Monday, November 24, 2008

Giving Thanks

I've never been a huge fan of Thanksgiving the holiday. I mean turkey is all right as a meal and football is OK as a sport, but they're not my favorites. I prefer steak and baseball, frankly. Still, I like the idea of pausing once a year to look back and try to appreciate all the good things that have happened to you.

If Ben Franklin is correct and "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy," it stands to reason we should be especially thankful for beer. Indeed, the realization that beer is a divine benediction upon mankind leads to the inevitable question: What Would Jesus Brew? After all, his first miracle was transforming water into beer. Yes, I know the standard text says wine, but I'm referring to the little-known Gospel of Bill. [If you'd like to have your very own WWJB T-shirt, check out]

So let's think about what I as a beer drinker have to be thankful for in the last year.

First, I'm thankful that St. Elias Brewery finally opened. I stopped by there last Friday, on my way home from work to give Zach a bottle of my homebrewed Mild to try. While there I tried his brand-new Belgian Blonde, a beautifully clear ale with I'd guess 7 or 8% ABV, a bit reminiscent of Duvel. Also on tap were the Williwaw IPA, Puddle Jumper Pale Ale, Even Keel Kolsch, the Farmer's Friend, an Irish Stout, and the Half Moon White. I'm thankful to have such a good brewpub in my locale, not to mention on my way home.

Second, I'm thankful that the other local brewers, Frank at Kassik's and Doug at Kenai River, keep turning out such exceptional beers. From Doug's Winter Warlock and Single Hop IPAs to Frank's award-winning Caribou Kilt Strong Scotch, I'm truly grateful for the wide array of excellent local brews I have to choose from. I'm especially thankful that the Caribou Kilt goes back on sale again tomorrow. Hint, hint...

Third, I'm thankful to be living in the great state of Alaska, where when it come to beer--like in so many other arenas -- we punch far above our weight. Alaskan, Midnight Sun, Sleeping Lady, Moose's Tooth, Glacier Brewhouse, Silver Gulch, not to mention Homer Brewing Company and the others here on the Kenai already mentioned above-- as Alaskans, we're truly fortunate to have more than our share of world-class breweries to choose from. I'd suggest we thank these folks the best way possible, by buying as much of their brew as we can manage.

Finally, I'm grateful for having family and friends to share my love of beer with and the good health required to be able to enjoy this wonderful beverage. I hope each of you may be equally blessed. So let's raise our glasses together, giving thanks for what's past and in the hope that the future will be even better for us all.

Until next time, Cheers!

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Rough Draft Worth Finding

Living in Alaska is not for the faint of heart. Even in the summer, life up here can be challenging, what with the bears and the mosquitoes and the tourists, but the winters are what sets Alaska apart. Even on the Kenai Peninsula where I live -- far south of Fairbanks and the Arctic Circle -- we still get less than six hours of sunlight on the shortest day of the year and routinely have lows of -25F or -35F in the dead of winter. Given these conditions, is it any wonder we love big, strong, brawling beers? We need them just to get by!

Every January we Alaskans celebrate our love for beer at The Great Alaska Beer and Barley Wine Festival in Anchorage. On the evening prior to the festival, the Great Northern Homebrewers have their first meeting of the year at the Snow Goose Brewpub in downtown Anchorage. One of the highlights of that meeting is that our local breweries bring some of their more interesting/experimental beers to be sampled. In 2007 & 2008, I had the pleasure to sample Alaskan Brewing Company's Baltic Porter Ale, one of their "Rough Draft" series.

The Rough Drafts are part of Alaskan's innovation process. They brew in small batches, then distribute the kegs in a limited area to get feedback from their customer base. This enables them to perfect a popular beer and avoid the losses associated with brewing too much of an unpopular one. Not to mention it lets them indulge in the sort of experimentation that most brewers love.

Anyway, having tasted their Baltic Porter on draft and been very impressed by it, I was totally jazzed to hear that Alaskan had finally decided to release it in 22 oz. "bomber" bottles. I was even more jazzed when I came across some at my local Fred Meyer's last week. I picked up a bottle and drank it last night after dinner.

It's definitely a sipping beer, coming in at almost 9% ABV. Dark as midnight, smooth and thick on the palate like ice cream, it's brewed with hand-peeled and seeded gourmet Madagascar vanilla beans and over 500 pounds of dark black cherries, then aged on toasted French oak with more vanilla beans added during fermentation. The smooth, deep maltiness is accentuated by raisin and licorice notes as well as chocolate and mild coffee characters. The oak brings hints of bourbon and hot toffee. The higher alcohol content contributes to the warmth of this richly flavorful beer. It's a tremendous beer, good for drinking right away or for laying down in your beer cellar.

It's the sort of beer to drink during an Alaskan winter, playing cards with your wife by the light of an oil lamp, after the electricity has gone out.

Kind of like happened last night...

Until next time, Cheers!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Dream Job?

Would you like to work at a microbrewery? If so, Frank & Debara Kassik are looking for some help. Here's a copy of their job posting:

GENERAL LABORER/SERVER: Small microbrewery is seeking full-time/part-time help.

General laborer/server.
Provide assistance around the brewery. Basic cleaning, stacking grains, assistant in vessel cleaning, etc. Provide customer service in prompt and courteous manner. Abide by all state and local liquor laws.

Some experience in customer service.
Like and have a good understanding of microbrew.
Must be at least 21 years of age.
Must obtain a Techniques of Alcohol Management (TAM) Card.
Must obtain a DEC food workers card.
Must be able to stand for long periods and lift 55 lbs.
Must have a cheerful and outgoing personality.
Communicate with owners regarding the needs of customers.

Follow safe and proper procedures in the course of daily work.
Arrive on time and demonstrate effective time management.
Other duties as signed, including tasks which support the essential functions and may be changed or redesigned.
Comply with applicable sanitation, health, and personal hygiene standards.

If interested please apply in person at:

Kassik's Kenai Brew Stop
47160 Spruce Haven Street
Kenai, AK 99611
907-776-4055 Please, phone calls for directions only.

This would be a great opportunity for someone who is looking to "get their foot in the door" and learn the business. If I was twenty years younger, I'd take Frank up on it myself.

Speaking of Kassik's, their Imperial Spice Honey Wheat is back on tap. At 8.9% ABV, this is no summer-time light-weight wheat beer! It's a great sipping beer to enjoy by the fire and help ward off the winter chill.

Speaking of warding off the winter chill, Frank promises that his award-winning Caribou Kilt Strong Scotch will be available again before the end of the month. I'm looking forward to enjoying it with my Thanksgiving turkey...

By the by, I promised to let you know how my latest homebrew turned out. If you remember, I brewed up my interpretation of a Holden's Black Country Mild, a wonderful session ale that I used to drink when I lived in the U.K. I'm happy to report that it seems to have turned out very well, at least to my and my friends' tastes. I've dropped off bottles with some of my local professional brewers and I eagerly await their assessments. I'm brewing again this weekend, making a batch of my Imperial Stout. I make this every year as a Christmas gift for my daughter Liana, who loves stouts.

Until next time, Cheers!