Tuesday, July 11, 2017

It's Dip Net Season on the Kenai

I guess I should start off by apologizing; it's been almost a month since my last blog. Summer is, of course, a super-busy time for all Alaskans, compounded in my case by a visit from my daughter, son-in-law, and two grandkids, but that's really no excuse for letting this blog languish for so long. However, it's currently dip-net season here on the Kenai, which means it a wonderful time NOT to go anywhere or do anything away from home, so this should be a good time to get caught up.

Tickets for the 7th Annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival are now on sale. The festival will be on Saturday, August 12th, from 5 to 9 pm, at the Soldotna Sports Center. Tickets are available at Kassik's Brewery, Kenai River Brewing Company, St. Elias Brewing Company, or on-line at http://www.kenaibeerfest.com/. Tickets are $30 General Admission from 6 to 9 pm, or $50 for the VIP/Connoisseur Hour, starting at 5 pm. For entertainment, Meg Linsey from Season 9 of The Voice has been confirmed, along with other live bands. The early session is limited to 200 tickets, so if you are interested, you should get your before they sell out.


Speaking of selling out, if you were planning to attend The Culmination at Anchorage Brewing Company on Saturday, July 29th, I hope you have already purchased your tickets; it's now officially sold out. Anchorage Brewing has also announced that this year's Deal With the Devil Day will be October 28th. Here's what owner Gabe Fletcher had to say about it:

 This year's release will be VERY special... We will be selling a custom wooden box set containing six different barrel variations. All packaged in wax-dipped 375ml bottles. These batches were aged for 16 months. Here are a list of the barrel varieties:
  • Glenmorangie Scotch Whisky
  • Apple Brandy
  • Woodford Reserve Double Oak
  • Rum
  • Cognac
  • A special double oaked version that spent 1 year in Cognac and then was transferred into freshly emptied Woodford Reserve Double Oak for 4 months to add even more complexity.
All but one of these are only single cask agings, meaning there won't be much! We will have around 340 box sets available.




If you'll be in Fairbanks in early August, it looks like there will be a new festival there. Here's the flyer for it:

click to enlarge
49th State Brewing Company in Healy will be holding its annual Augtoberfest on 11 & 12 August. I've never been able to attend this festival myself, but by all reports, it's a great time. Here's the flyer for this year's festival.

click to enlarge

It's a bit of old news now, but Baranof Island Brewing Company in Sitka finally opened the taproom in its new location on Saturday, July 1.


As long as I'm covering old news, the new 907 Alehouse & Grill in Anchorage opened its doors on June 21st. I haven't had a chance to visit it myself yet, but it has a lot of beer on tap and the menu looks pretty good.


HooDoo Brewing in Fairbanks has become the first brewery in the Alaska to significantly harness solar power for its operations. Here's their press release:

HooDoo Brewing Company, began the new rooftop solar installation project as soon as snow melted off their brewery this April. The array of 60 solar panels was energized in mid-May, and will produce up to 110 kilowatt hours of electricity per day, or about one-third of HooDoo’s power per year. Additionally, it will reduce the CO2 produced by combustion by roughly 1.5 tons per month during the summer season. 
“We are a community-focused company,” owner and brewer Bobby Wilken said, noting an emphasis on providing a product and service for the people in his hometown while being conscious of the environment. “We look at this solar project as pushing our community forward. We’ll generate a nice chunk of renewable energy that runs our meter backwards and anything extra goes back into the community’s grid.”
The project is the product of a partnership with local solar company, Renewable Energy Systems of Alaska. The company spent most of the winter building out supports, reinforcing the trusses and roof of HooDoo’s 1970’s Alaska Pipeline-era building to support the weight and mechanics of the new solar project.
“They’re 100-percent committed to doing it right,” Wilken said of RES. “They’re great local business people, and they’re doing it right for the right reasons.”
Energy generation will fluctuate seasonally, due to HooDoo’s subarctic location, but will feed into the community grid year-round. Over 3,000 kilowatts have been generated from the project so far, harnessing Fairbanks’ 20+ hours of daily sunlight in June and July. Data is gauged by a real-time, cloud-based monitoring system.
“The people of Fairbanks make our product sustainable and viable, but anything else we can do to push the boundaries is absolutely fantastic,” Wilken continues. “The brewing process is water and energy intensive. The quality of our beer is our first priority, but we’re always looking for ways to make our process more reliable, more efficient and it doesn’t hurt to make our environmental footprint a little smaller.”




Cooper Landing Brewing Company made a post on July 4 stating that they hoped to have the licensing process completed and to be selling beer soon. I'll let you know when I hear more.


Midnight Sun Brewing Company will be holding several events in both Anchorage & Fairbanks this week:

Anchorage events
Fairbanks events
Congratulations are in order for both Barnaby Brewing and Alaskan Brewing Company. The former took a Gold Medal in the 2017 US Open Beer Championships with its McSteamy California Common, while the latter took a Silver Medal with its Raspberry Wheat.


Finally, I'm still doing my monthly radio show, Drinking on the Last Frontier, on KDLL 91.9 FM in Kenai. It's broadcast on the last Saturday of each month at 11 am, and then the recorded shows are available on the KDLL website. If you haven't checked it out yet, I'd really appreciate you giving it a listen and then giving me some feedback on it. There will also be a fundraiser for KDLL this Saturday, July 15th: the 5th Annual BBQ, Burgers and Blues at the Vagabond Inn from 4 to 9 pm. Kenai River Brewing donates the beer.


It's been almost a month, but I've only had four new beers in that time to review.

Boulevard Brewing's Changeling Dark Sour Ale: It poured a semi-translucent ruby color with a small, cream-colored head that dissipated to a collar. The aroma was mostly tart cherries, but there was a hint of brett funkiness. The carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was medium. On the palate, there was a nice balance of the tart cherry notes and the brett elements. Bottom line: a workman-like but not an exceptional sour. 7.3% ABV, 20 IBUs.


New Belgium Brewing's Voodoo Ranger Imperial IPA: New Belgium's effort to re-imagine one of its classic flagship beers. It poured a deep, slightly red, gold color; very clear. Nice white head. The nose was primarily citrus and piney American hop notes. Good carbonation, light mouthfeel. The initial bitter attack was moderate, followed by lots of American hop flavor and aroma, before falling away to a nice finish. 9% ABV


Unibroue's Tout Le Monde Saison: Since I'm not into heavy metal, the Megadeath imagery on the label doesn't mean anything to me, but I'm always interested in trying a new saison.This one poured a clear gold with a nice white head. The aroma had the classic peppery, earthy Belgian yeast notes. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. On the palate, the classic saison flavors were very nice, but the dry hops claimed on the label were nowhere noticeable. The finish on the beer was also a bit thin. Not a bad beer, but nothing that any of the better saisons out there (Dupont, Tank 7, Hennepin) have anything to worry about. 4.5% ABV, 22 IBUs.


Founders Brewing's Porter: I found this at Country Liquors in Kenai when I stopped in to pick up some Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale from the same brewery. It poured opaque with a big tan head. The nose had lots of delicious roasty notes. Carbonation was good, and the mouthfeel was medium. The flavor profile was as advertised on the label: rich, dark, and sexy! I'm always a fan of a good, robust porter, and this one certainly qualifies. 6.5% ABV, 45 IBUs.


That's it for this time around. I'll do my best not to make you wait another month for the next one. In the meantime, get out and enjoy the summer sun, attend some beer festivals, and have a good time. After all, it won't be very long before fall is upon us again.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Friday, June 16, 2017

King Street Breaks Ground

It's summer at last here on the Kenai Peninsula. The weather is sunny, the reds are running, and the tourists are in town spending money. It's a great time to be in Alaska!

There's big news from the big town. King Street Brewing in Anchorage has just broken ground on a new brewery. Opened in September of 2011, the brewery is currently in a rented location at 7924 King Street, and its rapid growth in the last few years has it straining at the seams, so a new building was the next logical step.

The new building will be located 9050 King Street, with the entrance off of 91st Avenue, a stone’s throw from Anchorage Brewing Company. The brewing area in the new facility will comprise about 10,000 square feet of the 18,000 square foot building. The new brewery will be three stories tall.  The brewery side will essentially be a single story. There will be a catwalk for customers to come through and overlook the brewing operations. The tap room will be on the east side. The second level will be unoccupied for a while and plans on that space will evolve after the brewery opens. The third floor will be an event room and some offices. The brewery current 10-barrel brewhouse will also be replaced with a new and bigger system from Specific Mechanical. Plans are always subject to change, but the target date for opening the new facility is March 1, 2018. So hearty congratulations to Shane, Dana, and the rest of the King Street team.



King Street is also holding a Father's Day Event this weekend. Here's what they had to say about it:

You repeatedly asked.  We polled anyway.  You responded with incredible force.  We finally got it.  We've brewed it!  The beer known as King Street Breakfast Hef/OJ Hef/Hop 'O The Morning/and probably a few names we don't even know about is about to be back!
We'll be tapping this wonderful beer in our tap room this Saturday afternoon.  And, we've also been planning a special treat for Dad in celebration of Father's Day!  On Sunday, we will be serving up pancakes, bacon and eggs, a perfect pairing with the Breakfast Hefe.  This breakfast buffet ($9 for adults $5 for children) will run from 10:30 AM to 2:30 PM and will include fixings such as mixed berries, whip cream, and a Belgian Beer infused maple syrup reduction.  Berry smoothies and other beery =) combinations will also be available for purchase.
...because we all know that Dad would really appreciate a good meal and great beer on his day. :)
Looking forward to seeing you this weekend!
Resolution Brewing Company will also be having a Father's Day Beer & Brunch Event.



Arkose Brewery taps a new beer today, Green Chair Kolsch.


Midnight Sun Brewing Company has received label approval for its new Wolf Pack Pilsner. Here's the label:


It should be released in 12 oz. cans in October. Also on tap at MSBC is this year's I'll Have Another brew.



As mentioned in my last blog, tickets are now on sale for The Culmination Festival taking place on Saturday, July 29th. There are only 300 total, and at last report over 200 had already sold, so if you are planning to attend, you'd better hurry up and buy one. I've got mine...


James Roberts, who has been writing a weekly beer column in The Anchorage Press under the pen name Dr. Fermento for twenty years, has begun writing a new column entitled “Beer Frontiers” for the online magazine Crude. You can find his new stuff at www.crudemag.com.

The man, the legend...
Beer drinkers in Iowa will soon be able to get their hands on an award-winning beer from the Last Frontier, as Alaskan Brewing will be on tap and on the shelves there this summer. Alaskan is partnering with Johnson Brothers Distributing to bring a variety of brews made from the glacier-fed waters of Juneau to the heartland. In a surprising way, this reestablishes a 30-year link that the founders of Alaskan Brewing have with Iowa.

Co-Founder Geoff Larson was mentored by the staff at Millstream, a craft brewery in Amana, where he worked as a short-term visiting brewing apprentice in 1985. “Iowa was where I brewed at a commercial level for the first time. Those were exciting days early in my brewing career, learning from excellent craftsmen and getting to know and appreciate the hard-work ethic of the people of Iowa. Their passion for their community and their work has left a lasting impression on me.” said Larson.

Iowa marks the 19th state of distribution for Alaskan.




Through its so-called “global disruptive growth group” ZX Ventures, Anheuser-Busch InBev has acquired a minority stake in RateBeer, one of the most popular and reputable beer ratings and resource websites in the world.

But the deal isn’t exactly new. In fact, it closed this past October following eight months of talks. It went unannounced, however—to both the public and RateBeer stakeholders—because the two sides wanted to get “points on the board” to prove the value of the partnership without the “disruption” of making it public. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.



Reaction within the craft beer community was swift and negative, with several craft breweries, most notably Dogfish Head Brewing, with CEO and founder Sam Calagione posting the following on the brewery’s website:

 We were troubled by the announcement last week that ZX Ventures, which is fully owned by the global conglomerate Anheuser-Busch InBev, has purchased a portion of RateBeer. We believe this is a direct violation of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Code of Ethics and a blatant conflict of interest. The SPJ’s Code of Ethics includes a section called “Act Independently” and includes the following guidelines:
- Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
- Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.
- Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; do not pay for access to news. Identify content provided by outside sources, whether paid or not.
- Deny favored treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests, and resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage.
- Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two. Prominently label sponsored content.
It is our strong opinion that ABI’s ownership of RateBeer, and other properties positioned to cover the craft brewing community like October and thebeernecessities.com is in direct conflict with multiple guidelines listed above.
To that end, we have respectfully asked Anheuser-Busch InBev and RateBeer to remove all Dogfish Head beer reviews and mentions on the RateBeer website immediately. It just doesn’t seem right for a brewer of any kind to be in a position to potentially manipulate what consumers are hearing and saying about beers, how they are rated and which ones are receiving extra publicity on what might appear to be a legitimate, 100 percent user-generated platform. It is our opinion that this initiative and others are ethically dubious and that the lack of transparency is troubling.
To our fellow independently-owned brewers, we encourage you to join us in this effort to ensure consumers continue to get the best and most accurate information about their beers. For everyone else, we encourage you to shift the sharing of your beer opinions and reviews to another platform that remains loyal to the principles of journalistic integrity. America’s Independence Day is just around the corner. Support the indie craft brewing movement!
As of now, RateBeer has not removed Dogfish Head nor any of the other craft breweries requesting removal from its website.

Personally, I've never really used RateBeer much, being more partial to Beer Advocate, but if you do use it, you might want to rethink doing so.

Lupulin powder experimentation continues. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, this hop powder is produced from whole leaf hops using a cryogenic separation process that preserves all components of each fraction. The purified lupulin powder contains most of the resin compounds and aromatic oils derived directly from whole hop flowers. It is ideal for use in the whirlpool or fermenter for imparting intense hop flavor and aroma with minimal vegetal flavor and improved yield. Anchorage Brewing held a second release of its Lines DIPA on June 9, while Girdwood Brewing is using Mosiac and Citra hop powder in its Fairy Dust Session IPA, to be released in conjunction with this year’s Girdwood Forest Fair. The beer will be on tap at the Fair’s beer garden July 7th thru the 9th.


Kenai River Brewing Company has new summer hours. Both tap room and kitchen are now open from noon to 8 PM, seven days a week.



49th State Brewing Company in Healy will be holding another Euphoria Festival next weekend. Here's the flyer:

Click to enlarge
That's about it for news this time, so let's move on to beer reviews. I've got two reviews for you this time.

Ommegang Brewing's Game of Thrones' Bend the Knee Ale: I believe this is the first one of these GOT series brews that I've tasted. It poured a slightly cloudy gold with a big and pillowy white head. The aroma had the earthy, spicy Belgian yeast notes you expect in the style. Carbonation was great, and the mouthfeel was light. The flavor profile was classic Belgian Strong Golden Ale, very similar to Duvel, with plenty of earthy yeast notes and a nice hoppiness. A delicious beer. 9% ABV.



Deschutes Brewing's American Wheat: Full disclosure, I received this beer in the mail as a free sample from the brewery. It's a new release, and apparently the first time Deschutes has brewed and bottled this particular style. It poured a slightly cloudy gold with a small but fairly persistent white head. The nose had light citrus notes. The carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. On the palate, the beer had light and spritzy wheat notes. Bottom line, it's a refreshing summer beer, quite light overall. 5% ABV, 25 IBUs.


That's about it for this time around. Remember to listen to my radio show, Drinking on the Last Frontier, next Saturday, June 24th, at 11 AM on KDLL FM 91.9 Kenai. If you miss it, all my shows are available via podcast at www.kdll.org. If you got any suggestions for topics you'd like me to tackle on the show, feel free to give me a shout.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Hainesfest at 25

Last weekend I was in Haines for the 25th Annual Great Alaska Craft Beer and Homebrew Festival, aka Hainesfest. This was my third time at the festival and my first visit since 2014. As the oldest and in many ways the best beer festival in Alaska, the Hainesfest is always a great time. However, I was amazed at how much the festival has grown in just the three years since I was last there. Here's a list of the breweries that were in attendance this year:


  • Haines Brewing Company
  • Alaskan Brewing Company
  • Midnight Sun Brewing Company
  • Denali Brewing Company
  • Double Shovel Cider Company
  • Baranof Island Brewing Company
  • HooDoo Brewing Company
  • K&L Distributors
  • Specialty Imports
  • Yukon Brewing Company
  • Odom Distributors
  • King Street Brewing Company
  • Skagway Brewing Company
  • Broken Tooth Brewing Company
  • Kodiak Island Brewing Company
  • Arkose Brewing Company
  • Kenai River Brewing Company
  • Winterlong Brewing Company
  • Barnaby Brewing Company
  • Silver Gulch Brewing and Bottling Company
  • 49th State Brewing Company
  • Anchorage Brewing Company
  • Homer Brewing Company
  • Cynosure Brewing Company

I was particularly excited to see Winterlong Brewing and Yukon Brewing in attendance. This festival is pretty much the only time you'll see beers from these two Whitehorse-based breweries on offer in Alaska. Plus brand-new Barnaby Brewing came up from Juneau, giving me a chance to meet its owner, Matt Barnaby, face-to-face for the first time, as well as a chance to sample his wares. Here are some photos I took at the fest just after it opened (before the crowds had a chance to pour in):


Now here's the fest about an hour later:




As you can see, the sell-out crowd of 1700 people pretty much fills the space. There were two music stages and a half-dozen food vendors as well. I particularly enjoyed the freshly-shucked oysters on the half-shell. Last but hardly least, I also saw this at Hainesfest:

Just two guys named Lee...

Before the festival itself on Saturday, the annual Brewers Dinner was held on Friday night. This event is limited to 300 by the size of the hall in which it is held and typically sells out within 48 hours of the tickets going on-sale in February. This year's dinner was exceptional as always. Here's what was on the menu:


Finally, you can't go to Haines and not visit Haines Brewing Company. It's one of the best breweries in the state that few people can drink since its beers seldom make it farther from Haines than Juneau or Skagway. After many long years in a tiny brewery on the fairgrounds, Paul Wheeler and Jeanne Kitayama were finally able to build a new brewery in downtown Haines in 2015. This was my first visit to their new facility and I was certainly impressed:


The brewery at 4th & Main in downtown Haines

Serving bar in the tap room

Another angle of the tap room

The brewhouse

Fenced beer garden behind the brewery
With its new location, bigger brewhouse, and greatly expanded tap room, Haines Brewing has become a real hub of its namesake community. Plus its beers are fantastic (see my reviews below). I only wish I didn't have to drive 900+ miles and cross an international border twice to be able to drink it...



Speaking of all that driving, on the way to Haines I made a quick pitstop in Palmer to fuel up my car and my stomach. I decided to grab a quick lunch at the Palmer City Alehouse since I had not yet visited the place. When I walked in at 11 AM, I pretty much had the place to myself, so I snapped a few pictures.










The beer selection was pretty good, with lots of local options. I ended up going with a Frontiersman IPA from Bearpaw River Brewing. The menu looked pretty good as well; the prime rib dip I chose was delicious and came with copious French fries. The staff told me that it is also a pretty hopping place in the evenings, especially when there is live music. So if you're looking for a decent meal and a good beer selection in Palmer, I give the Palmer City Alehouse two thumbs up.

As long as we're talking festivals, I want to remind everyone that the tickets for The Culmination Festival (July 29th at Anchorage Brewing Company) will go on sale at 9 AM tomorrow, Sunday, June 4. You can order on the festival's website via the link above.

On my way back from Haines, I managed to visit Gakona Brewing, easily the most isolated of the breweries in Alaska that are on the road system. It's about a mile from Gakona Junction, where the Tok Cutoff intersects the Richardson Highway. For those of you who haven't been there, it's not quite the end of the world, but you have a good view of it from there. In this fortress of solitude, Ed Miner operates Gakona Brewing Company. He currently uses a 3-bbl brewing system, which is a significant improvement over the Sabco Homebrew system he started with. Not to mention Ed doesn't have a well, so he has to haul in all his brewing water! Here are some photos:

The sign for the brewery


Ed Miner in front of hi 3-bbl brewhouse

Fermenters


The original SABCO system

If you're wondering why anyone would want to have a brewery in Gakona with all the hardships that entails, here's the answer. Standing a short distance behind the brewery, I snapped these photos, looking from left to right.



That's the Copper River, by the way. For a view like that, I guess it's worth hauling your brewing water! If you're looking to sample beers from Gakona Brewing, you can find them at Humpy's in Anchorage, the Princess Lodge in Copper Center, the Trapper's Den in Gakona, and select Hacienda Mexican Restaurants.


If you missed my most recent radio show (the broadcast was Saturday, May 29th), you can listen to a recorded version of it at http://kdll.org/programs/drinking-last-frontier. My next show will be broadcast three weeks from today on June 24th at 11 AM. If you've got any suggestions for topics you'd like to see covered, just drop me a line and let me know.


Alaskan Brewing has announced a new beer for its rotating Alaskan Sampler Pack: Alaskan Cream Ale, which is following the Spruce Tip IPA and Gold Creek Ale. Alaskan is inviting people to give feedback on its website about all these beers.



That about it for news this time. I hope to have more local beer news in my next blog, as I won't be on the road for a large part of it! Here are my beer reviews:

Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen's Oude Geuze: I purchased this beer a couple of years ago as a leftover from The Culmination Beer Festival and have had it in my cellar ever since. When I opened it a couple of weeks ago, it poured a clear red-gold in color, but with very little in the way of head, and what there was dissipated rapidly to a collar. This was very unusual, as the style normally has tons of carbonation. The mouthfeel was light. The flavor profile was that of a classic geuze, tart but refreshing, yet missing the crucial element of effervescence due to the lack of carbonation. Perhaps I got a bad bottle, but it was still disappointing after cellaring it for so long. 6% ABV.




Haines Brewing's Ryepinsky Porter: I sampled this at the brewery. It poured black with a small, cream-colored head that dissipated to a collar. The nose had hints of peppery rye, along with the traditional roasted malts of a porter. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. On the palate, it was smooth, with lots of chocolate and roasted coffee notes, as well as a bit of pepper from the rye. Unusually, there was a slightly sweet note to the finish. Overall, a delicious porter made even more interesting by the twist of adding rye. 5.4% ABV, 25 IBUs.


Haines Brewing's Motueka New Zeland IPA: According to Paul Wheeler, he discovered this hop while visiting breweries in New Zealand and decided it would make a good IPA. I sampled this one at the brewery as well. It poured a cloudy gold with a nice cream-colored head. The nose had some very nice lemon-lime notes from the Motueka hops. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. Stylistically, it was closer to a more understated English-style IPA than an in-your-face American IPA. The Motueka hops give it a nice fruit-like flavor without the overwhelming citrus notes you get from some American varieties. Delicious and highly drinkable. 5.7% ABV, 55 IBUs.



Founders Brewing's PC Pils: As I mentioned in my 4/28/2017 blog, Founders Brewing is now distributing in Alaska. On my way home from Haines I stopped at La Bodega and picked up some Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale (reviewed on 6/1/2011) and All Day Session IPA (reviewed on 8/1/2014). In addition, they had a beer I had not yet tried, PC Pils, so I grabbed a six-pack of that as well. It poured a clear gold color with a small white head. The aroma had lots of American hop notes. The mouthfeel was light, and the carbonation was good. The flavor profile was clean and fresh, but the American hops were considerably more assertive in their bitterness than the European noble hops traditionally used in the style.  Not a bad beer, but for my tastes, it was really more of an India Pale Lager than a pilsner. 5.5% ABV, 45 IBUs.


That's it for this blog. Get out and enjoy the wonderful summer weather we are having here in Alaska, and be sure to drink lots of good craft beer while you're at it. I'll be back in a couple of weeks with more local beer news and reviews.

Until Next Time, Cheers!