The Last Frontier Brewing Company (hmmm, sounds familiar) and its next door restaurant The Last Frontier Brewhouse are tentatively scheduled to open in Wasilla on February 3. They are located on the premises of the former Great Bear Brewing Company, which closed a few years ago due to a business dispute among its owners. Veteran Alaska brewer Ray Hodge and his apprentice Robbie Martin will be presenting seven different brews: Heavenly Wheat Ale, Garnet IPA, Black Diamond Dark Lager, 24 Karat Lager, Amber Scottish Ale, Prospector Pale Ale, and Grubstake Stout. I never got the chance to try the beers of the Great Bear before it closed, but I'm looking forward to getting up there and checking these out. If you're passing through the Valley, you should stop by for a taste.
Speaking of new breweries, I mentioned Gabe Fletcher's soon-to-open Anchorage Brewing Company in my last blog, but there is another new brewery in Anchorage that should be open soon: King St. Brewing Company. I don't have much info about I yet, but I'll be sure to pass anything I hear along.
Moving on to some new beer reviews, during the GABBF in Anchorage last month I picked up a bottle in the latest beer from Midnight Sun's Pop Ten series, their Barfly, a Smoked Imperial Stout aged in oak . When I poured it into my nice, new Spiegelau glass (a Christmas present. Thanks, Elaine!), it was opaque with a small, dark brown head that dissipated pretty rapidly to a collar around the glass. The aroma was very complex, with smoke, roasted malts, and even some tobacco notes, plus some alcohol from the 12.6% ABV. On the palate the mouthfeel is good, with the roast coming through first, followed by warmth from the alcohol, then some slight smoke. The woody notes come in, as the beer drops gradually away to a long warm finish. The 45 IBUs are there for balance; they can't punch through all the other big flavors in this beer. All-in-all, very, very nice. If you like big complex beers with smoke & wood, Barfly is a great one.
It poured a lovely dark copper, with a massive off-white head. The aroma was packed with floral hops; the brew is hopped and dry hopped with Centennial, Columbus, and Simcoe, to a ridiculous 150 IBUs. Besides the tremendous hop aroma, the beer smelled very clean, with no off flavors at all. On the palate the beer was fairly light, with a ton of good, clean hop bitterness and flavor, plus some heat from the 9.2% ABV. The brew finishes well, and leaves you eager for another sip, which is a real feat for such a hopbomb. I'm not sure why, but I found the beer strangely reminiscent of Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot Barley Wine. It's certainly not as strong as the Bigfoot, but something about it tickled my memory, perhaps the hop profile. Regardless, it's a fine Imperial IPA from one of the most eccentric craft brewers in the world today.
Turning to the local front, fresh off his second place in the GABBF Barley Wine Competition, Zach Henry at St. Elias Brewing has released a new beer, Colonial Porter. I've gotten so used to Zach trotting out bourbon-barrel aged, blended, beer-style-category-bending new releases that it's almost a shock for him to release a "straight-ahead" robust porter like this one. A shock, but a good one; after all, there's only so much of those other ones you can take, before you need to relax with something a little less complex. Colonial Porter is a great beer for that, opaque with a big light tan head, an aroma of roast malt & some sweet/chocolate notes. Medium mouthfeel, good carbonation, plenty of roastiness with enough hops for balance, this is an exceptionally well-made robust porter. No bells or whistles, just a really good beer to enjoy with a meal or after a hard day's work. And you can have more than one without wrecking your palate.
|The future of craft beer packaging...|
Finally, two pieces of not so good news from the beer world outside Alaska. First, Gambrinus Company has announced that they are discontinuing brewing Pete's Wicked Ale. For those of us of a certain age, Pete Slosberg's beer was possibly the first craft beer we ever encountered. While Pete sold his brand to Gambrinus in 1998 and it subsequently was "dumbed down" pretty badly (at least in my opinion), it's still a sad moment to see it go away.
The second piece of bad news in the death of Don Younger, owner of The Horse Brass Pub in Portland, Oregon, at the age of 69. I never had the pleasure of meeting Don, but like all lovers of good American beer I knew of him. He was a pioneering publican in a city that has come to be the craft beer capital of the US, in no small part due to his efforts. He will be missed. Here's to you, Don.
Until Next Time, Cheers!