Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Close-Out Blog

We're getting near the end of 2011, dear readers.  Yesterday was the winter solstice, so those of us residing in the Northern Hemisphere can look forward to increasing daylight.  Since sunrise in Soldotna this morning was 10:11 am and sunset will come at 3:52 pm (giving us here on the Kenai Peninsula a whole 5 hours and 41 minutes of daylight), that's a good thing.  Christmas is only three days away, so it's time to stoke up the wood stove, pull the turkey out of the freezer to start thawing, and pour yourself a nice beer to savor on a long winter's night.

And if you're reading this blog someplace warm and sunny, like Hawaii or Key West, you can just keep it to yourself, OK?

Up in the big town of Los Anchorage, Gabe Fletcher of Anchorage Brewing Company has released The Tide and Its Takers Tripel. This brew is made with Sorachi and Styrian Golding hops. It's aged in French oak Chardonnay barrels and weighs in at 9% ABV & 30 IBUs.  I know they have bottles at La Bodega.  Here on the Peninsula, Country Liquors in Kenai carries Gabe's beers, though I don't know whether they have or will manage to get any of this tripel in.  By the way, I stopped in there on Saturday and they had gotten in some more of Deschutes Brewing's The Abyss 2011 Imperial Stout, so if you missed out the first time around, you've got another chance. They also had Sierra Nevada's 2011 Celebration Ale on the shelves.

Also up in Anchorage, the Loft Bar at Midnight Sun has been celebrating the solstice as well.  Until yesterday, all 16 of their taps were dispensing dark beers.  To celebrate the return of the sun, now all their taps will now be dispensing light colored brews.  More importantly, everyone is starting to look forward to Alaska Beer Week, starting on Friday, January 13th and culminating the following weekend with the Great Alaska Beer and Barley Wine Festival.  See my blog from 1/20/2011 for a run down on 2011's festivities.  If you haven't purchased your festival tickets yet, don't wait too long, as they sell out every year.  To get information on the numerous beer events during Alaska Beer Week, check out the Brewers Guild of Alaska webpage here or a new page at  The new page is not up yet, but should be available by the end of December.

Moving down on to the Peninsula, our local breweries are getting ready for the holidays as well. Kassik's Brewery has their Big Nutz Imperial Brown Ale for sale on draft only right now; expect the bottles in a week or so.  Also on draft: Double  Wood Imperial IPA, 201 Barley Wine, Pale Moon Pale, Caribou Kilt Scotch, Penny Maple Porter, Chocolate Cherry Stout, and their Spiced Cream Ale. Available in Bottles: Spiced Cream Ale, Chocolate Cherry Stout, Penny Maple Porter, Caribou Kilt Scotch Ale, Morning Wood IPA, Beaver tail Blonde, Dolly Varden Nut Brown, & their Moose Point Porter.  They've also got plenty of different clothing items for sale. Beer or logo'd clothing from Alaskan breweries make great Christmas gifts; I sent a bunch to my beer-loving friends Outside this year.

Over at St. Elias Brewing, their new beer engine continues to get a workout.  I stopped there for lunch and they had a cask of their Moose Juice Barley Barley Wine on.  Since I had to go back to work, I passed on having one, but if you haven't tried their Barley Wine on hand pump, you really need to.  I changes the entire complexion of the beer.  I think they're still having some issues with temperature control of the cask, but I believe Zach has a plan to deal with that as well.

At Kenai River Brewing, they'll be tapping  a short keg of Chocolate Nut Crunch at noon tomorrow (Friday, 12/23), for pints only.  So if you haven't had a chance to try this one, you should stop by and give it a taste.  Plus, they have their  new beer, Holla Day Ale, that I mentioned in my last blog.  I finally got by to grab a liter of this to take home and sample.  When I tasted it last Friday evening, I was so impressed I drank the entire liter in one sitting and went back the next day for another one!  This is one of the best beers Doug & the crew have produced, in my opinion.  It pours a very dark ruby color with a cream-colored head, which dissipated fairly quickly to a collar but left nice lacing on the side of the glass. The aroma was primarily malty, but with the earthy, spicy notes that I always associated with Belgian yeasts, and just the slightest touch of smoke.  On the palate the mouthfeel was medium, with a clean, malty flavor leading off, then more of the Belgian elements, moving to a very nice finish with again a touch of smoke.  All elements were in perfect balance, and with an ABV of only 5.5%, this beer has tremendous drinkability.  In some ways, it's almost like a toned-down dubbel, with the same complexities in a lower alcohol package.  You really need to sample this one.  I'm planning to load up on it, as I think it will be an excellent accompaniment to the traditional holiday feast.  A tip of my hat to Doug & company for another exceptional creation.

Moving on, I've got three new beer reviews to share, two good ones and one not so much.  Let's have the bad news first.

Stone Brewing's Vertical Epic Ale 11.11.11.  This is the latest in their Epic Ale series, beers released on the "triple dates" each year, starting with 02.02.02, and meant to be cellared until sometime after 12.12.12, then consumed in a massive vertical tasting.  Some of the past entries have been quite tasty, and I have a bottle from each year from 05.05.05 on aging in my crawlspace.  So when 11.11.11 hit the market, I grabbed two, one to cellar and one to taste.  Last Monday I got around to opening up my immediate bottle.  Checking out the label, I had my first hint of trouble, when I read that it was brewed with Anaheim chilies and cinnamon.  It poured a pretty color, a dark copper with a big off-white head, but the aroma was nothing but chili and spice, which pretty much described the taste.  I took a couple more sips, but could not hack it, so down the drain it went.  I think I could have managed the chilies or the cinnamon, but both together were just way too much.  If you are crazy about chilies and spice (and to be fair, lots of reviewers on-line have liked it), you could give this one a try, but when I do the vertical tasting after 12.12.2012, I think I'll give this one a pass.

Midnight Sun's Moscow Russian Imperial Stout with Rye. The latest in their World Tour series, Moscow weighs in at 11% ABV and 45 IBUs.  It poured an absolutely opaque black with a small dark brown head that rapidly dissipated to a collar.  The aroma was mostly malty sweetness with some slight roasty notes.  There was excellent mouthfeel, with the rye announcing its presence via peppery notes amongst the roasted malt flavors.  There was some heat on the finish from the alcohol.  Another nice brew from Midnight Sun, not a challenging as their London Ale that I reviewed last week, but a great beer for drinking on a cold winter evening by the fire.

My third review is of a beer named, appropriately enough, Third Voyage Double IPA from Boston Brewing Company's Single Batch Series.  The name refers to Captain Cook's third voyage of discovery, which took him from Britain to New Zealand and then the Pacific Northwest.  In honor of the voyage, the beer is hopped using varieties from each of those locales, including Cascades and Simcoes, which dominate its aroma.  It poured a classic copper color with a big off-white head.  Good carbonation with plenty of hop bitterness, aroma, and flavor.  I thought it had a little more malt character than typical for a DIPA, so it seemed slightly more balanced than usual for this style.  ABV was 8 %.  Overall, a fairly middle of the road version of a Double IPA, which is a comment on how far the goal posts have moved in the last few years.  A decade ago, this beer would have been seen as amazingly hoppy.  Today, it's right in the mainstream for it's style.

That's it for this week.  I doubt you'll see a blog next week, but Christmas is a time for miracles, so you never know.  I'd like to wish a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to each and every one of you.  I hope you all get to spend the holidays in the bosom of your family, eating lots of good food and drinking lots of great craft beer.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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