Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Festive Season

We are now into what I always think of as the festive season here in Alaska, i.e. the season when it seems we're having a beer festival about every other week. Yes, we have great festivals other times of the year, but it always seems that we have the greatest concentration of them in this part of the year.

First up was the Annual Kenai River Beer Festival, which took place last Saturday. As this is my local fest and I had a (small) part in getting it off the ground a few years ago, I suppose I'm biased, but I still think it's one of the best festivals in the state. The weather could have been better this year, but the sporadic light rain couldn't keep the hardy beer drinkers away. Here are some photos that I snapped at the start of the festival.

Kenai River Brewing had a new twist this year. In order to taste the various vintages of its Winter Warlock Old Ale (which changed each hour and ranged from 2015 all the way back to 2009), you had to find the "Winter Warlock" and get a "magical gem" from him, which you then surrendered (along with a drink token) for your sample. Here's what the Warlock looked like:

All this helped Kenai River Brewing win the Best Brewery in the People's Choice Awards (for the 5th year running, I believe). King Street's IPA won as Best Beer. All-in-all, it was a great festival.

Next up is The Culmination, which will be taking place this Saturday at Anchorage Brewing Company, starting at 2 PM. Amazingly, I think there are actually a few tickets left, so if you haven't purchased yours yet, there's still time. And don't forget Hill Farmstead Brewery Day tomorrow at Anchorage Brewing; I wrote about this in detail in my last blog.

Speaking of Anchorage Brewing Company, it is putting three new beers on tap today:

Migrating Eyes - Collaboration with Tired Hands, spelt saison aged one year in French oak. Fermented with Tired Hands house culture.

An Eternity - Collaboration with Gigantic Brewing, Saison aged one year in French oak with Organic Oregon Marion Berries and Alaska Apples.

Mikkeller Invasion- Rustic IPA brewed with Citra and Galaxy Hops, fermented in Foudres with Brett. Dry hopped with Citra and Galaxy.

On September 17, Glacier Brewhouse will be celebrating its 20th Anniversary. Here's the flier for it:

September 17th will also be the day of the 5th Annual Talkeetna Brewfest. I attended this last year and had a great time, so if you can be in Talkeetna on that weekend, I strongly recommend it. Tickets are available at

September 17th also happens to be the date of the 5th Annual Capital Brewfest at the Juneau Arts & Cultural Center (JACC) from 12:30 to 5 pm. See what I mean about the Festive Season? So if you're in Southeast, here's an alternative festival for you.

Silver Gulch Brewing will be celebrating Oktoberfest on 16 & 17 September. It will have First Tap of this year’s Oktoberfest Brew Great polka from Alaska Blaskapel. Plus Steve Brown and the Bailers Tickets are only $10 at the door! Designated drivers get in free.

And we're not done yet! One week later, on Saturday, September 24th, it will be Bodega-Fest in Anchorage's Lucy Cuddy Park from 1 to 6 PM. Tickets are $39 and on-sale now. Besides beer and music at the fest itself, this year there will also be a concert at Tap-Root after the fest itself. Click on the link above for all the details.

But wait, there's more! October 1 is this year's Zwanze Day, sponsored by Belgian brewery Cantillon. Anchorage Brewing Company will be a Zwanze Day location again this year, as it was last year. There are only 27 other locations in the entire US, so were are fortunate to have one in Alaska.

Whew! That's a lot of festivals in the next six weeks or so. See why I think it's the Festive Season?

In other news, Midnight Sun Brewing has released its 21st Anniversary Beer, Grand Crew Brew. I got to taste a small sample of it at the Kenai Beer Festival, and I can tell you that it's outstanding! You definitely want to pick up as many bottles of this one as you can find, both to enjoy now and cellar for later. I believe it's only available at the brewery itself.

If we didn't have enough going on in the next few weeks, you can add in the Grand Opening of Quake Brewing Company in Eagle River on 1 September. Everything appears to be on track, and you can get details on Facebook here.

Arkose Brewery will be a part of an event called the Sapling and Smolt Soiree, along with the Great Land Trust, on August 28th, just before the start of the Alaska State Fair in Palmer. Here is the flier for it:

Arkose will be pouring its Palmer Extra Pale Ale and its Sister City Raspberry Saison. The brewery will also be hosting another of its regular Beer Meets Chocolate events this Friday, August 19th.

Newcomer Grace Ridge Brewing was at the Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival (and I believe it will be at the Talkeetna Brewfest). It is hosting a fund raiser for the Kevin Bell Arena/Homer Hockey Association on Friday, August 26th, from 4 to 8 PM. Here's the flier:

Note that there will also be beers from Kenai River Brewing and Odd Man Rush Brewing on offer as well.

St. Elias Brewing's Old's Cool Session IPA (reviewed in my last blog) has already run out. However, the very popular Green Giant DIPA should be back on tap before the end of the week. Here's the current tap list:

That's the news, now let's do some reviews.

Southern Tier Brewing's Salted Caramel Imperial Stout: It poured opaque with a small tan head that dissipated to a collar. The aroma was caramelized sugar and cocoa notes. The mouthfeel was medium to heavy, with good carbonation. Flavors were rich and thick, with intense notes of caramel, chocolate, and coffee. A big sipper, and one that would make an excellent ingredient in dishes calling for a big stout. 10% ABV.

49th State Brewing's Foxcatcher Saison: I picked this up in a crowler during my first visit to the new Anchorage location. It poured a slightly cloudy gold with a nice white head that left good lace on the glass. The nose had the peppery, earthy notes I associate with a Belgian yeast. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. Good upfront bitterness, followed by earthy, farmhouse notes. An excellent saison in the style of the classic from Dupont. 6.2% ABV.

Midnight Sun Brewing's Feast Doppelbock: This beer was released several weeks ago, but I finally managed to score a bottle. It poured a deep, semi-translucent ruby color, with a nice, cream-colored head. The aroma was rich and malty, with no noticeable hops. Carbonation was good, and the mouthfeel was rich and heavy. The flavor profile was all strong, smooth malt flavors, with hints of oak and alcohol from the barrel-aging. A delicious doppelbock. 7.4% ANB, 15 IBUs.

Boon's Oude Geuze (2011-2012): From the famous Belgian brewery, this beer poured a clear, slightly reddish gold color with a big white head. The nose was full of tart and oaky notes. Carbonation was intense, and the mouthfeel was effervescent. On the palate it was tart and refreshing. A superb geuze, very dry and oaky. 7% ABV

Stone Brewing's Who You Callin' Wussie Pilsner: I found this in a six-pack of 16 oz. cans at Country Liquors in Kenai. It poured a clear gold with a nice white head that left good lace. The aroma had plenty of noble hops. Carbonation was good, and the mouthfeel was light. The flavor profile was clean and crisp, and reminded me strongly of German pilsners. A very nice and enjoyable beer.

That's it for this blog. I hope to see you at one or more of the upcoming festivals. Look for me at The Culmination this Saturday for sure.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Breaking News: Hill Farmstead Brewery Day on August 18th at Anchorage Brewing

I just got word about a new event leading into The Culmination Festival on August 20th at Anchorage Brewing Company. Thursday, August 18th, from 2 to 8 pm will be Hill Farmstead Brewery Day at Anchorage Brewing. In case you have been living under a rock craft beer-wise, Hill Farmstead Brewery is one of the most respected breweries in the US and was named as the best brewery in the world three years running. Unfortunately, we usually only see its beers here in Alaska as part of The Culmination Festival, so this a chance to experience a wide variety of them on a pay-as-you-go basis. There will be twelve different Hill Farmstead brews on tap. Here is the list, along with the brewery's description of each one:

Edward: Edward (1917-2002) is our grandfather; Hill Farmstead Brewery rests upon the land that was once home to him and his five children. In his honor, this American Pale Ale is dutifully crafted from American malted barley, a plethora of American hops, our ale yeast and water from Edward’s well. It is unfiltered and dry hopped. Aromatic and flowery, with impressions of citrus and pine, this is the ale that I dream to have shared with Edward. 13.5ºP, 85 IBUs, 5.2% ABV. Pale and Caramel malt; Centennial, Chinook, Columbus, Simcoe, and Warrior hops; House Ale Yeast, and our Well Water.

Susan: Susan was our grandfather's sister - in her honor we offer this version of an American IPA. Nelson Sauvin Pale Ale An American Pale Ale bittered, flavored, and dry hopped exclusively with Nelson Sauvin.

Walden: A sessionable blonde ale. 4% ABV. 40 IBUs. Hopped with Motueka, Amarillo and Simcoe.

Mary: Mary was Edward's mother and our great-grandmother. A German-style pilsner brewed with our well water, German pilsner malt, our favorite German hops, and classic German lager yeast. 4.6% ABV.

Harlan: Harlan is Edward’s slightly more aggressive alter-ego. Dry-hopped exclusively with Columbus hops.

Citra Single Hop Pale Ale: An American Pale ale bittered, flavored, and dry hopped exclusively with Citra hops from the American Pacific Northwest. 5.5% ABV.

Arthur: Arthur (1922-2005) was our grandfather’s youngest brother; Hill Farmstead Brewery rests upon the land that was once home to him and his 13 siblings. In his honor, this farmstead™ is crafted from American malted barley, American and European hops, our distinctive farmhouse yeast and water from our well. Unfiltered and naturally carbonated, this is the ale that I dream to have shared with Arthur. 6% ABV, 13ºPlato

Arthur - Dry hopped version Our traditional farmstead ale is crafted from American malted barley, American and European hops, our farmhouse yeast and water from our well. This iteration was conditioned in our oak Foudres and then generously hopped with Cascade.

Nordic Saison: In May of 2014, our friend and mentor Anders Kissmeyer of Kissmeyer Beer & Brewing visited Hill Farmstead Brewery, along with our dear friend Will Meyers of Cambridge Brewing Co., to brew a special collaborative beer. Inspired by our guests and their journeys, this beer was brewed with the resourcefulness and inventiveness of the Nordic tradition, as well as the creative spirit of its three architects. Farmstead ale brewed with honey, heather, rose hips, rhubarb and wheat.

Works of Love Anchorage Brewing #1: A farmstead ale fermented in oak tanks, this beer was brewed in collaboration with our friend Gabe Fletcher of Anchorage Brewing Co. using barley, organic Vermont wheat, organic Vermont oats, fresh apples from Fletcher Orchard, hops, yeast and our well water.

Works of Love Anchorage Brewing #2: When our dear friend Gabe Fletcher from Anchorage Brewing visited us last September, we brewed two beers; this is the result of the second brewday. Brewed with malted barley, organic oats, wheat and organic buckwheat, this beer was fermented in oak foudres, aged in wine barrels and dry-hopped with Mandarina Bavaria hops.
This represents a unique opportunity for Alaskans to experience one of the top craft breweries in the world. If you'll be in in Anchorage on August 18th, don't miss it!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Visit to 49th State in Anchorage

Well, it's August here on the Kenai, which means that 1) the summer continues to fly by and 2) dip netting season is finally over, which means we get our town back from the hordes from Anchorage and points north. For the first time in three weeks, you can hope to get into a brewery or store without it being packed to the gills.

Ironically, while everyone from Anchorage was down here, Elaine and I needed to make one of our semi-monthly shopping runs to Anchorage last Monday. This made for my first chance to visit the newly-opened 49th State Brewing in the former Snow Goose/Sleeping Lady location downtown. We rolled in at about noon and found the place fairly full; the rainy weather having closed the outdoor patio and pushed everyone inside. We ate on the ground floor, where the main bar is located, but did walk upstairs to check out the new arrangement up there as well.

The main bar at 49th State Brewing in Anchorage

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As you can see from the photos, the place looks great after the big makeover. The beer menu is extensive; since it was the middle of the day, I limited myself to a glass of the Flanders Red (reviewed below) and a taster of the Moderation Triple IPA on nitro, which was excellent. The food was also fantastic. We shared a pretzel appetizer, then Elaine had the mac & cheese and I had a burger. The bar is also equipped to sell crowlers, as well as filling glass growlers. Bottom line: everything about the place was great, and I look forward to visiting it whenever I find myself in downtown Anchorage.

This Thursday and Friday will be Augtoberfest at the original 49th State Brewing in Healy. I have yet to attend the festival, but everyone who has says it is a great time, so if you can be in Healy on the 4th and/or the 5th, you should definitely attend.

I did a breaking news post last Wednesday to remind everyone that tickets for The Culmination Festival were going on sale. Sales have been brisk, with less than 100 (out of 300 total) tickets left. You can get then at or at the brewery. The Culmination is Saturday, August 20th.

Tickets are also on sale for the Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival, which is now only 10 days away on Saturday, August 13th. This is always a wonderful time, with live music and food vendors as well as beer, so if you'll be in Soldotna that weekend, you should plan to attend. Tickets are on sale at the local breweries on on the festival's website.

Denali Brewing Company has released its excellent Louisville Sour Ale in bottles.

Midnight Sun Brewing kicked off its new Beer Club with delivery of its August box on Monday. The picture below shows its contents. MSBC is taking sign-ups for the September box now. Note the bottle of its 21st Anniversary beer, Grand Crew Brew, which will be released to the rest of us on Monday, August 8th.

Photo courtesy of MSBC
US Senator Lisa Murkowski paid a visit to Odd Man Rush in Eagle River last week. It good to see our elected representatives taking a keen interest in promoting our local craft breweries.

Photo courtesy of Odd Man Rush Brewing

Also in Eagle River, Quake Brewing has announced that it will open its doors on Thursday, September 1.

La Bodega will be having another tasting on August 16th at its Norther Lights location. This one is entitled "Alaskan Cuisine Pairings." It will be presented by Nikole and Pamela of La Bodega with special guest star Jacob Davis of Hearth Artisan Pizza. They will guide you through a sampling of common Alaskan foods and the beer, wine, cider and sake that they love as pairings. The tasting starts at 5:15 pm and ends promptly at 6:30 pm. Tickets are $20 and are only on sale at La Bodega's Northern Lights store.

Let's move on to beer reviews.

Denali Brewing's Agave Gold Ale: This beer poured a clear gold with a nice white head that left good lace on the glass. The nose was light, but had a bit of hop aroma. Carbonation was good, and the mouthfeel was light. The flavor profile was very clean, with hints of fruitness. A light, refreshing beer for the hot summer days in Talkeetna. 5.1% ABV.

St. Elias Brewing's Old's Cool Session IPA: It poured a slightly cloudy honey color with a big, off-white head that left good lace on the glass. The aroma was packed with Simcoe and Citra hop notes. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light to medium. The initial bitterness was good but not excessive, backed up by a nice amount of hop flavor and aroma. As the name implies, this is a nice, straight ahead IPA, with no weird new hops or bells and whistles, just plenty of good hop flavor and aroma. At 5.8% ABV, it might not meet the technical definition of a session beer, but it's so good you'll definitely want more than one.

St. Elias Brewing's Frozen River Scottish Ale: Brewed for this year's Frozen River Fest held back in February, this beer has aged nicely in the brewery's cellar. I believe my growler of it leaked, so when I poured it, there was little carbonation or head. It was a deep, semi-translucent ruby color, with medium mouthfeel and a nose of malt and caramel. The flavor profile was spot-on for the style, with a heavy presence on malt and caramel notes. Now that dip netting is done, I need to get back to St. Elias to try this again, as I feel it would be superb with the proper carbonation. 6.5% ABV.

Black Raven Brewing's Pour Les Oiseaux Saison: We've been getting more and more beers here in Alaska from this brewery in Remonds, WA. This one is a saison dosed with brett. It poured a hazy gold with a small white head that dissipated to a collar. The nose has some hints of brett funk along with light citrus notes. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. On the palate there was oak, brett funk, and some moderate bitterness, that fell away to a nice , long finish. A nice beer now, but I'm very curious as to what 6 to 12 months in the cellar will allow the brett to do to it. 7.2% ABV.

49th State Brewing's Flanders Red Ale: This poured a dark ruby color with a small but persistent cream-colored head. The nose immediately advertised that this was a sour ale, and had been aged in wood. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was medium. On the palate the beer strongly reminded me of that classic Flanders Red, Rodenbach. It was tart but balanced, with the oak notes contributing to the overall experience. A truly excellent Flanders Red, and worth seeking out if you enjoy sour beers at all. 6 % ABV, 15 IBUs.

That's it for this blog. Be sure to take advantage of all the up-coming beer festivals and get out and enjoy this summer weather while it lasts. Another couple o months, and we'll be wondering where it has all gone.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

BREAKING NEWS: The Culmination Festival Tickets on sale TODAY

In case you haven't heard already, tickets to this year's The Culmination Festival (Saturday, 20 August, at Anchorage Brewing Co.) go on sale at 2 PM today. There will be 200 tickets sold on-line at and 100 tickets sold at the brewery, for a total of 300. Tickets are $130 each. In past years this event has sold out very fast, so if you plan to attend, you'd better grad your tickets right away.  See you there!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

It's Crazy Days in Soldotna...

Well, it's the second half of July, which means it's crazy days in Soldotna. The reds are running quite well this year, which means we're hip-deep in dip netters here on the Peninsula. Fred Meyer's is packed constantly, and the breweries are seeing so much business that they are having trouble keeping beer on tap. On the (sort-of) plus side, the McHugh Creek Wildfire might slow down the deluge of people, at least for a day or two...

That's the price of living in paradise, I guess, so let's talk beer news. First up, Girdwood Brewing posted a video to show everyone where its location will be. The brewery is still scheduled to open "by ski season." Here's the video:

More exciting news: Midnight Sun Brewing Company is launching a new beer club. Here's the flier announcing it:

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The Beer Club Kick-off Event will be on August 8th at 11 AM in The Loft. The brewery has also announced that its 21st Anniversary beer, Grand Crew Brew, which I wrote about in my last blog, will be released in August, rather than this month.

Arkose Brewery will be continuing its Small Batch series tomorrow:

Arkose has also released an new beer:

Odd Man Rush Brewing  won two Denali Awards by being selected as both the 2016 Best Brewery in Alaska and as the 2016 Best New Start Up in Alaska by Alaska Business Monthly. The brewery also has new growler labels in:

Photo courtesy of Odd Man Rush Brewing

The dates for the 3rd Annual Yukon Beer Festival in Whitehorse have been announced: 14 & 15 October.

Out at Gakona Brewing, Ed Miner has made several post on his progress of installing his new 3-barrel brewing system. Various problems have been overcome, including gas, exhaust, and electrical installations. No timeline yet, but I'm sure Ed will have his new toys up and running soon!

Tickets are now on sale for this year's Annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival. All tickets are being sold online, via the website. $32 per person. The event runs from 5 to 10 PM on Saturday, August 13, at the Soldotna Sports Center. I am certainly biased, but I still think this is one of the best festivals in Alaska!

The Culmination Festival at Anchorage Brewing Company is looking for volunteers with TAP cards to serve beer. The Festival will run from 2 to 6 PM on Saturday, August 20th. If you have the proper credentials and want to volunteer, contact Heather at Specialty Imports via email at The names of participating breweries are beginning to appear on the website, but tickets are not yet on sale, as of today. However, ABC has announced that the band Mos Generator will be performing after the Festival at the brewery.

Seward Brewing Company released a new beer on Sunday, July 17th:

Here on the Peninsula, the breweries have been working hard just to keep up with the demand of all the summer visitors, as mentioned above. Elaine and I stopped by Kenai River Brewing yesterday for lunch (outstanding burgers and fries from the Blue Moon Burger food truck), and I grabbed a sampler of four of beers:

From left to right, Kolsch, Chocolate Porter, Honeymoon Hefe, Russian Imperial Stout. All beers I've had before, but not recently. Check out the cool sampler tray, made from birch roots by a local artist.

As you can see from this photo, Kenai River currently has seven beers on offer, the four listed above, plus Naptown Brown, Skilak Scottish, and Sunken Island IPA.

I also stopped in at St. Elias Brewing. The delicious Sprout IPA that I reviewed in my last blog is already gone. Coming soon to replace it will be Ole's Cool IPA, brewed with Centennial, Crystal, and Simcoe hops. Only 5.8% ABV, so it's almost a Session IPA.

At Grace Ridge Brewing in Homer, there should be a new beer on tap this week: Bear Cove Berliner Weisse, a kettle-soured wheat beer made with raspberry syrup. The brewery's parking lot has was also paved last weekend.

Photo by Elaine Howell
That's it for news, so let's do a few beer reviews:

Ommegang's Three Philosophers Quad: A classic Belgian Dark Strong Ale from the excellent brewery in Cooperstown, NY. It poured a translucent ruby color with a nice cream-colored head. The aroma was of figs and plums. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was nice. The flavor profile was rich and complex, as you'd expect for such a big beer - more dark fruit notes, plus hints of sherry and tobacco, before gradually falling away to a long finish. An excellent interpretation of this classic style, and much more reasonably priced than imports from Belgium. 9.7% ABV, 19 IBUs.

Schlenkerla's Smoked Doppelbock: A new beer (at least to me) from the German brewery that's world-famous for its rauchbiers. For this beer, the malt was smoked using oak, rather than some of the more traditional woods. It poured a dark honey color with a small, off-white head that dissipated to a collar. The nose was of caramel and smoke. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was medium. On the palate, it was all sweet, clean caramel and malt notes, plus lots of smoke. A very tasty entry to the smoked beer category, and one I used to chase a dram of Lagavulin single malt Scotch Whisky. 8% ABV.

Alaskan Brewing's Smash Galaxy Double IPA: This beer is brewed using a single kind of malt and a single hop (SMSH or Smash).  In this case, the beer showcases the Galaxy hop. It poured a clear gold with a big, white head that left good lace on the glass. The aroma was full of tropical fruit notes from the Galaxy hops. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel as light. The initial bitter attack was good but not overwhelming, followed by plenty of clean Galaxy hop flavor and aroma. Overall, a very nice beer and one that does a great job showing off the characteristics of this popular hop variety. 8.5% ABV.

That's it for this week. If you dodge the McHugh Creek Fire and make it down to the Peninsula, please enjoy yourself. Be sure to stop by our local breweries. And if you're one of my neighbors down here, just keep reminding yourself that dipnetting only lasts until the end of July. Just grit your teeth, pour yourself a beer, and hang on 'til then.

Until next time, cheers!