, with 10% off all shirts, hoodies, and glassware.

Moving on to beer reviews, I've been pretty busy getting ready for Christmas, so only three new ones this time.

St. Elias Brewing's Kriek Lambic: This is another brew in Zach Henry's series of barrel-aged fruit beers. It poured a semi-translucent reddish color, with a small head that dissipated quickly to a collar. The nose was of tart cherries, but without any brett funkiness. Carbonation was good, and the mouthfeel was fairly light. On the palate there was some tartness, along with good cherry flavor. Well-balanced and highly drinkable, it will be another popular addition to St. Elias's series of lambics.

St. Elias Brewing's Green Giant Imperial IPA: I reviewed an earlier version of this beer on 11/19/2014, but this release is sufficiently different that I thought it rated its own review. It poured a cloudy yellow-orange color with a small off-white head that dissipated to a collar. The aroma was chock full of tropical fruit and citrus; the Galaxy hops are strong in this one! Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was medium. The flavor profile is super tropical fruit juicy, almost like a stick of Juicy Fruit gum. The bitterness becomes more noticeable on the finish. Comparing it to my notes from last year, it seems to me that Zach has amped up the tropical fruit notes considerably in the version. And in the picture below, pay no attention to the logo on the growler; I got my glassware mixed up again...

Yes, it's a St. Elias Green Giant Imperial IPA...
Adnams Southwold's Tally-Ho Reserve (2012): I picked up this bottle at La Bodga earlier in the month. I was familiar with Adnams  Southwold 's Broadside Bitter from my time living in Britain, so I decided to give this English-style barley wine a try.  It poured a deep, semi-translucent ruby, with a small, cream-colored head that dissipated to a collar. The nose was full of the deep, rich malt flavor that comes from Maris Otter malt. The carbonation was okay, and the mouthfeel was quite good. The flavor profile was primarily malt, but very rich and complex, begging to be slowly sipped and savored. An excellent example of how time can improve a barley wine, this three-year-old beer is at its peak right now. An outstanding brew. 9 % ABV.

Well, that's about it for this time. I might get a blog out between Christmas and New Years, but it's probably just as likely that I won't. So let me take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2016. I'm sure the new year will bring us all many more wonderful new craft beers to enjoy.

Until Next Time, Cheers!